E-Cigarette Epidemic Sparks City Ban and Concern for Safety 

Written By Benjamin L. Vanasse

On September 18, 2018, the FDA released a statement discussing new steps to address the “epidemic” of youth e-cigarette use. Since then, state and local governments have taken steps to address this burgeoning epidemic. Just recently, San Francisco voted to ban the sale of e-cigarettes that do not have FDA approval. Many other state and local governments have already taken the step on prohibiting the use of e-cigarettes in venues where cigarette smoking is banned, San Francisco is the first to ban the sale of e-cigarettes entirely. San Francisco Mayor London Breed said this about the reason for the ban: “There is so much we don’t know about the health impact of these products, but we do know that e-cigarette companies are targeting our kids in their advertising and getting them hooked on addictive nicotine products.”

While e-cigarettes were initially marketed as a product to help adult smokers kick a potentially deadly habit, they have had an outsized and unexpected impact on young people. While there is no debate that e-cigarettes are better for your health than cigarettes, there is still a large amount of uncertainty over the long term effects of vaping, and recent research suggests that it could have significant and dangerous impact on a person’s long term health. Part of the issue with trying to research these effects is due to the fact that people haven’t been using e-cigarettes for very long, and there are hundreds of different devices on the market that deliver different levels of nicotine and different chemicals. And while the FDA has recognized the dangers of vaping, the e-cigarette market is still largely unregulated, which makes it nearly impossible for consumers to fully understand the health impact of vaping.  

Recent research links people who use e-cigarettes to a number of potentially dangerous health conditions. Nicotine has long been recognized as potentially causing a heightened risk of seizures. The FDA have 35 reports over the last decade of seizures immediately following e-cigarette use. Because of the extremely high nicotine content in many e-cigarette devices, these risks are particularly worrisome. The nicotine in e-cigarettes has also been linked to negative changes to heart rate and blood pressure, although the long-term changes are unknown at this point as there is insufficient evidence.

Aside from the nicotine, the heating element in e-cigarette devices emits tiny particles, including metals, which can embed themselves in users’ lungs, causing cardiovascular issues. These tiny particles have been studied extensively in the context of air pollution and tobacco smoking, and exposure has been linked to heart attacks, high blood pressure, and coronary artery disease. E-cigarettes also produce other known toxic chemicals such as acetaldehyde, formaldehyde, and acrolein. Additionally, there is limited evidence to suggest that e-cigarettes actually help people quit smoking cigarettes. In fact, the research shows strong evidence that e-cigarettes may act as a gateway to traditional smoking, particularly among young people.

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