Creativity and imagination are such good traits that, over the last few years, the tobacco industry has cultivated them. As their sales sagged, they found new ways to increase income. The assortment of tobacco products recently available, from dissolvable tablets, to powders, to inhaled vapor, can be very confusing.
Last month a one year old child died after swallowing liquid nicotine from a vapor refill. None of the new tobacco products are regulated or standardized. They can be legally advertised to children in all but 4 states. In 10 states and Washington DC it is legal for minors to buy these new products. Childproof caps are not required, and as little as ½ teaspoon of liquid nicotine can be toxic to a child. In 2014 poison control received 3353 calls for exposure to nicotine products, up from 1543 the prior year. Children can be exposed by inhaling the vapor, by swallowing the liquid, or by absorbing it through their skin. Children experience a racing heartbeat, vomiting, and grunting breaths, before they loose control of the muscles in their upper body and die.
Tobacco companies are marketing these new products as “reduced harm,” or smoking cessation tools, when in actuality they are attractive unregulated entry drugs designed to increase their customer base. We have a problem.
Since the first step in solving any problem is always knowledge, we need an understanding of all the new products. So here goes:
Smokable products include cigarettes, cigarillos, and cigars. Interestingly, since cigars and cigarillos are wrapped in tobacco leaves rather than paper, they are not regulated by the FDA.
E-cigarettes, electronic nicotine delivery systems, personal vaporizers, and vaping are all the same thing. Liquid nicotine passes through a cylinder where it is vaporized into a gas that is then inhaled. They are advertised as being less harmful because they do not contain the hundreds of poisons in cigarettes, only the one. By using them, your child forms the habit of inhaling addictive nicotine. Addiction plus habit equals initiation into a lifetime of bondage to tobacco. E-cig use has tripled over the last 3 years.
In addition, some of the kids are replacing the liquid nicotine with hash oil, a form of cannabis. Not good.
With a Hookah, flavored tobacco is passed through a water bath and inhaled through a mouthpiece: all of the dangers of smoking cigarettes plus the risk of infectious disease from the shared mouthpiece. Yum. Hookahs have recently become very popular, especially on college campuses.
Chewing tobaccos are loose leaves, pellets, or plugs of tobacco held in the mouth and chewed to release the flavor. Here you get all the side effects of tobacco plus the risk of loosing half your face to cancer. Isn’t tobacco great?
Tobaccos also come powdered, as snuff, snus, and dipping tobacco. Ground up tobacco is moistened and sniffed into the nose. This is sometimes preferred over chewing tobacco because no chewing or spitting is required.
Dissolvable tobacco is also becoming more popular. Tobacco is ground into a powder and shaped into pellets the size of tic-tacs, sticks that resemble toothpicks, or films that resemble breath strips. Sneaky tobacco.
Why do we care? The list of side effects from tobacco use is unreal. From second hand smoke:
- Increased severity and duration of illnesses.
- Increased incidence of pneumonia.
- Increased incidence of ear infections.
- Increased incidence and severity of asthma.
- Increased sudden infant death.
- Decreased math ability.
- Increased ADHD; one study had a 12 times increase.
- sleep problems.
From direct use:
- Heart disease
- Lung inflammation, which can cause COPD, emphysema, bronchitis, and pulmonary hypertension.
- Cancer: lung, mouth, pancreas, bladder, kidney, cervix, and acute myeloid leukemia
- Menstrual irregularities.
- Decreased fertility in women, decreased sperm counts in men.
- Do we need to mention the wrinkles, yellow teeth, gravely voice and foul smell?
Knowledge is power. Understanding just how dangerous tobacco actually is can inspire a parent to be diligent about preventing their child’s use of tobacco, or to perhaps even quit their own? It is worth the effort to live a life free of servitude to the tobacco industry, and to give your children, and your children’s children, the right to breathe.