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The Dirty Truth Behind E-Cigarettes

Smoking has become increasingly unacceptable and taboo. Gone are the days where smoking is considered debonair, mysterious and sexy. When you watch a movie, you no longer see John Travolta with slicked back hair puffing on a cig or a frantic Sarah Jessica Parker calming her nerves by taking a hit of nicotine. However, just because cigarettes are no longer in their hay day, puffing away on something hasn't entirely been phased out. Enter E-cigarettes. E-cigarettes were touted as the newest, coolest thing. They were promoted as a safe alternative to cigarettes and were targeted particularly to younger audiences. E-cigarettes include e-pens, e-pipes, e-hookah and e-cigars are known collectively as ENDS - electronic nicotine delivery systems. A recent study by the CDC shows that from 2011 to 2013, the number of never-smoking youth who tried e-cigarettes tripled from around 79,000 to over 263,000.

The main component of e-cigarettes is the e-liquid contained in cartridges. To create an e-liquid, nicotine is extracted from tobacco and mixed with a base (usually propylene glycol), and may also include flavorings, colorings and other chemicals. New research shows that the real danger may be in how these compounds change when heated. When these substances are heated, the e-cigarette liquid brakes down and produces formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing agents, a troubling result when you consider that formaldehyde is a known carcinogen.

Knowing the facts behind e-cigarettes is vital. Think twice before picking up something to puff; think twice before believing a smoking agent is a safer alternative. The dirty truth is that e-cigarettes are not safe and should not be used.

Dealing another strike against them, the country's top public health authorities have sent an unwavering message: Vaping is dangerous.

The warning is meant to stop people who have never smoked - particularly children - from starting to vape. But a growing number of scientists and policy makers say the relentless portrayal of e-cigarettes as a public health menace, however well intentioned, is a profound disservice to the 40 million American smokers who could benefit from the devices. Smoking kills more than 480,000 Americans a year.

"We may well have missed, or are missing, the greatest opportunity in a century," said David B. Abrams, senior scientist at the Truth Initiative, an antismoking group. "The unintended consequence is more lives are going to be lost."

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