Tonawanda News

Local News

November 21, 2013

UP IN THE AIR

E-cig debate: Do they help smokers quit or rope in kids?

Tonawanda News — Electronic cigarettes can come in 175 flavors, from apple to yellow cake, including five that keep the taste of tobacco.

Introduced in the United States in 2007, the metal pipes look like cigarettes or cigarette holders, but instead of tobacco, e-cigs contain a mechanism that heats up liquid nicotine, turning it into a vapor.

Do those vaporizers help cigarette smokers kick the habit, or do they encourage smoking? It would seem to depend on who you ask.

Health officials cite risks for e-cigs. 

Teresa McCabe, a public health educator and the supervisor of Healthy Neighborhoods in Niagara County, said, she can’t recommend them. 

”There are so many brands out there. Some are made in third-world countries and don’t have healthy ingredients,” she said.

The issue was top of mind when McCabe organized activities in Niagara Falls for today’s 37th annual Great American Smokeout.

Because they are not tobacco products, e-cigs are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. As such, there’s no way of knowing for sure what’s in the steam. It could contain toxins, according to McCabe, adding that she thinks the nicotine keeps people addicted. 

The amount of nicotine contained in an individual e-cig can be altered to help addicted smokers wean themselves off the drug and cocktails are available that contain no nicotine at all.

McCabe, however, is concerned that children are getting a drug in a flavorful way and could be drawn to it, a point echoed by many lawmakers who have suggested that e-cig companies are targeting young smokers. 

Health experts have pushed to ban the sale and use of e-cigarettes until the research trials have been conducted to prove that they are safe.

According to Heather Wipfli, associate director for the USC Institute for Global Health, “E-cigarettes currently exist in a complete no-man’s land.”

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