E-Cigarettes Pose Risks
In 2003, the e-Cigarette made its way into the marketplace – and unlike its traditional cigarette counterpart, sidestepped regulatory oversight. Manufacturers, many of which also produce traditional cigarettes, position e-cigarettes as a less-harmful alternative and a cessation tool for those wanting to quit. But the addictive nature of nicotine, and exposure to the nicotine solution in the device, have raised questions regarding the benefits and risks of e-cigarettes, both to users and to the people around them.
An electronic cigarette (eCig or e-cigarette) is a battery powered appliance that simulates cigarette smoking, but administers nicotine through a vapor that resembles smoke. People using an e-cigarette are “vaping” – not smoking, as with tobacco cigarettes. The device uses a liquid solution of nicotine and flavorings, inhaled when the e-cigarette is used. When the user exhales, an aerosol intended to resemble smoke is visible.
E-Cigarette Facts and Data
- E-Cigarette use more than doubled among U.S. middle and high school students, from 4.7 percent in 2011 to 10 percent in 2012.
- More than 75 percent of youth users of e-cigarettes smoke traditional cigarettes as well.
- 1 in 5 middle school students who reported ever using e-cigarettes say they have never tried traditional cigarettes.Source: Centers for Disease Control, National Youth Tobacco Survey, 2013
- 79 percent of adult smokers who are nicotine dependent report that they started smoking before they were 18 years old.Source: SAMHSA, National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2012
“There’s so much we don’t yet know about e-cigarettes,” said Douglas Tipperman, M.S.W., a public health advisor at SAMHSA. “They are not harmless. We don’t know the health impact at the individual or the population level.”
A recent study conducted by the University of California, San Diego looked specifically at e-cigarette use by individuals with mental health conditions. The study concluded that individuals with mental health conditions had a smoking prevalence 70 percent higher than those without. They were also more likely to have tried e-cigarettes and to be current users of e-cigarettes. The study concludes that “Smokers with mental health conditions are differentially affected by the rise in popularity of e-cigarettes,” which may affect clinical interventions and policies for tobacco control.
E-Cigarettes have generated significant controversy because of emerging evidence that people who are not already smoking tobacco are trying e-cigarettes, as first-time tobacco users.
Factors that contribute to youth smoking, such as advertising, flavorings, health claims, and ease of product use, add to the concern.
Similarities are evident between advertisements for the e-cigarettes of today and the cigarette ads from the 1950s. For example, both sets of ads use celebrities to appeal to their target audiences.
The sale of e-cigarettes remains unregulated and distribution is driving demand. In April 2014 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed a new rule that would qualify e-cigarettes to fit the statutory definition of a tobacco product, and therefore be subject to FDA regulation. In the meantime, e-cigarette use is on the rise – especially among youth.
“Nicotine is an incredibly addicting drug,” said Susan Marsiglia Gray, M.P.H., National Synar Program Coordinator in SAMHSA's Center for Substance Abuse Prevention. “We see that most people using e-cigarettes are ‘dual users,’ meaning they are using traditional tobacco products and e-cigarettes, possibly exposing them to even greater levels of nicotine. And with youth, the appeal of fruit and candy flavoring is luring some to get their first taste of nicotine through e-cigarettes.”
SAMHSA will continue to work with other federal agencies to reduce use of tobacco and nicotine products, especially among youth and people with mental and substance use disorders.
- About One in Five U.S. Adult Cigarette Smokers Have Tried an Electronic Cigarette
- Centers for Disease Control: Nicotine Addiction
- e-cigarettes and the FDA
- e-cigarette Use More Than Doubles Among U.S. Middle and High School Students from 2011-2012
- Nicotine-Containing Products and Related Regulatory Information
- Nicotine Replacement Therapy Labels May Change
- SAMHSA Synar Program