Editor’s note: The following information is from the Bluegrass Prevention Center, which serves Harrison County.
Electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes, are battery-operated devices designed to deliver nicotine, flavor and other chemicals. The e-cigarettes turn chemicals, including highly addictive nicotine, into an aerosol that is inhaled by the user.
Most e-cigarettes are manufactured to look like conventional cigarettes, cigars or pipes. Some resemble everyday items such as ballpoint pens, USB memory sticks or markers.
E-cigarettes are not regulated as a tobacco product under the Tobacco Control Act and are not approved as a quit aid by the FDA.
They are being marketed as a safer, cleaner way to inhale nicotine.
As their popularity grows, some doctors and researchers say the smoking substitutes are very harmful. To date, little research has been done to determine the effects of inhaling nicotine vapor or the effects of secondhand vapor on children.
E-cigarettes have been found to contain carcinogens and toxic chemicals, such as diethylene glycol, an ingredient in antifreeze. With no regulations from the FDA, it cannot be determined how much nicotine is delivered each time the device is used.
Liquids marketed for the devices are available in hundreds of flavors with appealing names such as Mocha Madness, cotton candy, bourbon, cowboy and each contain varying levels of nicotine.
There are concerns that these flavors may entice youth as evidenced by an increase in the number of youth smoking e-cigarettes in schools since they are not part of school tobacco policies.
Kentucky has had numerous cases reported of small children ingesting the liquid nicotine.
In 2013, the Kentucky Regional Poison Control Center of Kosair Children’s Hospital received 39 calls about e-cigarettes, which is a 333 percent increase from the nine calls in 2012.
More than half of those calls were concerning children and exposure to the cartridge fluid.
Liquid nicotine can cause harmful effects if ingested or absorbed by the skin -- even death. With sales of e-cigarettes doubling to $1.5 billion in 2013, the calls are likely to increase.
According to the FDA, e-cigarettes have not been fully studied so consumers don’t know the potential risks of e-cigarettes when used as intended or how much nicotine or other potentially harmful chemicals are being inhaled.
There is also the unknown of any benefits associated with using these products.
The best practices regarding e-cigarettes in communities are to keep them out of the hands of minors and add them to the school policies under the tobacco products ban. Consider e-cigarettes the same as all other tobacco products when it comes to youth access and enforcement.
A ban on e-cigarettes is being considered in Kentucky’s legislature this session. Until the state takes action, the products remain legal in Kentucky.