E-cigarettes are transforming the national debate over tobacco smoking — and that conversation has been extended to marijuana smoking, as well. Billed as a safer, cleaner way to get a nicotine fix, electronic cigarettes are surging in popularity and more teens are trying these products. The 2012 National Youth Tobacco Survey shows that recent e-cigarette use nearly doubled in one year among U.S. high school students, rising from 1.5% in 2011 to 2.8% smoking them in 2012.
Doctors and researchers say these smoking substitutes are far from harmless — especially to children. Anyone who uses (or “vapes”) an e-cigarette is still putting harmful and addictive nicotine into his or her system. Additionally, the liquid nicotine used in the devices, which comes in flavors such as bubblegum and cola, is being blamed for a growing number of poisonings across the nation.
This liquid form of nicotine in e-cigarettes is extracted from tobacco, with an addition of flavorings, colorings and assorted chemicals. Like e-cigarettes, e-liquids are not regulated by federal authorities. Toxicologists warn that e-liquids pose a significant health risk, particularly to children, who may be drawn to their neon-bright colors and fragrant flavorings like cherry, chocolate and bubble gum.
Nationwide, there has been a surge in the number of calls to poison control centers. The number of cases linked to e-liquids jumped to 1,351 in 2013, a 300 percent increase from 2012, and the number is on pace to double this year, according to information from the National Poison Control Data System.