Q. My husband is a smoker and we are expecting our first baby in a few months. He is having a difficult time kicking the habit and has asked whether e-cigarettes are a safe alternative. Is second-hand smoke from an e-cigarette dangerous?
A. An electronic cigarette is a device that looks like a traditional cigarette but works by creating a nicotine mist that is inhaled. Many e-cigarette manufacturers are marketing these as “safe” alternatives to cigarettes; however, the public should be aware that this assertion is presumptuous at best.
To begin by stating the obvious, nicotine is an addictive drug – regardless of the route by which it enters a person’s body. Children whose parents smoke are more likely to develop this same habit. So the best gift an expectant parent with a nicotine addiction could give to his or her baby is to stop smoking.
Although e-cigarettes do not smell like tobacco, no one knows the effects of their secondhand smoke. In 2009, the FDA tested e-cigarettes from two leading manufacturers and found detectable levels of toxins and carcinogens (cancer-causing agents), including diethylene glycol and nitrosamines, in their cartridges.
Another concern is the risk of nicotine ingestion. A nicotine cartridge for an e-cigarette contains up to 20mg of nicotine. This exceeds the estimated fatal dose of nicotine for a child. Refill bottles for the cartridges contain up to 7 grams of nicotine. Ingesting four drops of refill solution could be fatal for a child.
Since their introduction to the market in 2007, e-cigarettes are gaining popularity.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, twice as many teens tried e-cigarettes in 2012 compared to 2011. They are sold in flavors such as gummy bears and vanilla.
Rhonda Patt is a pediatrician with Charlotte Pediatric Clinic. Email firstname.lastname@example.org; put “pediatrician,” in the subject line.