Editor’s note: For last week’s Public Health Week, we asked readers to share their questions about current public health issues.
This week, experts from the Marathon County Health Department share their answers. (This is the second of four in the series.)
Question: It seems like everywhere we look, a new “vaping” shop is opening up. I know that e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is addictive. But since they don’t involve smoke, it seems like they must not damage your lungs as much as regular cigarettes. What do we really know about how they compare with smoking?
Answer: In 2010, Wisconsin implemented the Smoke-free Air law and almost five years later 86 percent of Wisconsinites enjoy and expect smoke-free air. E-cigarettes have recently exploded on the market and this new popular trend has created confusion regarding the statewide Smoke-free Air law. This new trend is invading the clean air we have come to expect.
An electronic cigarette is an oral device that can be used to simulate smoking and that produces an aerosol of nicotine or other substances. The term e-cigarette is use to reference and array of products including, e-hookahs, hookah pens, vape pens, vaporizers, e-cigars, and e-pipes.
You may be asking yourself, “But are they healthy?” As many as 10 different toxic or carcinogenic chemicals have been identified in e-cigarettes including, highly addictive nicotine. Studies have also found some e-cigarettes contain high levels of formaldehyde and diacetyl — chemicals harmful to the human body. Currently, e-cigarettes aren’t regulated and haven’t been proven to be safe.
E-cigarettes are being marketed as a healthy alternative to smoking, an effective cessation strategy and a way around existing smoke-free air laws. But smokers who use e-cigarettes for cessation often continue to smoke regular cigarettes. In addition, allowing e-cigarettes to be used indoors where cigarettes are not allowed undermines the smoke-free air law. The use of e-cigarettes indoors threatens Wisconsin’s standard of clean air and makes enforcement confusing.
Overall, more research is needed to show the long-term health consequences of e-cigarettes. Every month more information is coming out about what is actually in e-cigarettes and e-juice. It’s more than just water vapor.
The Central Wisconsin Tobacco Free Coalition strives to reduce tobacco/nicotine related death and disability through education and advocacy, creating a community environment that encourages tobacco free living.
Destinee Coenen is a public health educator with the Marathon County Health Department who is part of the Central Wisconsin Tobacco Free Coalition. Have a question about public health? Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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