Jamaicans warned against using e-cigarettes
The senior medical officer (SMO) of the National Chest Hospital, Dr Terry Baker, is urging Jamaicans to stay away from using electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes), warning that they are dangerous and should not be viewed as a viable option to regular cigarettes.
Baker said that although e-cigarettes have been put forward as a safer alternative to traditional 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 that although some of her colleagues have not drawn their conclusions, she is among those that are of the firm view that the product is harmful.
"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 that the vapour that is produced is not standardised.
"You then run the risk of having a myriad of substances that are going to be inhaled into the lungs. Persons will say that they are not inhaling, but you can't accurately determine what is going to be entering the body or the lungs," she added.
Baker said 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.
According to the health official, some of the other flavourings that are 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. 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.
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.