In the past few years, there have been an increase in popularity of electronic cigarettes among adults and teenagers. These devices are advertised to help cigarette addicts to overcome their cravings in a gradual and helpful way; but, they have quickly become a growing trend among youth.
An e-cigarette is an instrument that uses a coil to turn liquid nicotine into vapour for the user to inhale. It uses no tobacco, and it has different levels of nicotine to give each individual a personalized experience. The liquid or “juice” used in these devices are often flavoured, and have sweet and candy-like tastes that users do not usually have while smoking a regular cigarette. This variety of flavours are why it is becoming so popular with adolescents. There are over 8,000 flavours to choose from; for example, strawberry, bubblegum, cream, hazelnut and kiwi and new websites and “vape shops” have been rapidly launching around North America. The phenomenon has been so popular, that even tobacco companies have been creating their own style of e-cigarettes and selling them, alongside normal cigarettes. Even though vapes may be an alternative for quitting smoking, the long-term effects of these products are not unknown.
Health concerns with electronic cigarettes are not well researched, mostly because they have only been around for such a short time. Since vape has not yet been regulated by FDA nor Health Canada and with so many brands and vendors to choose from, the true ingredients (and its detrimental effects) in the products are questionable. In 2014, Health Canada randomly tested some of the products claimed to be “nicotine free”, and found at least half the products actually contained nicotine. Some contains solvents which may be harmful to your body.
On the other hand, a ten millilitres e-cigarette cartridge is equivalent to 200 cigarettes. Users often subconsciously consumed way more nicotine as one of these 10ml e-cigarette cartridges can easily be consumed completely in 2 hours!
Nicotine, even in small doses, can become highly addictive, and can be detrimental to a growing child’s brain. Even though young children may not be vaping like a teenager, they may accidentally ingest the liquid, as they are drawn to the “juices” by their different attractive flavours. Calls to poison control centres related to e-cigarettes liquid poisoning in young children have sky rocketed since e-cigarettes introduction in recent years.
Though e-cigarettes have been considered by many as a good way to stop smoking, the research for its efficacy and safety for smoking cessation has not been established. Nicotine patches, gum, or lozenges are still the mainstream for smoking substitutes. The more exposure e-cigarettes have, the more chance it will fall into children’s hands, leading them to become addicted to nicotine and even become future smokers. The idea of E-cigarettes as a smoking alternative may just be illusive and cloudy as the vape as it produces.
Dr. Phoebe Tsang is a Fellow of the Royal College of Dentists of Canada (F.R.C.D.) in Pediatric Dentistry and a licensed Certified Specialist in Pediatric Dentistry in BC. The Royal College of Dentists of Canada is an organization which ensures high standards of specialization in the dental profession and recognizes properly trained dental specialists through comprehensive qualifying exams. Visit Dr. Tsang at the Children's Oral Care Centre in Abbotsford, BC.
Outside of the office, Dr. Tsang is a clinical assistant professor of Faculty of Dentistry who is actively engaged in teaching dental students at the University of British Columbia and general practice residents at Vancouver General Hospital and British Columbia's Children's Hospital.
Read Dr. Tsang's blog here.