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Electronic cigarettes, also called e-cigarettes, have made their way into the hands of smokers of all ages. These battery-operated devices turn chemicals, including highly-addictive nicotine, into an aerosol that is inhaled by users. As its popularity rises, so do questions about its impact on public health.

There are countless debates among health experts who share the same goal-reduce disease and death associated with tobacco use. However, many disagree about whether e-cigarettes make the problem better or worse.

Since nicotine is addictive, many believe e-cigarettes will become a “gateway drug,” encouraging nonsmokers and youth to use traditional tobacco products. They also worry that manufactures with big advertising budgets could make smoking popular again; defeating decades of progress to get people to quit or never start smoking. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), rates of e-cigarette use among teenagers are growing rapidly. In fact, the CDC reports that over a quarter of a million high school student have never smoked tobacco cigarettes, but have used e-cigarettes.

Others see e-cigarettes as a potential benefit for smokers. Research from the Center for the Study of Tobacco Products at Virginia Commonwealth University suggests there is a potential for smokers to reduce their health risks by using e-cigarettes in place of tobacco cigarettes. It also finds that e-cigarettes can be considered a step toward ending all tobacco and nicotine use. It is important to note that data on e-cigarettes is fairly new, and little is known about the long-term effects on the body.

What Parents Should Know:

  • Some e-cigarettes come in candy, fruit, and other flavors that can be very appealing to kids.
  • It’s harder to tell if your children are using e-cigs because the vapor does not leave a tobacco smell.
  • Health experts warn that nicotine in all forms can affect brain development in children and teens.

What Smokers and Adults Should Know:

  • If you don’t smoke, don’t start using e-cigarettes. There are no health benefits and some risks.
  • If you smoke and are trying to quit, health experts suggest that you are better off using an FDA-approved method of quitting like the nicotine patch or gum. There is evidence that they are helpful, but the jury is still out on e-cigarettes.
  • If you’re not planning to quit, the studies are too new to determine if e-cigarettes would be a healthier switch. Talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits.
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