The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) recently issued a 32-page report characterizing the use of electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) as a growing threat to the health of Californians, particularly its youth. Calling e-cigs a “significant public health concern”, the CDPH outlined the threat it foresees e-cigs pose in undermining California’s decades long effort to curb nicotine use in the state.
The CDPH reports notes the use of e-cigs, or “vaping,” by young adults and teens has doubled in the past two years. The entire electronic cigarette industry is expected to reach $10 billion in revenue by 2017. Five companies make up 80% of the e-cig industry, which is estimated to have spent $80 million promoting its products in 2013 alone.
The chief concern discussed in the CDPH report is the health risk e-cigs pose to young children and teenagers. In 2014, 154 children under age 6 were poisoned after they came in contact with the nicotine liquid or “e-juice” used in vaping. That number tripled from 2013.
The variety of fruit and candy-flavored e-juice used with e-cigarettes has caught the attention of the CDPH. E-juice is sold in flavors ranging from cotton candy to mint chocolate chip and could appeal to minors more than traditional cigarettes. Surveys conducted by state public health agencies show a rapid increase in the use of e-cigs by California teens. The CDPH notes teenagers may become dependant on nicotine even at low levels, which may negatively affect their bodies at a critical time in their neurological development.
Studies cited in the CDPH report show e-cig use by young adults is on the rise as well. Nearly 20% of e-cig users under 30 have never experimented with traditional cigarettes. Young adults are also three times more likely than people 30 years or older to try vaping.
E-cigs vapor contains 10 chemicals on California’s Proposition 65 list of chemicals known to cause cancer and birth defects. They include:
Other dangerous chemicals found in e-cig vapor include heavy metals like nickel and tin, and silicate nanoparticles, all of which are found in traditional cigarette smoke. The CDPH report warns these chemicals and the nicotine expelled from the vapor of e-cigs are absorbed at levels comparable to passive smokers.
In its report, the California Department of Public Health proposed educational measures to combat what is sees as a disturbing and growing trend among young adults. In its threefold campaign, the CDPH will partner with health and childcare communities to spread information about the dangers of e-juice poisoning, particularly to children.
A public awareness campaign is also proposed to educate the general public about the expanding use of e-cigs and the health risks posed. Finally, the report outlines the CDPH’s intent to partner with the California Department of Education to raise awareness amongst educators, parents, and students about the dangers of vaping and e-cigs.