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E-Cigarettes: Delivery Method has Changed, Health Concerns Still Remain

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Tobacco cessation experts at Sacred Heart Health System are breathing a sigh of relief after the Food and Drug Administration announced that electronic smoking devices will be regulated like tobacco products and their sale will be banned to anyone under 18.

These electronic smoking devices come in various forms, e-cigarettes, vape pens, e-Hookah or Hookah pens, but their function is the same: The device uses a heat source to turn a solution, containing nicotine and other additives, into a vapor that is inhaled without combustion. The use of e-cigarettes has steadily increased over the years, but there is a growing concern in the health community about the long-term health effects of these products.

"We are glad that the FDA is taking the step to regulate e-cigarettes," said Jennifer Morris, a pulmonary educator at Sacred Heart Hospital who helps community members, patients and employees to stop using tobacco. "One of the many concerns we have about e-cigarettes is that most of the vaping shops mix their own nicotine solutions, so consumers don't know how much nicotine they are actually getting."

Morris said a study published by the American College of Chest Physicians found e-cigarette smoking immediately increased airway obstruction and inflammation in healthy and mild asthmatic young smokers.

"The smoke that comes out of an e-cigarette is not water vapor," Morris said. "It is an aerosol that contains ingredients like oils, metals, propylene glycol and formaldehyde. Propylene glycol is approved for use in food and cosmetic products, but it's not intended to be inhaled. We have seen patients locally with lipoid (oil) pneumonia that could be related to the smoking of e-cigarettes. "

Tobacco cessation expert at Sacred Heart Hospital Sheila Kirchharr, a respiratory therapist, said another concern is the way e-cigarettes are marketed could lead to a new generation of smokers.

"E-cigarettes appeal to kids because they use flavored solutions that smell and taste like gummy bear candy, snow cone and bubble gum," she said. "With no childproof devices on vaping juice, these products are poisoning children who get into the vials of these juices."

Morris and Kirchharr both agree that e-cigarettes are not a healthy alternative to quitting cigarettes.

"With e-cigarettes you are trading one addictive habit for another," said Morris. "We don't recommend e-cigarettes as a nicotine replacement therapy."

For more information on tobacco cessation programs, visit www.sacred-heart.org/tobaccocessation/ or call 850-416-7764 or toll-free at 1-888-461-6653.