BY HAMZAH ALI – The world confronts an old enemy today, but it has a new face disguised by false premises. This enemy targets and misleads society’s youth. Electronic cigarettes are the new forefront of the tobacco industry, outgrowing popularity for conventional cigarettes. Are e-cigarettes leading to a new revival of an old habit or are they actually helping people to quit smoking?

Smoking conventional cigarettes has been strongly and causally associated with several adverse health consequences. The new alternative to conventional cigarettes, electronic cigarettes or e-cigarettes, is marketed as the “safe” new product that all current smokers should switch over to. Many people are under the impression that e-cigarettes are safe or that they are effective in helping people with smoking cessation. Studies by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) show that e-cigarettes contain many toxins that are harmful in the long run.

The safety of e-cigarettes has been questioned by many health professionals. The (FDA) has conducted several studies and the results show that e-cigarettes lead to many negative outcomes. Consumers have the misconception that, since there is no tobacco in e-cigarettes, the chances of developing cancer are very low or nonexistent. However, tobacco is not the main ingredient in cigarettes that causes cancer. Cigarettes contain a vast number of chemicals that are proven to be harmful, and e-cigarettes contain some of these same chemicals. Since 2009, the FDA has proclaimed that e-cigarettes contain “detectable levels of known carcinogens and toxic chemicals to which users could be exposed.” For example, in e-cigarette cartridges marketed as tobacco-free, the FDA detected a toxic compound found in antifreeze that has been shown to cause cancer in humans. Studies conducted on e-cigarette liquids show that formaldehyde, another carcinogenic chemical, is released when heated. Exposure to gaseous formaldehyde over many years leads to the proliferation of cancer cells.

High levels of nicotine in e-cigarette liquids are used to garner the same effect nicotine in conventional cigarettes provides the consumer. While many people benefit from the positive effects of nicotine, there are many negative effects from exposure to nicotine on adolescents and expectant mothers and their children. Exposure to nicotine during pregnancy harms the developing fetus, causing lifelong consequences for the development of the brain and functioning of the lungs in newborns. It also affects maternal and fetal health during pregnancy and can result in premature delivery and low birth weight.

The negative effects of nicotine are not limited to young children or pregnant women. Nicotine has a drastic impact on adolescent brain development. The development of the human brain has a much longer time scale than was previously understood. Early medical research showed that the human brain stopped development around adolescence. From recent discoveries, it is now understood that cognitive development continues through the early 20`s. Nicotine use during adolescence and early adulthood has been correlated with lasting intellectual and behavioral impairments, including effects on working memory and attention span.

Although e-cigarettes are fairly new to society and safety studies have only been conducted in the past decade, the results seem to have confirmed hidden dangers. As future leaders of society, it is our responsibility to avoid being deceived by the new face of the old enemy and to help terminate the continual cycle of false, new alternatives.