Like most of my blog posts, shortly before they are set to go live I’m trolling the Internet looking for a topic that both catches my attention and is timely. Last Thursday, on the final day of 2015, that’s exactly what I was doing. I found myself on the CNN Health page looking for inspiration. The first article, front and center on the website, was about e-cigarettes and explored questions about the current stance on them. Back in May 2014, fellow HealthComU blogger Kristin Neubauer wrote, “Popularity of E-cigarettes Spurs Need for Amended Anti-Smoking Campaigns.” So, it seemed like as good of time as ever to revisit the topic.
Kristin wrote her post on the heels of the FDA proposing legislation that would; ban the sale of e-cigarettes to individuals younger than 18 years of age and prohibit the giving of free samples or listing health claims on the label. Since Kristin’s post, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data related to the number of calls to poison control regarding the inhalation or ingestion of e-cigarettes, as well as calls for individuals who got the substance found in e-cigarettes in the eyes or skin. Fifteen years ago these types of calls did not exist. Now these concerns account for 215 calls per month.
And, so still, questions remain about the safety of e-cigarettes. Early in December there was a published article in Environmental Health Perspectives, bringing attention to concerns about the, “flavoring chemical called diacetyl that has been shown to be associated with a disease called popcorn lung.” Another article, also published in December, this one by the San Diego Veterans Affairs lab, found “two e-cigarette products damaged cells in ways that could lead to cancer, even when nicotine-free.”
In a real way, these unanswered questions affect those of us working in health care facilities as more and more patients question if no smoking signs apply also to vaping. I’ve had my share of interactions with patients claiming their right to vape, and the truth is, all states have different laws about e-cigarette usage. As of July 3, 2014, all states except Nebraska, Nevada, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Wyoming have regulations against e-cigarette usage indoors to some degree.
In April 2015, there was talk of Senate Bill 201 amending the Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act, which would prohibit vaping in places were traditional smoking is also prohibited. Similar restrictions on vaping exist in only three states and differing restrictions in only a dozen more.
It’s definitely still too early to know the full effects of e-cigarettes on health, but the same was also true of traditional cigarettes not that many decades ago. As health communicators, we can do our part to be educated about trending health questions we are faced with in our jobs and places of business and we must be ready to answer these questions to the best of our knowledge as more information comes available.