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Another View: E-cigarettes threaten the public’s health

State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, looks at an anti-e-cigarette sign before his July 7 news conference to discuss his measure to regulate e-cigarettes as tobacco products.
State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, looks at an anti-e-cigarette sign before his July 7 news conference to discuss his measure to regulate e-cigarettes as tobacco products. Associated Press

Phil Daman’s defense of e-cigarettes (“Vapor products aren’t the same as cigarettes,” Viewpoints, Aug. 4) was a lot like an e-cigarette – candy coating for an extremely dangerous habit.

The president of the industry-funded Smoke-Free Alternatives Trade Association tried to present e-cigarettes as a boon to public health. The truth is that they are a toxic, unregulated product creating a whole new generation of tobacco addicts.

That’s why the American Heart Association and the Save Lives California coalition are leading the charge to pass legislation to get e-cigarettes out of the hands of children with new regulations and a $2 per pack increase in our tobacco tax. This effort is part of a package of bills – which the Legislature will take up during a special session on health care – that can save thousands of lives and billions of dollars.

E-cigarette use among U.S. high school students tripled from 4.5 percent in 2013 to 13.4 percent in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The aerosol from these products comes in flavors such as bubble gum and cotton candy, but it contains formaldehyde, heavy metals, silicate nanoparticles and a huge dose of neurotoxic nicotine.

Far from being a way to quit smoking, e-cigarettes make it easier to get addicted to nicotine and harder to quit. Three-quarters of adult e-cigarette users also smoke cigarettes. E-cigarette users are a third less likely to overcome nicotine addiction than those who only use conventional cigarettes.

Daman cites research – incorrectly attributed to the American Heart Association – that he claims backs the idea that e-cigarettes help people quit. We invite readers to see our policy paper on e-cigarettes for themselves – and learn how e-cigarettes appeal to youths who wouldn’t consider smoking conventional cigarettes.

The vaping industry has repeatedly tried to characterize itself as distinct from the tobacco industry. But the nicotine in vaping products is 100 percent derived from tobacco plants. Cigarette giants, including Altria, have bought e-cigarette makers in deals valued at more than $100 million.

Every day, more California teens try e-cigarettes, many of them not knowing they are flirting with a deadly, lifelong addiction. It is urgent that we pass legislation now to address this looming public health threat.

Diane Sobkowicz, a cardiologist, is board president of the American Heart Association’s Sacramento division.

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