• E-cigarettes Aren't Any Safer Than Regular Cigarettes, Especially If You Have Kids

    Are e-cigarettes a safer alternative to tobacco? Not really, overwhelming research says.
    by Lei Dimarucut-Sison .
E-cigarettes Aren't Any Safer Than Regular Cigarettes, Especially If You Have Kids
PHOTO BY @metamorworks/iStock
  • According to a survey conducted by the Department of Health in 2009, more than 17 million Filipinos were tobacco smokers, representing 28% of the population at that time. In 2002, the Philippines was the 15th largest consumer of tobacco in the world. Not surprisingly, about "10 Filipinos die every hour" due to cancer, lung disease, and heart disease, says the World Health Organization, and this can be attributed to tobacco use, among other factors.

    Among kids, inhalation of cigarette smoke has been identified as a leading cause of respiratory problems and ear infections; it is also said to trigger asthma. Even during pregnancy, women are warned against the possible harmful effects of smoking to the unborn fetus, which includes placenta previa, premature birth, miscarriage, or stillbirths.

    Electronic cigarette — a battery-operated device that mimics cigars by emitting vapor from a flavored liquid called "juice," — has been hailed as the answer to kicking the habit of smoking. When it started gaining popularity more than a decade ago, e-cigars were also marketed as a safer alternative to tobacco.

    According to the American Lung Association, tobacco smoke produces 7,000 chemicals when burned, and 69 can cause cancer. E-cigarette juice, on the other hand, contains five ingredients: propylene glycol, glycerin, water, nicotine, and flavorings like cinnamon, strawberry, and vanilla. Such food flavors add to the idea that it is not a threat to health.

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    Recent studies, however, seem to say otherwise. A small research from the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology found a link between the flavorings and cell damage in the blood vessels and the heart even when they do not contain nicotine, Reuters.com reports. 

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    The study also observed that the chemicals used to add certain flavorings to the juice impaired the production of nitric oxide, which helps blood vessels widen in response to increased blood flow. Says Jessica Fetterman, lead study author at Boston University School of Medicine, “The loss of nitric oxide is important because it has been associated with heart disease outcomes like heart attacks and strokes.”

    Research also suggests that inhalation of these chemicals could damage the lungs, even for passive smokers or second-hand smokers.

    Another study published in the Public Library of Science Journal in 2017 showed that benzene, a cancer-causing substance, was present in the vapor produced by several popular brands of e-cigarettes.

    Research published in the journal Pediatrics also reveals that in the United States, "the number of kids at risk for nicotine poisoning has increased to an epidemic level over the past three years," and it cited that those related to e-cigarettes have "increased by almost 1,500 percent during the 40-month study." Results also found that children exposed to e-cigarettes were five times more likely to be admitted to a health care facility than those who were exposed to cigarettes.

    Besides smoke inhalation, e-cigarettes have also figured in near-fatal accidents due to defective parts. Earlier this month, a Filipino teenager was hospitalized after his vape exploded on his face due to a faulty battery, reports GMA News.

    Despite the growing number of vaping stores in the country, no manufacturer or distributor has applied for product registration, technically making e-cigarettes illegal, says Ana Trinidad Rivera, director for cosmetics regulation and research at the Food and Drug Administration, according to a report by the Philippine Star.

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