FORT BRANCH—While there is still much to be learned about e-cigarettes, studies show that danger still comes with the alternative cigarette—that’s what about 30 people learned during Thursday afternoon’s seminar at Vincennes University’s Fort Branch campus.
Dr. Stanton Glantz, who works for the University of California at San Francisco’s Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education center, explained that e-cigarette companies’ main job is to maximize profits.
“I started out agnostic on e-cigarettes but now I’m very worried,” Glantz said.
If e-cigarettes were really a healthy alternative, tobacco companies would advertise them as such, he said.
January 1972 was the last time a cigarette commercial was on television, but now e-cigarette commercials are on, advertised as “a way to get around smoking laws, beat the smoking bans, experience freedom.’”
“The use of flavors is one of the worst things about e-cigarettes,” Glantz said. The e-cigs are often placed by candy so that children (and adults) notice them easily. Another “sneaky” move by companies, said Glantz, is placing e-cigarettes next to medicines, next to Advil, to send the message that “these are safe,” he said.
“There is no question that some people have used e-cigarettes to quit successfully,” Glantz said, citing studies and testimonials that showed that some highly motivated smokers are able to use e-cigs as a tool to quit.
However there are still safer, proven alternatives for adults that aren’t as risky, he said.
If you keep smoking e-cigarettes, there’s really no benefit—and that’s what many do, he said.
Young people are using e-cigarettes “as a bridge to smoke,” Glantz said, which is why he believes all smoke-free laws should include e-cigarettes.
When in the air, e-cigarette toxins are 10 to 20 percent as bad as a cigarette, he said, and bystanders get nicotine in their body.
“For the most part, the amount of bad stuff in e-cigarettes is less than cigarettes,” Glantz said, “there’s just less carcinogens.”
But there’s still cadmium, nickel, lead—not healthy things to be inhaling— and the distribution of ultra-fine particles to be worried about, he said. When you smoke a cigarette it burns tobacco into fine particles and nicotine is also carried into the lungs and blood. (Carcinogens cause disease.)
E-cigarettes send an “addictive hit to the brain” although they don’t actually burn anything, he said.
E-cigarettes have been known to blow up and severely burn people.
“There’s no question that they pollute the air,” he said.
E-cigarettes haven’t been around long enough to really know the full truth about their health effects over a long period of time, he added.
But still, Glantz said, “anybody who is trying to quit smoking with e-cigarettes, don’t discourage them. Tell them to stop cigarettes entirely, no dual use.”
Studies have shown e-cigarette smokers are 1/3 less likely to quit smoking, Glantz said. For every person who does quit, there are more who are not, especially in the 18-25 range.
Gibson County Public Health Nurse Kelly Kelley asked whether microorganisms could also create a health hazard in e-cigarettes, which are usually designed to be reusable.
Casey Williams, director of Smokefree Evansville, pointed out that most e-cigarettes come from China, and “water vapor would promote bacterial growth.”
“There is little to no water” in e-cigarettes, he said, despite their claims.
Smoking one e-cigarette in one sitting is like smoking a whole pack of tobacco cigarettes and can make a person ill, he said.
From 2011-2012, a National Youth Tobacco Survey by the Centers for Disease Control showed middle and high school e-cigarette use doubled, Glantz said.
“E-cigarettes promote smoking,” Glantz said.
In the U.S., 20 percent of children who use e-cigarettes have never smoked a regular cigarette. And in Utah as of 2013, 32 percent of children started smoking with e-cigarettes, he said.
“I think we have enough evidence to restrict marketing to kids,” he said. “They leak—if a kid drinks it, that’s very dangerous. Poison control center calls skyrocketed, the CDC says.”
He also reported how a dog apparently died after being poisoned from eating an e-cigarette.
“What a smoker does to himself is his business, but what the smoker does to the non-smoker is quite a different matter,” he quoted.
Glantz noted that since 1978, smoking has cut in half.
“If when you want to smoke the cigarette but you have to leave the party and go outside—they don’t want that. That’s why they fight so hard to keep smoking in bars and casinos,” he said.
“The thing that make bars and casinos so important is the public perception. When bars and casinos are smoke free, the social message is that smoking is out.”
Lung cancer accounts for less than 10 percent of secondhand smoking deaths, he said, but other health issues are caused.
Glantz cited the example of when in Helena, Montana after a comprehensive smoking ban was enforced, emergency room visits due to heart attacks went down. But the next year, after the ordinance was overturned, heart attack visits shot up again. In Colorado, ambulance calls going to casinos dropped 20 percent after a smoke free law was put into effect.
“The take away message is, when you pass a comprehensive smoking rule, you see positive health effects immediately.”
“There’s nothing else that’s going to drop health problems 10, 15 percent,” he said.
Stronger laws leave bigger effects and better health benefits, Glantz said.
A lack of smoking bans is sending people to the hospital right now, Glantz said. “What is that costing society?”