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New report casts a pall on e-cigarettes


The Turlock City Council’s decision to include electronic smoking devices in a smoking ban for parks and public facilities comes in conjunction with a new report from the state health department warning the devices pose serious health risks.

The California Department of Public Health issued a health advisory Wednesday stating electronic cigarettes, also called e-cigarettes, contain a level of toxicity that could prove harmful to users.

“E-cigarettes contain nicotine and other harmful chemicals, and the nicotine in them is as addictive as the nicotine in cigarettes,” said Dr. Ron Chapman, the CDPH’s director and state health officer. “There is a lot of misinformation about e-cigarettes. That is why, as the state’s health officer, I am advising Californians to avoid the use of e-cigarettes and keep them away from children of all ages.” 

E-cigarettes are battery operated devices, often designed to resemble cigarettes that deliver a nicotine-containing aerosol. E-cigarettes have many names, especially among youth and young adults, such as e-cigs, e-hookahs, vape pens, vape pipes or mods. The liquid solution (e-liquid) used in e-cigarettes typically contains nicotine and is commonly referred to as “e-juice.” It is sold in a variety of candy, fruit and alcohol flavors. 

The study, “State Health Officer’s Repot on E-Cigarettes: A Community Health Threat,” found that the use of e-cigarettes has seen significant increases in the past few years, with teens and young adults the most likely to be using the devices.

New California data shows that e-cigarette use among young adults, ages 18 – 29, increased from 2.3 percent in 2012 to 7.6 percent in 2013. Young adults in California are three times more likely to use e-cigarettes than those 30 and older. Likewise, e-cigarette use among U.S. teens has surged. In 2014, teen use of e-cigarettes nationally surpassed the use of traditional cigarettes, with more than twice as many 8th and 10th graders reporting using e-cigarettes more than traditional cigarettes. Among 12th graders, 17 percent reported currently using e-cigarettes vs. 14 percent using traditional cigarettes. 

Among the e-cigarette health concerns raised in the report is evidence that exposure to nicotine during adolescence can harm brain development. They are also not clean burning, according to the report. E-cigarettes do not emit a harmless water vapor, but an aerosol that has been found to contain at least 10 chemicals that are on California’s Proposition 65 list of chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm.

The report points to preliminary studies that have shown that using a nicotine containing e-cigarette for just five minutes causes similar lung irritation, inflammation, and effect on blood vessels as smoking a traditional cigarette.

The increase in usage of the devices has also brought up the number of reports to poison control centers in the state for overdosing on nicotine-containing e-liquids and accidental e-cigarette poisonings – from 19 in 2012 to 243 in 2014. More than 60 percent of all those e-cigarette related calls involve children 5 years and under, according to the study. In California, the number of calls to the poison control center involving e-cigarette exposures in children five and under tripled in one year.

"The e-cigarette cartridges and e-liquid bottles are not equipped with child-resistant caps, often leak, creating a poisoning risk by ingestion or by skin or eye contact,” Chapman said. “These products are not safe.”