CALIFORNIA—The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) published a report and issued a health advisory on January 28, warning about the dangers of electronic cigarettes.
The CDPH, which also operates California’s controversial medical marijuana program, is the state department responsible for California’s public health.
The electronic cigarettes the CDPH is speaking of are often referred to as “e‐cigs” or “vapes,” and contain battery-operated coils, which vaporize “e-liquids” that are reported to contain nicotine, flavoring agents, propylene glycol and other carcinogenic, toxic chemicals.
The health advisory cites a California Tobacco Control Program report, published in 2013, which reveals that e‐cigarettes are readily accessible throughout California, and that the number of stores selling e‐cigarettes quadrupled between 2011 and 2013, increasing from 12 percent to 46 percent.
Specifically, the “e-liquids” are alleged to have high concentrations of “ultrafine particles that are inhaled and become trapped in the lungs.”
Although the CDPH acknowledges in the advisory that “several studies found lower levels of carcinogens in the e‐cigarette aerosol, [as] compared to smoke emitted by traditional cigarettes,” it warns that use of e-cigs expose people to “at least ten chemicals that are on California’s Proposition 65 list of chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm.”
Among the ultrafine particles to have been found in mainstream and second-hand “e-liquids” are nicotine, formaldehyde, lead, nickel—and benzene, which, according to a Wikipedia description, is a “notorious cause of bone marrow failure.” Additionally, the vapor exhaled is warned to be a health concern for those exposed to the secondhand aerosols.
Dr. Ron Chapman, the State Health Officer and director of the CDPH, suggests that “First and foremost, education is needed to counter the marketing of e-cigarettes which is often misleading and highly appealing to teens. Second, there is a need to treat e-cigarettes in a comprehensive manner that is consistent with how we approach traditional cigarettes.”
While many argue that e-cigs are a helpful harm-reduction tools that help people who are recovering from cigarette addictions, the report maintains, “There is no scientific evidence that e-cigarettes help smokers successfully quit traditional cigarettes.” The report further cites a different study that finds e-cig users to be, in fact, a third less likely to quit cigarettes (than non e-cig users).
The health advisory and report are published just as the California state legislature considers a bill, which proposes a ban on e-cig use in public places, and measures against the sale of the devices to minors.
This report also follows a similar study published by New England Journal of Medicine on January 22, which also claims that e-cig use and exposure can be dangerous.