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Quit Blowing Smoke (And Steam)

By Dr. Bryan Mason, St. Luke’s Wood River

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost 5 percent of middle-school students and over 20 percent of high-school students reported using electronic cigarettes.

Most electronic cigarettes contain nicotine, which is very addictive and has many known adverse health effects. Some of these devices, which have been reported as being used regularly by young people, contain as much nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes in a single device that is the size of a small key chain.

Electronic cigarettes contain multiple chemicals, some of which are known carcinogens. Because these devices are not regulated by a governing body, the exact ingredients of the different electronic cigarettes are often unknown. This makes it difficult for experts to determine the specific health effects of electronic cigarettes.

Please consider the following questions and answers concerning electronic cigarettes:

Q. Is it better to smoke electronic cigarettes than regular cigarettes?

A. Probably. Considering the number of harmful chemicals that regular cigarettes are known to contain and the recognized health consequences of these chemicals, I don’t think that it could be worse, but that does not make electronic cigarettes a good option, just a “less-bad” option.

Q. Can electronic cigarettes help cigarette smokers quit?

A. Maybe. The jury is still out on this.

Q. What about teens and young adults?

A. This one is obvious. Absolutely, positively, NO WAY. According to the CDC website, research has shown that nicotine can harm the developing brain, possibly affecting “attention, learning, mood, and impulse control.” There is an increased risk of smoking regular cigarettes among young people who use electronic cigarettes as well as possibly an increased risk of addiction to other drugs.


Parents, grandparents, family, friends, teachers, coaches and community members, let’s join forces in encouraging our young people to avoid this harmful trend. For those who do currently smoke either cigarettes and are contemplating switching to electronic cigarettes or who are currently smoking electronic cigarettes, I encourage you to schedule an appointment with your provider or contact 1-800-QUITNOW to develop a plan to eventually become both cigarette and electronic cigarette free.

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