There are more than 450 types of electronic smoking devices in the market. Photo by Brizette Castellanos.
There are more than 450 types of electronic smoking devices in the market. Photo by Brizette Castellanos.
There are more than 450 types of electronic smoking devices in the market. Photo by Brizette Castellanos.

State officials issued a health advisory declaring electronic cigarettes a danger and community health threat.

The California Department of Public Health released a report last month saying e-cigarettes contain nicotine and other harmful chemicals and that nicotine contained in them is as addictive as in regular cigarettes.

“There is a lot of misinformation about e-cigarettes,” said California Health Officer Ron Chapman in a released report, and “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 that resemble pens and deliver a nicotine-containing aerosol, and go by many names including: e-cigs, e-hookahs, hookah pens, vapes, and vape pens.

Highlights of the report include the fact that exposure to nicotine during adolescence can harm brain development, and that e-cigarettes emit an aerosol found to contain at least 10 chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects, and reproductive harm.

Electronic cigarettes are also not approved by the Federal Drug Administration as an approved smoking cessation aid.

Industry advocates say e-cigarettes are safer than traditional cigarettes, and criticize the new report. “It’s an overly alarming piece of propaganda that uses cherry-picked studies and turns what is a complex public health topic into a black and white issue,” said Greg Conley, President of the American Vaping industry.

Chapman says he is particularly concerned about the impact e-cigarettes have on the health and safety of young adults. Nationally, the use of e-cigarettes by high school students has tripled in two years, and for the first time the use of e-cigarettes by teens surpasses that of traditional cigarettes.

Boyle Heights Beat reporter Brizette Castellanos previously reported about the popularity of e-cigarettes among teens. (link)

According to this new report, last year 17% of high school seniors had reportedly used e-cigarettes, compared to 14% using traditional cigarettes. Young adults in California are three times more likely to use e-cigarettes than those 30 and older.

The report details how the nicotine-containing liquid comes in a variety of fruit and candy flavors that entice small children, who could accidentally ingest the liquid.

“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, “ warned Dr. Chapman. “These products are not safe.”

In California the number of calls to poison control due to e-cigarette poisoning spiked from 19 in 2012 to 243 in 2014. More than 60 percent of those calls involved children aged 5 years and under.

The report urges legislators to regulate e-cigarettes as it does the Tobacco industry, and points to the amount of advertising money spent on e-cigarettes. In three years the money spent on advertising e-cigarettes has increased more than 1200%. E-cigarette ads are on television and radio, where tobacco ads were banned 40 years ago.

Chapman also announced the beginning of public education and media efforts in the state to counter the effect of e-cigarettes and educate consumers.

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