Doctors Find E-Cigarettes May Be As Harmful As the Real Thing

In the last several years, smokers have been turning to the new “e-cigarette” as a way to detox their bodies from the deathly combination of nicotine and carbon monoxide.

However, a recent report by the New York Times suggests that “vaping,” as it’s known, may be even more toxic than having a smoke.

The Healthier Way to Smoke?

455661073The principal danger in smoking has always been attributed to inhaling, well… smoke. The imminent health risk is through inhaling poisonous carbon dioxide and tar for the sake of a mild nicotine high.

While it’s acknowledged that the nicotine itself certainly isn’t a great thing, the advent of water-based nicotine was heralded as a breakthrough for those wishing to enjoy their habit without the health risks.

The idea behind e-cigarettes is that inhaling water-based nicotine gives smokers what they are looking for in a way that is significantly less lethal than inhaling smoke. The device is becoming more commonly known as a vaporizer, since newer models look less and less like actual cigarettes, and the use of them is known as “vaping”–as in vapor—because the device converts liquid nicotine into a thick mist that the user inhales.

Nicotine cartridges come in a variety of flavors, give off a pleasant odor and omit all the dangerous chemicals associated with smoking traditional cigarettes.

Except, of course, nicotine itself. Lee Cantrell, a professor of pharmacy at the University of California, San Francisco who directs a division of California Poison Control, told the Times that nicotine is “one of the most potent naturally occurring toxins we have.”

And the e-liquids are a much more potent extraction of nicotine than anything you’ll find in a tobacco leaf. Most range in concentrations between 1.8% and 2.4%, but because the industry is unregulated as yet, it’s possible to find concentrations as high as 10%, particularly through mail order from other countries. At that concentration, Cantrell says, a tablespoon could kill an adult who ingested it.

But it’s not mainly adults that toxicologists are worried about. It’s children.

‘Candy’ With a Toxic Aftertaste

From 2012 to 2013, the number of poison control calls linked to e-liquids increased by 300%. The overwhelming majority of these cases, especially those that ended with hospital visits, were children under 4.

The setup, experts say, is perfect. The liquid nicotine usually comes in nice-smelling flavors, like cherry, bubble gum and maple syrup, and has coloring additives that make it look like syrup or candy. What’s more: the liquid form is much more easily absorbable by the body—a tiny amount goes right to the bloodstream. And that is true whether it’s absorbed through the lungs, the mouth or the skin.

But with so few regulations governing the industry, many people don’t know to be cautious with the substance. According to a director for Kentucky’s Regional Poison Control Center, “a lot of parents didn’t realize it was toxic until the kid started vomiting.”

‘A Matter of When’

The Food and Drug Administration says that it plans to regulate the industry in the near future. And surprisingly, even some within the industry recognize that it would be a good idea. As one owner of a vaporizer store franchise told the Times:

“Everybody fears F.D.A. regulation, but honestly, we kind of welcome some kind of rules and regulations around this liquid.”

Until then, Dr. Cantrell had a dire prognosis:

“It’s not a matter of if a child will be poisoned or killed. It’s a matter of when.”

If You Need Help, Call Us

The attorneys at The Oshman Firm have successfully represented people who have suffered serious injuries from toxic poisoning. Contact us by calling (800) 400-8182 or filling out the form on this page for a free consultation if this has happened to you or a loved one.


Ted Oshman has been with The Oshman Firm since 1988 serving clients for over 25 years. Learn more about Ted's background and featured practice areas here.

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