If you smoked before you were pregnant, chances are you stopped when you became pregnant, even if it was really, really hard. But if, like many people, you substituted traditional cigarettes for vaping or e-cigarettes instead, there’s important new policy from the nation's pediatricians you should know about that may encourage you to stay away from them altogether.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)—the group representing the nation’s pediatricians—warned parents at their annual meeting this week that any exposure, including secondhand exposure, to e-cigarettes may be dangerous, so they should be regulated like standard cigarettes.
According to three AAP policy statements published in Pediatrics on Monday, Oct. 26., there is no known “safe” level of nicotine, and any exposure to nicotine-containing products could harm children from conception onward.
The AAP says that the vapor released from e-cigarettes contains a variety of “toxic chemicals, including some carcinogens and significant amounts of nicotine.”
"Many studies have tested [e-cigarette] vapor, and it is absolutely not harmless water vapor," Karen M. Wilson, MD, MPH, FAAP, chair of the AAP Section on Tobacco Control and section head of Pediatric Hospital Medicine at Children's Hospital Colorado, told What To Expect.
"The developing brains of children and teens are particularly vulnerable to nicotine," said Dr, Wilson in a statement.
In addition to the risk of exposure to vapor, liquid nicotine is extremely toxic and can even be fatal if swallowed by toddlers. There were more than 3,000 calls to U.S. poison control centers for exposure to liquid nicotine in 2014, with one toddler dying. So the AAP is recommending requiring manufacturers to use child-resistant packaging.
The AAP also raises concerns about the lack of regulation of e-cigarettes. The Food and Drug Administration regulates tobacco cigarettes but not e-cigarettes like vapes. And while 40 states and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico currently have laws restricting tobacco smoking in non-hospitality workplaces and/or restaurants and/or bars, those laws generally don’t cover e-cigarettes. At the same time, e-cigarette use in the U.S. has been on the rise: 11 percent of all adults currently smoke a personal e-cigarette in 2015, according to a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll of 5,679 Americans, up from 2.6 percent in 2013, according to the CDC.
The AAP is therefore recommending the FDA regulate e-cigarettes the same as other tobacco products, which would include taxes, public smoking bans and bans on advertising to kids, as well as proposing that the nationwide age to purchase tobacco products including e-cigarettes be increased to 21.
The group is further recommending regulations to restrict smoking and tobacco products “in all workplaces, including bars, restaurants and health care facilities," as well as bans "in places where children live, learn and play, including sidewalks, recreational and sports facilities, entertainment venues, parks, schools and dormitories, and multi-unit housing.”
"Tobacco is unique among consumer products in that it severely injures and kills when used exactly as intended," states the AAP policy statement, "Public Policy to Protect Children From Tobacco, Nicotine, and Tobacco Smoke." "Protecting children from tobacco products is one of the most important things that a society can do to protect children's health."
What this means for you: You know that secondhand smoke has been linked to a number of health issues, including increased risk for lower birth-weight, more frequent ear infections and asthma attacks, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). So if you currently smoke and are pregnant or have kids at home—whether you use traditional cigarettes or vapes/e-cigarettes—it’s important for your health and your baby’s to do whatever it takes to stop.
And if you don’t smoke but are concerned about the current lack of e-cigarette regulation, you can send a message to your state senator.
This story is meant to reflect individual contributors' experiences and does not necessarily reflect What to Expect's point of view. This content is not intended to be used as medical advice, for diagnosis, or treatment.
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