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The Fiery Debate over Electronic Cigarettes

Some manufacturers promote electronic cigarettes as a safer alternative to smoking. But public health experts express concern about their long-term effects, especially on young people. Here are some answers to your burning questions about e-cigarettes.

What Are E-Cigarettes?
These devices deliver nicotine without tobacco. They often look like cigarettes, or sometimes pipes, pens, or lipstick. 

Typically, e-cigarettes have three parts:
  • A cartridge full of liquid, which contains nicotine and other chemicals and flavorings
  • A vaporizer that heats up the liquid
  • A battery that powers up the vaporizer when you puff on it
Users inhale the vapors from the heated liquid. The process is called “vaping.” And it’s become increasingly popular among people of all ages.  

Are They Safer Than Cigarettes?
Experts aren’t certain yet. On one hand, the vapors don’t contain tobacco smoke. But e-cigarette users still breathe in chemicals in the aerosol, including nicotine, a highly addictive drug. 

In the short term, inhaling the vapors may cause coughing, sore throats, and other minor complaints. But the product is newer and no long-term studies have examined their safety.

Researchers have also raised concerns about secondhand exposure to vapors from e-cigarettes. Some people, including pregnant women and former smokers, could face harm from nicotine in the air. 

Can They Help Smokers Quit?
Some studies suggest they might, but many doctors remain skeptical. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which regulates medications and tobacco products, hasn’t approved them for this use. 

Do E-Cigarettes Lead to Other Drug Use?
Recent national and preliminary California data show that youth are experimenting with e-cigarettes at an alarming rate. The Centers for Disease Control reports over a quarter million students said they had used e-cigarettes, but never tried traditional cigarettes. Overall, studies suggest youth who have never smoked are now getting hooked on nicotine from e-cigarettes, and adolescents who use e-cigarettes are more likely to progress from experimenting with cigarettes to becoming established smokers.

Take Control of Your Health

Barton Health offers smoking cessation classes and a weekly Tobacco Free support group to help people who smoke kick the habit. For a list of classes available or any questions, call Barton Education at 530.543.5549.