Touted as a safer alternative to traditional smoking, electronic cigarettes are supposed to give smokers their nicotine fix without the cancer-causing side effects of tobacco. Courtesy WFTS
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Kentucky Regional Poison Control Center sees 333 percent increase in e-cigarette calls

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CINCINNATI -- While the debate roars on over the safety of electronic cigarettes, new data from a Kentucky hospital is causing some alarm.

The Kentucky Regional Poison Control Center of Kosair Children’s Hospital received 39 calls about e-cigarettes so far this year, a 333 percent increase from nine calls received in 2012, according to kyforward.com.

Poison control centers nationally have seen a 161 percent increase in calls from people with concerns over e-cigarettes, the report states.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), e-cigarettes are drug-device products designed to deliver nicotine to a user in the form of a vapor.

The process of smoking an e-cigarette, often known as vaping, is typically done by using a battery-operated heating element, a replaceable cartridge containing nicotine and an atomizer that uses heat to convert the contents of the cartridge into a vapor -- which is then inhaled by the user.

For smokers trying to kick the habit, e-cigarettes often appear to provide a way to wean off cigarettes while avoiding health risks like cancer.

“More than half of the calls we have received were concerning children,” said Ashley Webb, board-certified toxicologist and director of the Kentucky Regional Poison Control Center of Kosair Children’s Hospital.
 
“Kids are picking up the liquid cartridge when cartridges are left accessible or when an adult is changing the cartridge,” Webb told kyforward.com. “They’re also getting a hold of the e-cigarette and taking it apart to expose the liquid. They then either ingest the liquid or get it onto their skin. Even on the skin, the nicotine is absorbed and can create adverse side effects.”

Researchers found that three in 10 e-cigarettes contain levels of formaldehyde and acrolein -- known carcinogens -- that are nearly equal to levels found in standard cigarettes.

Scientists with the FDA and American Cancer Society say there is currently no scientific evidence about the safety of e-cigarettes.

In initial lab tests, the FDA found detectable levels of carcinogens and toxic chemicals, including an ingredient used in anti-freeze.

The American Cancer Society says e-cigarettes have not been approved by the FDA for use to quit smoking. Experts add that no evidence exists to show they even help people quit smoking.

Copyright 2013 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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