E-cigarettes and their potential impact on the health of children, teens and people with asthma continue to draw scrutiny. On Oct. 26, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a new policy statement – published in Pediatrics – urging strong regulations of e-cigarettes.
AAP is urging the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate e-cigarettes the same as other tobacco products. AAP recommends restricting sales of e-cigarettes to those over 21, as well as bans on advertising to youth and bans on flavored products that are particularly attractive to youth.
“The developing brains of children and teens are particularly vulnerable to nicotine, which is why the growing popularity of e-cigarettes among adolescents is so alarming and dangerous to their long-term health,” says Karen M. Wilson, MD, MPH, chair of the AAP Section on Tobacco Control.
In addition to nicotine, e-cigarettes often contain additives that can put “vapers” at increased risk of respiratory viral infections. The devices also contain several cancer-causing agents including formaldehyde, which is known to irritate eyes and the throat and has been associated with triggering asthma.
E-cigarettes have been touted as a means to quit smoking tobacco, but there is no scientific evidence to support this, according to AAP – and it appears the reverse is happening.
Teens who use e-cigarettes are more likely to begin smoking tobacco cigarettes, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association published in August 2015. Researchers looked at 9th graders who said they had never used lighted tobacco products – although some had tried e-cigarettes. Twelve months later, 25 percent of those who experimented with e-cigarettes in 9th grade had moved on to tobacco cigarettes in 10th, compared with 9 percent of non-e-cigarette users.
Many parents are unaware of dangers that e-cigarettes and the liquid used to make them pose to their to children, according to a recent study at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
The liquid used in e-cigarettes can sicken children who drink it or play with it. Drinking just one teaspoon of the liquid mixture can be lethal to children and smaller amounts can cause nausea and vomiting. Skin exposure can also sicken children.
Researchers found that many containers were left within easy reach of children. One-third of adult users failed to lock the bottles away or use childproof caps. AAP is calling for child-resistant packaging on e-cigarettes and increased education of parents about health dangers and safety precautions.