E-Cigarettes: What They Are and Why We Should be Concerned

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City Updates | General | Health Department |

All e-cigarettes work basically the same way. Inside, there's a battery, a heating element, and a cartridge that holds nicotine and other liquids and flavorings. Features and costs vary. Some are disposable. Others have a rechargeable battery and refillable cartridges. An atomizer heats a liquid containing nicotine, as well as other chemicals, turning it into a vapor that can be inhaled and creating a vapor cloud that resembles cigarette smoke. Using an e-cigarette is called "vaping".

A study has estimated that there are almost 500 different e-cigarette brands today, with more than 7700 different flavors. A 2014 study showed wide ranging nicotine levels in e-cigarettes and substantial variability between listed and actual nicotine levels in products. In 2009, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conducted initial lab tests and found detectable levels of toxic cancer-causing chemicals, including an ingredient used in anti-freeze, in two leading brands of e-cigarettes and 18 various cartridges.

Currently, there is no government oversight of these products and absent FDA regulation. There is no way for public health, the medical community or consumers to know what chemicals are contained in e-cigarettes or what the short and long term health implications might be. Also, the potential harm to people exposed to secondhand emissions from e-cigarettes is unknown.

There is a lack of information about the health effects of e-cigarettes, however there is more information to come in the future with new studies being conducted now.