Summer is upon us and so are the traditions of picnicking, swimming and playing baseball. In our household, we have several people who love to play and watch sports. This favorite past time also includes the delivery of several magazines to our mailbox every month like Sports Illustrated. I was saddened the other day to open the magazine and see advertisement not only for nicotine products like chewing tobacco and Snus but also, e-cigarettes. Just this past month, baseball Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, 54, lost his life to mouth cancer; something he was convinced he got from chewing tobacco. And although the major leagues have made some progress in reducing how much the public may see them chew tobacco, far too many athletes, particularly in baseball, are negatively modeling this use to youth.
People may argue that chewing tobacco is part of the culture of baseball, but at one time, smoking in bars, on airplanes and even in the classroom was also acceptable as the cultural norm. After years of education and legal changes, we now have less tobacco use in our country and better policies in place to help reduce use and exposure to secondhand smoke. We also have better options for smokers who want to quit, including the Vermont 802 Quits program that provides many easy options to explore the quit process.
While considering quitting, smokers may be tempted to turn to gadgets such as the e-cigarette. E-cigarettes are devices that usually look like a cigarette. Liquid in the battery operated device heats up and is then inhaled to produce smoke like vapors. Some of these products contain nicotine, while others do not (and some products that say it does not include nicotine actually do). Currently, no e-cigarette has been tested for safety by the FDA. And they can be bought just about anywhere. Just the other day, I walked into the local drug store and e-cigarettes were readily available. Although touted as a possibly safer alternative to smoking, there are many things about e-cigarettes that need to be known.
For example, some people think e-cigarettes will help them quit smoking. However, after doing much research, the Vermont Department of Health found no scientific evidence to support claims that e-cigarettes can be an effective quit tool (HealthVermont.Gov). Also, in 2013, the World Health Organization said "Until such time as a given e-cigarette is deemed safe and effective and of acceptable quality by a competent national regulatory body, consumers should be strongly advised not to use any of these products, including electronic cigarettes."
Other safety issues that need to be considered are the liquid nicotine that many of these products contain and the continued secondhand smoke. Nicotine, which is a deadly product in higher doses, is even more dangerous when in liquid form. Poison center calls related to the ingestion of liquid nicotine rose from one per month in September 2010 to 215 per month in February 2014, according to a CDC study published in a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Over half of these calls were because children under the age of 5 had ingested the nicotine.
And often times, this liquid nicotine is flavored, making it even more enticing to children. Secondhand smoke is also still present with e-cigarettes and although may be considered less harmful than secondhand smoke from real cigarettes, should still be a concern.
Reducing ones exposure to secondhand smoke, considering quitting tobacco use or working to cut down on smoking are important steps to a healthier life. If you or someone you love needs support in making these choices, contact 802 Quits at http://802quits.org/. You too can find ways to participate in physical activity and role model healthy traditions for our next generation of active youth this summer.
Robin Rieske, MS, has worked as a Certified Prevention Consultant for the Vermont Department of Health for over 22 years. She is also a member of the Brattleboro Area Prevention Coalition. "Matters of Substance" is a collaborative column of the BAPC. Our goal is to develop, implement and support a comprehensive community effort to prevent and reduce alcohol, tobacco and other drug abuse in Windham Southeast area. For more information or to join our prevention efforts, please visit the BAPC website at BrattleboroAreaPreventionCoalition.org or call 802-257-2175.