Tuesday, July 1st, 2014
Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, has called on the federal government to make the containers that hold liquid refills for electronic cigarettes–the containers essentially contain liquid nicotine–to be required to have child-proof caps just like medications and other potentially hazardous substances. Schumer cited a sharply rising number of reported accidental poisonings when children ingest the liquid, with 70 poisonings reported in New York so far this year, compared to just 46 such incidents in all of 2013.
So-called “e-cigarettes,” which contain nicotine but no tobacco tar or smoke, are getting the attention of parents, doctors, and policymakers nationwide. The FDA is currently considering a ban on their use by minors amid findings that show the use of the products by American teenagers has doubled between 2012 and 2013. Further, young people who use e-cigarettes have been found to be less likely to quit smoking traditional cigarettes–and more likely to start.
Examiner.com has more on why Sen. Schumer believes child-proofing e-cigarette refill containers is an important part of solving the problem:
Poisoning can result from swallowing the liquid, inhaling the liquid or absorbing it through the skin or the eyes. Liquid nicotine poisoning can bring on nausea, vomiting, seizures, heart problems and even death.
Because some e-cigarettes are refillable, liquid nicotine is available in separate containers. With flavors such as bubble gum and chocolate, it is easy to understand why the containers are attractive to children.
It is for this reason that Schumer is asking the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to include his proposal for child-proof caps and warning labels on the containers in the final draft of the agency’s e-cigarette regulations. The draft is part of the implementation for the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act that was passed in 2009.
For users of e-cigarettes, the American Association of Poison Control Centers recommends that e-cigarettes and liquid nicotine should always be locked up and out of the reach of children. They also advise anyone using the products to protect their skin from exposure to liquid nicotine.
Image: E-cigarette refills, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, March 4th, 2014
Teens who smoke cigarettes–even those who don’t smoke “heavily,” can quickly alter their brain structure in ways that were previously thought to be reserved for long-time smokers. These are the findings of a new study published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, which found that smoking one pack of cigarettes or less each day can lead to brain patterns that lock people into dependence on nicotine. More from Time.com:
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[Edythe] London and her colleagues focused on a brain region called the insula, since previous studies in animal and adults showed that its size and volume were affected by smoking. Of the regions in the cortical, or memory, awareness and language parts of the brain, the insula contains the most receptors for nicotine. The region is responsible for decision-making and helping to establish a person’s conscious awareness of his internal state. In studies of stroke patients, smokers who lost function of the right insula in the stroke quit smoking, and reported feeling no cravings for nicotine. And in earlier studies London’s team conducted, they found a strong relationship between how much smokers who watched videos of people smoking experienced cravings for cigarettes and the activity of the insula, which lit up on PET scans.
When London’s team looked at the brains of the 18 smoking teens and 24 non-smoking adolescents, aged 16 to 21 years, using structural MRI, they found no differences overall in the insula region. But a closer examination revealed that the right insula of the smokers was thinner than those of the nonsmokers.
“The brain is still undergoing development when someone is in their late teens,” she says. “It’s possible that smoking during this period could have effects that could alter tobacco dependence later in life, and that the insult could alter the trajectory of brain development.”
While the study doesn’t establish whether the differences in the insula can lead to smoking, or is the result of smoking, London says it highlights the role that the brain region may play in how people respond to nicotine and cigarettes. “I think this is very exciting because it points to a vulnerability, a potential vulnerability factor either to become nicotine dependent or for the effects of smoking to ultimately alter the trajectory of brain development,” she says. That trajectory could affect not only smoking behavior but decision-making in general, since the insula is important in such assessments.
Monday, January 27th, 2014
British officials have announced that it will ban the sale of electronic cigarettes, called e-cigarettes, to minors under age 18, citing health risks as well as the need for further medical research. In the U.S., e-cigarettes are the subject of similar concern and pressure for the government to regulate the devices. The number of U.S. teens who say they have tried the devices doubled in 2013. More on Britain’s announcement from Reuters:
E-cigarettes, which are puffed like a regular cigarette but deliver nicotine by vaporizing liquid rather than burning tobacco, have grown in popularity and some analysts predict the market could outpace conventional cigarettes within a decade.
“We do not yet know the harm that e-cigarettes can cause to adults let alone to children, but we do know they are not risk- free,” England’s Chief Medical Officer Sally Davies said in a statement.
She added that e-cigarettes can produce toxic chemicals and that variations in the strength of the nicotine solutions between different products meant they could end up being “extremely damaging” to young people’s health.
The global market for e-cigarettes was estimated at more than $2 billion last year by market consultant Euromonitor.
Under-18s are already banned from buying conventional cigarettes in Britain. Sunday’s announcement included plans to make it illegal for adults to buy regular cigarettes for consumption by under 18s.
Image: Electronic cigarette, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, January 21st, 2014
Being around people who smoke is dangerous for children diagnosed with asthma, but many times parents are hesitant to reveal to doctors the extent of their kids’ exposure to cigarette smoke. A new saliva-based test conducted on children admitted to the hospital for asthma-related issues confirms researchers’ suspicions–nearly 80 percent of the children’s saliva showed traces of cigarette smoke, but only a third of the parents had reported known cigarette exposure. More from Reuters:
What’s more, finding evidence of nicotine, a chemical in tobacco, in children’s saliva was a better predictor of whether they would need to come back to the hospital, compared to the information parents gave to doctors.
“We think saliva is a good and potentially useful test for assessing an important trigger for asthma,” Dr. Robert Kahn, the study’s senior author, told Reuters Health.
Previous research has found that being exposed to tobacco can lead to airway problems and poor asthma control among children, Kahn and his colleagues write in the journal Pediatrics.
By figuring out which children are being exposed to tobacco, doctors may be able to step in and identify and possibly eliminate the exposure, said Kahn, a pediatrician at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Ohio.
For example, if a parent is still smoking cigarettes and exposing the child to smoke, doctors can offer the parent smoking cessation tools while the child is hospitalized.
For the new study, the researchers assessed data from 619 children admitted to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center for asthma or other breathing problems between August 2010 and October 2011. The children were between one and 16 years old.
Image: Asthmatic child, via Shutterstock
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Friday, September 6th, 2013
Battery-powered e-cigarettes, which deliver nicotine through a vaporized mist rather than a lit cigarette, are gaining popularity among middle school and high school students, according to a new national survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The survey showed that one in 10 high school students said they had tried the devices within the last year, which was double the number who said they had tried them in 2011. The New York Times has more:
In total, 1.8 million middle and high school students said they had tried e-cigarettes in 2012.
“This is really taking off among kids,” said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the C.D.C.
E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that deliver nicotine that is vaporized to form an aerosol mist. Producers promote them as a healthy alternative to smoking, but researchers say their health effects are not yet clear, though most acknowledge that they are less harmful than traditional cigarettes. The Food and Drug Administration does not yet regulate them, though analysts expect that the agency will start soon.
Thomas Briant, executive director of the National Association of Tobacco Outlets, which represents 28,000 stores, said the study “raises too many unanswered questions,” for the data to be used for policy making. It was unclear, for example, whether students who tried e-cigarettes were using them regularly or only once. He pointed out that selling them to minors is now illegal in many states.
One of the biggest concerns among health officials is the potential for e-cigarettes to become a path to smoking among young people who otherwise would not have experimented. The survey found that most students who had tried e-cigarettes had also smoked cigarettes.
But one in five middle school students who said they had tried e-cigarettes reported never having smoked a conventional cigarette, raising fears that e-cigarettes, at least for some, could become a gateway. Among high school students, 7 percent who had tried an e-cigarette said they had never smoked a traditional cigarette.
Dr. Frieden said that the adolescent brain is more susceptible to nicotine, and that the trend of rising use could hook young people who might then move into more harmful products like conventional cigarettes.
Image: E-cigarette, via Shutterstock
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