E-cigarettes Coming Under Increasing Scrutiny

While cigarette smoking rates have declined rapidly over the past decade, according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the use of e-cigarettes, cigars and hookahs has risen dramatically in recent years. In fact, between 2011 and 2012, e-cigarette use among teenagers nearly doubled.

Public health concern
The CDC study warns of the dangers of increasing use of these other inhalable nicotine products, noting that they could be used as a gateway to cigarette smoking later in life. Health professionals, including those with careers in nursing, will likely be alarmed by these findings, as they could point to a reverse in the progress that had been made toward reducing the number of smokers in the U.S. and abroad.

In response to this troubling new information, local, state and federal authorities are looking into options for regulating and overseeing the e-cigarette industry. According to the Chicago Tribune, the city of Evanston, Ill., has instituted a law limiting the use of e-cigarettes only to places where regular cigarettes can be smoked. And the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is considering labeling e-cigarettes as a tobacco product, which would give the agency greater regulatory authority over the e-cigarette industry.

European Union's experience
Across the pond, European Union officials recently dealt with the same issue when they were considering qualifying e-cigarettes as medicinal. That move would have put them under the same oversight requirements as things like nicotine patches.

In the end, the measure was defeated due to a concerted lobbying campaign on the part of people known as "Vapers," who swear by e-cigarettes as a method to wean themselves off of traditional cigarettes. The effect of the European Union's ruling on U.S. policy has yet to be seen.

Effect on health professionals
Anyone who is currently a nurse or thinking of becoming a nurse will have to follow the developments of e-cigarette regulation closely, as it will have an impact on the advice they give their patients.

Are e-cigarettes safe? Should they be recommended to people who are trying to quit smoking? What kind of effects do they have on people's health over the long-term? All of these questions will have to be answered in the coming months and years to help guide health professionals.

This article is sponsored by Western Governors University, a nonprofit, accredited, online university. WGU offers online RN to BSN, BSN to MSN, and RN to MSN degree programs to working nurses who already have a current RN license. To find out more, please visit www.wgu.edu/wisecareers_nursing.

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