Since electronic cigarettes were first introduced in 2004, there has been a debate over whether they can help wean people off conventional cigarettes and whether they are more or less safe to use. Although some – mostly people in the industry – continue to argue the health benefits, the Food and Drug Administration disagrees. In May 2016, the FDA declared that e-cigarettes were to be considered regulated “tobacco products” under the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009 (also known as the Tobacco Act). As a result, e-cigarette manufacturers and retailers have since been prohibited from advertising to consumers that e-cigarettes are less dangerous than regular cigarettes. One indisputable fact is that, dangerous or no, e-cigarettes have grown very popular – one new study has found that 10.8 million adults in the United States are vaping.
In 2016, researchers surveyed 486,000 people ages 18 and above about their cigarette and e-cigarette use. The study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that 54.6 percent of e-cigarette users were also smoking traditional cigarettes, about 15 percent had never smoked cigarettes, and 30.4 percent had quit smoking them. More than half of e-cigarette users were under the age of 35. The analysis was based on data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a national survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Interestingly, people with chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, asthma, and depression were more likely to be using e-cigarettes. Among people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, 10.2 percent were vaping. This could be due to the misconception that e-cigarettes are safer, and these people were attempting to not aggravate their conditions.
The study also found that e-cigarette use is more prevalent in Oklahoma and the Southeast, and least popular in North Dakota and California, although no explanations are offered for this information.
Studies have shown that electronic cigarettes can be just as dangerous as the traditional kind. They still contain nicotine, the substance that makes conventional cigarettes addictive, and they may also contain dangerous chemicals used to flavor the liquid, such as diacetyl, which is linked to lung disease. Other possible ingredients are toxic metals such as lead, ultrafine particles that can be inhaled into the lungs, and other cancer-causing chemicals. There is also evidence that, far from weaning people off cigarettes, e-cigarettes can act as a gateway. According to one study, high school students who used e-cigarettes in the previous month were about seven times more likely to report that they smoked conventional cigarettes when they were asked approximately six months later.
The authors of the Annals of Internal Medicine study concluded that studying the effects of e-cigarette use on people who had never smoked regular cigarettes was imperative to further understanding the health effects of vaping.
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