March 20. 2016 6:55PM

Your Turn, NH: The reality of vaping isn't so cool


AS A 100-year-old nonprofit public health agency dedicated solely to lung health, we at Breathe New Hampshire read the March 6 New Hampshire Sunday News article “What’s so cool about vaping?” with interest and concern.

Our first concern was the mention of the statistic from the Reuters/Ipsos poll that 10 percent of Americans are vaping. Sure enough, the poll of 5,679 Americans from spring 2015 indicated that “about 10 percent” are using e-cigarettes. What the article didn’t say, but was published by Reuters on June 10, 2015, is that “most of those consumers are also smoking conventional cigarettes.”

Even more concerning is a recent report in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine, from January 2016, of an analysis of dozens of studies from 2008 and 2015 of several thousand smokers and their combustible cigarette and/or e-cigarette usage.

The study, conducted by Sara Kalkhoran, M.D. and Professor Stanton Glantz, Ph.D., was funded by National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute and the FDA Center for Tobacco Products.

“The odds of quitting were 28 percent lower for smokers using e-cigarettes than people not using e-cigarettes” said senior study author Glantz of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco. Although some people did quit smoking via e-cigs, overall, e-cigarette use “reduced the odds” of quitting, he concluded.

In an interview with Reuters Health, Glantz said one reason why e-cigs didn’t help people stop smoking could be that vapers can get their nicotine fix in places where smoking is prohibited. Smoke-free environments are “very effective in getting people to quit.”

Part of the challenge of quitting a smoking addiction is not just weaning off nicotine, but the feel of something in your hand and mouth, and the social aspect. Vaping lounges encourage these habits.

It remains to be seen whether e-cigarettes containing addictive nicotine, though allegedly not as much as tobacco products, are effective ways to quit smoking. But to date, electronic vaping products have not been approved by the FDA as a viable smoking cessation device.

The young adults 18 to 22 quoted in the article could be exposing themselves to other health risks. No one knows the long-term effects of inhaling heated chemicals on the mouth, throat and lungs, chemicals that according to the FDA include the carcinogens nitrosamines, and diethylene glycol, an antifreeze ingredient.

The number of vape shops alone, not counting convenience stores and other retailers, is many more than the dozen reported in the article: at least 60. Vaping is one of the fastest growing unregulated industries in the U.S.

Although the FDA has proposed regulations that include warning labels and ingredient lists on e-cigarettes, this could take years.

Another concern, regarding vaping as a hobby, is the danger of children or pets being exposed to liquid nicotine (e-juice), which is highly poisonous in small amounts. Cases of children ingesting it (more than half under age 6) skyrocketed from 271 cases in 2011 to 3,783 in 2014, according to U.S. Poison Control Centers and the CDC. We were pleased that in January, President Obama signed a law calling for childproof caps on liquid nicotine.

New Hampshire was one of the first states to prohibit the sale of e-cigarettes to minors under 18. Breathe New Hampshire is proud to have been instrumental, along with student members of our New Hampshire Youth Network, in helping to pass this law in 2010.

Individuals who wish to quit smoking should know that the FDA has approved a host of products that are safe, such as nicotine gum, skin patches, lozenges, oral inhaled products, nasal spray, and the medications Zyban and Chantix.

While Breathe New Hampshire has remained objective about the effects of using electronic nicotine delivery systems as a viable cessation tool, we remain committed to ensuring that New Hampshire residents understand the health realities of e-cigarettes, and we will continue our efforts to keep them out of the hands of young people.

Dan Fortin is president and CEO of Breathe New Hampshire.