Debates over the relative safety of electronic cigarettes have largely ignored the danger that nicotine can pose to the developing brains and bodies of children, according to a study co-authored by researchers at Georgia State University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
[Photo: Dr. Terry Pechacek]
Discussion in the research community and the public debate have focused on the vapor emitted from e-cigarettes as compared to the smoke from conventional cigarettes. But exposure to nicotine can be dangerous or even fatal in large doses,according to the study co-authored by Dr. Terry Pechacek, professor of health management and policy at the School of Public Health at Georgia State University.
If nicotine is absorbed into the skin by children handling e-cigs, it can cause nausea, seizures, and other serious problems. Some e-cigarette cartridges contain enough nicotine to kill a child who ingested the liquid. Poison control centers in the U.S. have reported a sharp uptick in calls related to children sickened by handling e-cigs in recent years, the authors report.
The paper, “Nicotine and the Developing Human: A Neglected Element in the Electronic Cigarette Debate,” was published Tuesday in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
The researchers also raise concerns that women may wrongly assume that e-cigarette use is safe during pregnancy. Research suggests that nicotine is harmful during pregnancy and may even contribute to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. They cite studies that show smokeless nicotine use during pregnancy is associated with “increased risk of preterm birth, stillbirth, and neonatal apnea comparable to the effects of cigarette smoking.”
Because of the risks that nicotine poses to children and adolescents, the authors propose several regulatory and policy measures, including prohibiting marketing that could entice youth to use electronic cigarettes, age restrictions on the purchase of e-cigs, health warnings “for all vulnerable populations,” and packaging to prevent accidental poisoning of children.
The other co-authors are Drs. Lucinda J. England, Rebecca E. Bunnell, and Tim A. McAfee, all of the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health, and Mr. Van T. Tong, of the CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
To read the full study, go to: http://www.ajpmonline.org/article/S0749-3797(15)00035-5/fulltext
To learn more about Dr. Pechacek’s work, go to: http://publichealth.gsu.edu/profile/terry-pechacek/