Cigarette smoking has seen huge declines in the last few decades, only to be replaced by an alarming alternative: e-cigarettes. Marketed as safer, these battery-operated devices allow users to inhale aerosols, which frequently contain nicotine. New data from the Centers for Disease Control suggests that over nine million American adults regularly vape or smoke e-cigarettes. Perhaps more alarmingly, these products are a hit among teenage smokers — and they often serve as a gateway drug to cigarettes or cigars. Experts worry that e-cigarette use has reached epidemic proportions — are their fears overblown?
The Dangers of E-Cigarettes
While users largely believe that e-cigarettes are less dangerous than traditional cigarettes, researchers point to a variety of health hazards that can stem from regular use. As mentioned earlier, many contain nicotine — a notoriously addictive substance that can lead to the use of regular cigarettes. What’s more, e-cigarettes that lack nicotine can prove nearly as harmful. Flavorants such as diacetyl are linked to lung disease. Additionally, many products include volatile organic compounds and heavy metals — even lead.
The FDA recently announced the launch of the largest coordinated enforcement action in the agency’s history. Already, the FDA has sent 1,300 warning letters to retailers, several of whom have marketed and illegally sold the top five e-cigarette brands (Vuse, Blu, Juul, MarkTen XL and Logic). The FDA also issued several warning letters to online retailers accused of misleading labeling on products that resemble candy or other kid-friendly treats.
The FDA may be cracking down on e-cigarettes, but vigilance remains necessary, particularly for parents of susceptible teenagers.
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