The ABC's of E-cigarettes

By Carol Jahn, RDH, MS, Senior Professional Relations Manager
February 9, 2016

Who is using e-cigarettes?

Who is using e-cigarettes?E-cigarettes, also called vaping, has become popular with teens and young adults. Data from the CDC indicates that nearly 22% of those between the ages of 18 & 24 have tried e-cigarettes. Among middle and high school students, e-cigarette use increases from 1.1% to 3.9% in a one year period. A National Institute of Health study found that e-cigarette users were more likely to begin smoking traditional cigarettes versus those who did not use e-cigarettes.

Are e-cigarettes safe?

No one really knows whether e-cigarettes are safe. They still contain nicotine, although in a dosage much less than traditional cigarettes.  However, they have numerous other chemicals including formaldehyde, a known carcinogen.  A recent study from Harvard School of Public Health found that the flavoring compounds in e-cigarettes may cause a type of lung disease called 'popcorn lung'.  This disease can cause a cough and shortness of breath similar to that seen in people with COPD.

Do e-cigarettes impact oral health?

To date, there is little to no evidence on how e-cigarette use affects oral health. One study found that regular users experienced a dry cough, throat irritation, and dry mouth.  It's likely that dental professional will be on the front line of detecting any deleterious effects of these products on oral health. It seems wise to include e-cigarette use in the medical history, and to make people aware that use can lead to regular cigarette use.

Are e-cigarettes regulated?

At the present time, e-cigarettes are not regulated by the FDA.  While e-cigarettes do not produce smoke, there is second-hand emission.  There is no evidence that these emissions are safe. The American Lung Association supports prohibiting the use of e-cigarettes in worksites and public places, and including e-cigarettes under smoke free laws.  Some states and cities have adopted e-cigarette regulations with total or partial bans in public places.

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