Monday, August 5, 2013

The Burning Truth of Tobacco Use

Smokeless tobacco products—including electronic cigarettes and dissolvable tobacco—are being promoted by the industry as a safer alternative to cigarettes. Some of the newest offerings even look strikingly similar to candy. Alarmingly, many smokeless options are notregulated like other tobacco products, so it’s up to the consumer to be well-educated.

Let’s start with electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes (E-Cigs) or personal vaporizers (PV). An electronic cigarette is an automated inhaler that vaporizes a liquid solution into an aerosol mist, simulating the act of tobacco smoking. A typical ecigarette consists of a battery, a heating element and a cartridge containing nicotine, plus an unknown mix of other chemicals to make the solution. The manufacture, quality control, sale and advertisement of electronic cigarettes are currently unregulated. Consumers have no reliable information concerning the dosage of nicotine or other harmful chemicals contained in them. For example, government researchers have discovered that many brands claiming to be nicotine-free test positive for nicotine. Dr. Lowell Dale of the Mayo Clinic gives the following, straightforward explanation of the risks associated with electronic cigarettes:

“Manufacturers claim that electronic cigarettes are a safe alternative to conventional cigarettes.  However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has questioned the safety of these products. When the FDA analyzed samples of two popular brands, they found variable amounts of nicotine and traces of toxic chemicals, including known cancer-causing substances(carcinogens). This prompted the FDA to issue a warning about potential health risks associated with electronic cigarettes. Until more is known about the potential risks, the safe play is to say no to electronic cigarettes. If you're looking for help to stop smoking, there are many FDA-approved medications that have been shown to be safe and effective for this purpose.”

The image below comes from a recent publication of the Davis County Health Department in Utah. It represents a handful of dissolvable tobacco products. These new forms of smokeless tobacco are a response from the tobacco industry to declining smoking rates across the nation. Think, a typical cigarette contains 30 mg of nicotine.

Although they may look similar dissolvable tobacco is not the same as a quit-aid, such as nicotine gum. The same is true of e-cigarettes. One reason is that individuals who use smokeless tobacco products as a quit-aid rarely switch to them exclusively. In other words, while in the process of “quitting,” smokers are simultaneously using cigarettes and smokeless tobacco products (also known as dual use). This increases the risk of harm and disease.

How do Orriant Health Coaches respond to the statement, "Well at least the e-cigarette is better than a regular cigarette.”? There is no “safe” tobacco product!  Every form of smokeless tobacco can lead to nicotine addition, gum disease, and cancer. More specifically, constant exposure to tobacco causes cancer of the esophagus pharynx, larynx, stomach, and pancreas. And, according to the American Heart Association, smokeless tobacco still increases the risk of coronary heart disease and major cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke.

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