E-cigarettes and emerging tobacco product threats: Part 3 in a series on tobacco use and prevention for Alaska Native people

May 1, 2015

Each day, more than 3,200 people younger than 18 years of age smoke their first cigarette and the tobacco industry is using old marketing tactics for new products. Evidence indicates that the more young people are exposed to cigarette advertising and promotional activities, the more likely they are to smoke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Office on Smoking and Health. Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS), commonly known as e-cigarettes, are some of the newer products on the market that using old marketing tactics to appeal to youth and first-time smokers. E-cigarettes products come in appealing fruit and candy flavors and use messages of rebellion, glamour, technology and false safety that the U.S. Surgeon General has found to lead to youth smoking, according to findings in the report Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults.

ENDS are battery-powered devices that provide varying doses of nicotine and other additives to the user in an aerosol. ENDS come in various forms including e-cigarettes, e-hookahs, hookah pens, vape pens, and e-cigars. ENDS are currently unregulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which means they are not required to comply with the same regulations placed on traditional cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products.

There is increasing evidence that indicates the negative impact of these products, including: ENDS contain varying levels of nicotine which can initiate and/or prolong nicotine addiction; ingestion or skin contact with the nicotine solution from a cartridge can lead to nicotine poisoning; and there is a presence of heavy metals and carcinogens in e-cigarette aerosol. Exposure to the e-cigarette aerosol also has the potential to cause eye, throat and airway irritation, according to a report from the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.

Another concern with ENDS is that although marketed as a tobacco cessation device, they have not been tested by the FDA as an effective method to help tobacco users quit. Proven tobacco cessation products such as Nicotine Replacement Therapy provide controlled doses of nicotine and have been tested and regulated for effectiveness.
The use of ENDS among youth is one of the emerging tobacco threats for our people. Although overall youth smoking rates have decreased in Alaska, nationally, e-cigarette use among middle and high school students tripled from 2013 to 2014. This trend is concerning for Alaska’s youth because it has the potential to set back much of the progress that has been made in decreasing tobacco use.

ANTHC recognizes the public health concerns of ENDS and is committed to putting measures in place to prevent youth from ever starting to use tobacco-related products, and to eliminating exposure to all forms of secondhand tobacco smoke including secondhand aerosol on the ANMC campus. Therefore in 2014, the ANMC tobacco-free campus policy was updated to include coverage of electronic cigarettes.

Download a free resource on e-cigarettes from ANTHC.

To learn more about ENDS, go to: http://dhss.alaska.gov/dph/Chronic/Pages/Tobacco/TobaccoFreeAlaska/ecigs.aspx 

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