In Jamaica, the Senior Medical Officer (SMO) of the National Chest Hospital, Dr. Terry Baker, is urging citizens to stay away from using electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes). He warns they are dangerous and should not be viewed as a viable option to regular cigarettes.
Dr. Baker says although e-cigarettes have been put forward as a safer alternative to cigarettes, dangers still abound. “A number of persons have turned to e-cigarettes or vaping in the belief that it is not harmful, including persons who are using it as a transitional tool to quit smoking,” she said. While acknowledging some of her colleagues have not drawn the same conclusions, she is among those that are of the firm view that the product is harmful.
Not as innocuous as some believe
“We believe that they are not as innocuous as some people may think,” she said, noting that there are certain substances used in the manufacture of e-cigarettes, and the vapor that is produced is not standardized. While e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco, they have other substances that have been shown to be toxic, such as nicotine, which is highly addictive.
“You then run the risk of having a myriad of substances that are going to be inhaled into the lungs. Persons will say they are not inhaling, but you can’t accurately determine what is going to be entering the body or the lungs,” she added.
Contain dangerous formaldehyde
According to the senior health official, some of the other flavorings included to make e-cigarettes attractive have been known to cause lung disease. She pointed out that some e-cigarettes even contain the dangerous formaldehyde, which is used as a preservative or embalming fluid.
“While it might not be in the concentration that embalmers use, by no means does formaldehyde belong in your lungs. It is carcinogenic,” she warned. Dr. Baker noted that some places in the United States have regulated the use of e-cigarettes in a similar manner to regular cigarettes.
“They have prevented sale to minors and are looking at putting graphic health warnings on the packages, just like cigarettes. So, while research continues into vaping and e-cigarettes, they are by no means harmless,” she said.
Other than lung cancer, cigarette smoking is associated with a number of other cancers, including cancers of the tongue, breast, cervix, stomach and colon as well as heart disease. National Chest Hospital is the only specialist hospital in the island that specifically treats patients with chest-related illnesses.