E-cigarettes: NOT a safe alternative

We all worry about long-term danger from smoking, but nicotine can take the life of a child in minutes.

Smoking cigarettes is hazardous to your health. We all know this. It increases risk of numerous potentially fatal health issues. No one wants their child to start smoking. Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances on earth and quitting is extremely difficult even in the best of circumstances.

E--cigsE-cigarettes have been available for more than 10 years, but recently have increased greatly in popularity. With celebrity advertisements, bright colors, and flavors like bubble-gum, the target audience for these devices is pretty clear. Manufacturers of products such as these are in it for the money. Getting adolescents and teens addicted now means BIG bucks over a lifetime. Nicotine in an e-cigarette is just as, if not more, addictive then that received from a traditional tobacco product.

E-cigarettes do not necessarily contain all the toxic additives that tobacco products do; however, they are unregulated. This means, we actually have no idea what is in them. In addition nicotine itself is a harmful chemical known as a neurotoxin. Chronic use causes damage by, among other things, creating strain on the heart, damaging blood vessels throughout the body, and decreasing the body’s ability to respond to insulin contributing to type 2 diabetes.

Tragically, a high dose of nicotine interferes with the normal functioning of the brain, gut, heart and muscles. It can cause severe chest and abdominal pain, racing heart, vomiting, seizures, changes in blood pressure, and can even make someone stop breathing completely.

The increased availability of e-cigarette fluid poses a HUGE risk to children. The colorful, flavored liquid is a magnet for kids who will naturally drink it. Even playing with it can lead to rapid absorption through the skin. This rapid and concentrated exposure can and has led to hospitalizations and even death.

What to do?

  • Educate your children on the dangers of all tobacco and nicotine products starting at an early age. Even if you can’t quit yourself you can use your own experiences to help dissuade your child from introducing themselves to this very addictive chemical.
  • If you have one
    • Keep the device and its refills well out of the reach of your children at all times in the same way you would with any medication or poison
    • Don’t use it around your children
    • Focus on using it to quit smoking and remove it from the home as soon as possible
    • Be very careful when handling. Vials have been known to break. Do not get it on your skin.
    • If your child comes in contact with liquid nicotine, call 911 or your Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222. This includes any and all exposures
      • Inhalation
      • Ingestion (drinking)
      • Spilling it on the skin. For skin exposure wash the area with soap and water for 15 minutes while calling

You can get additional support with quitting smoking with the “Freedom from Smoking: Smoking Cessation Program” at the Barnard Health and Cancer Information Center at Siteman Cancer Center.

Kirstin Lee, M.D. About Kirstin Lee, M.D.

Kirstin Abel Lee, M.D. is a pediatrician at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and an Instructor of Pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine. She received her undergraduate education at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD and is a graduate of the Washington University School of Medicine. Kirstin completed her residency at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. She is board certified in Pediatrics and a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Her interests include healthy living for children and families, emergency preparedness, and medical ethics. She is the mother of one boy age 2 years and enjoys cooking, running, and time with friends and family.

Connect with Dr. Kirstin Lee on Facebook: ChildrensMomDocs and.

Comments

  1. I’m constantly embarrassed by the amount of bad information on this site by doctors.

    Here is the wikipedia on Nicotine: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicotine

    Nicotine has demonstrated *minor* addictive properties, most no physical but psychological. Again, minor.

    In high amounts, nicotine can be classified as a carcinogen. High amounts. A 2mg patch of piece of gum a day is going to be just fine. The amounts needed to approach this are likely in excess of 30mg/day for very extended periods of time.

    Nicotine has demonstrated positive effects on mood, memory and learning. Effects categorized similar to caffeine. Remember, caffeine in extraordinary high amounts is also dangerous. So is water in high amounts. Or pretty much anything.

    Bottom line: yes, educate your kids. But for the love of god, educate yourself. It is embarrassing that the doctors on this site are so misinformed.

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