Studies in the US show possible link between e-cigarettes and cancer

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 March, 2016, 4:27pm
UPDATED : Friday, 11 March, 2016, 4:27pm

I concur with Borromeo Li Ka-kit that Hong Kong should tighten its regulations on the sale of e-cigarettes among teenagers (“Stringent rules on sale of e-cigarettes needed to protect youngsters”, March 7).

He is right to point out that teenagers should not think that vaping is any less harmful than smoking.

According to a report published by the US Department of Health and Human Services in 2014, almost all e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which negatively affects the brain development of teenagers. When the brain of a teen is exposed to nicotine, it alters the development of the prefrontal cortex, which affects their decision-making. Another finding is that nicotine use during adolescence and young adulthood has been shown to have a long-lasting impairment effect in their cognitive behaviour, including effects on working memory and attention.

In addition, vaping during pregnancy harms the developing foetus and can cause lasting damage to their brain and lungs.

Studies done by the New England Journal of Medicinelast year showed that e-cigarettes have potentially five to 15 times more formaldehyde than normal cigarettes. Formaldehyde is known to cause cancer. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, e-cigarettes have four times higher nickel levels than traditional cigarettes, increasing the risk of lung and nasal cancers.

A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that teens who used e-cigarettes were four times more likely than their non-smoking peers to develop the habit of smoking, be it cigarettes, cigars or hookahs.

Tobacco use and addiction usually begin during teenage years. A 2012 survey done in the US found that about 90 per cent of all smokers first tried cigarettes during their teens.

The many different flavours that e-cigarettes offer may seem appealing to adolescents. However, what they do not know is that some flavouring chemicals are safe to eat but can cause permanent lung damage when inhaled.

Given these long-term health effects on teenagers, it is indeed high time that regulations on the sale of e-cigarettes to youngsters in Hong Kong were made tighter.

Also, secondary schools should start educating students about misconceptions over the perceived benefits of e-cigarette-smoking.

Eunice Li Dan-yue, Singapore