Early-life exposure to electronic cigarettes: cause for concern.


Telethon Kids Institute, Perth Children's Hospital, Nedlands, WA, Australia; School of Public Health, Curtin University, Bentley, WA, Australia. Electronic address: [Email]


Electronic nicotine delivery systems, or ENDS, are devices that heat and aerosolise a solution of propylene glycol, glycerine, nicotine, and flavourings. They have only achieved widespread use in the past 5 years or so, and therefore evidence around their potential to effect health is scarce. Importantly, they are often viewed as safer than tobacco cigarettes, meaning that at-risk populations, including pregnant women, might be more inclined to use them. No human studies, however, have assessed the potential for maternal ENDS use to effect the health of a developing baby. Experimental research suggests that nicotine alone is likely to adversely affect the fetus. Further, there is a misconception that ENDS do not produce second-hand aerosols. This misconception might put infants and young children at risk because their parents are more likely to use ENDS around them than they are to use tobacco cigarettes. Emerging evidence also proposes that nicotine and other substances produced by ENDS can deposit onto surfaces, and subsequently be exposed to infants and children; a process known as third-hand exposure. Finally, ENDS are often refillable, and instances of accidental poisonings of children who drink nicotine-containing refills have occurred. Thus, there are a multitude of ways that, with respect to early-life exposures and health, ENDS are a cause for concern.

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