By Dr. Mercola
The gradual demise of traditional cigarettes has sparked some new health concerns related to the rising popularity of electronic cigarettes, as well as new "designer drugs" like synthetic cannabis. Designer drugs are synthetic analogs of illegal or prohibited drugs, devised to circumvent drug laws.
The dangers of e-cigs may not be as obvious as those of traditional smokes, but according to CDC, accidental poisonings are soaring, most notably among small children who come in contact with liquid refills for vapor versions. More than half of the poisonings have been occurring in children age five and younger.1
For children to be poisoned by a traditional cigarette, they must eat one. But just touching the liquid refills for some e-cigs is dangerous for young children because the chemicals can be readily absorbed through their skin and even their eyes. The toxic effects of synthetic cannabis are also proving deadly.
Nothing Natural in Electronic Cigarettes or Fake Pot
One of the reasons e-cigarettes and are causing so many poisonings is that they are unnatural—synthesized in a lab—and often loaded with heavy metals, solvents, and a hodgepodge of toxic chemicals.
With synthetic marijuana, there is no end to the potentially deadly combinations of laboratory-fabricated chemicals. Various versions are being imported, mostly from Asia, under the guise of potpourri, herbal incense, and even "plant food."
The rate at which poisonings are escalating argues in favor of the legalization of marijuana. While not completely safe, marijuana is a natural herb that offers many health benefits. These synthetic drugs offer NONE of the health benefits—only the risks.
Smokeless Does Not Mean Harmless
Instead of lighting up, e-cigarettes work by a mechanism that heats up a liquid—typically containing nicotine, flavoring agents, and solvents—which turns into a vapor that you inhale and exhale. This is called "vaping." In spite of industry's claims that e-cigarette vapors are harmless, testing has revealed toxic metal nanoparticles in these aerosols.
One of the problems unique to e-cigarettes is how easy it is for anyone to smoke them—and in the process, expose you to secondhand fumes. In most offices, you can just vape away at your desk—no need to trek outside to the nearest smoking area.
Some people are vaping at work all day long. If the fumes were truly only "water vapor" as the manufacturers would have you believe, then this wouldn't be an issue... but they aren't just water vapor. According to Tim McAffee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):2
"We just don't know what's in them, and we don't know how much of what's in them would get out into the environment — but the assumption would be that it would."
E-cig vapor has been shown to contain tin, copper, nickel, and silver silicate beads.3 In some cases, the levels are greater than what you might be exposed to from smoking a conventional cigarette.
Breathing metal nanoparticles has additional risks because they can more easily enter your bloodstream and body tissues, as their microscopic size allows them to better evade your body's natural defenses. They also carry the potential for harming your developing fetus or newborn baby.4
According to Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights (ANR), secondhand e-cigarette aerosol contains at least 10 chemicals identified on California's Proposition 65 list of carcinogens and reproductive toxins, listed in the table below. Scientists have also found measurable amounts of propylene glycol, diethylene glycol, and carcinogenic tobacco-specific nitrosamines.5, 6
Acetaldehyde Benzene Cadmium Formaldehyde Isoprene Lead Nickel Nicotine N-Nitrosonornicotine Toluene
Just One Teaspoon of E-Cigarette Fluid May Be Deadly For Small Children
The toxicity of e-vapor pales in comparison to the toxicity of the cartridge liquid, which contains highly concentrated liquid nicotine in a cocktail of flavorings, colorings, and solvents, proven to be neurotoxic. Tiny amounts, whether ingested orally or absorbed through your skin, can cause vomiting, seizures, or even death.
Just one teaspoon of even highly diluted e-cigarette liquid can kill a small child.
Dr. Richard Clark, toxicology professor and medical director of the California Poison Control System, calls nicotine "probably the most toxic plant chemical ever discovered."7 One estimate is that between one and two million liters of e-fluid will be sold in the US this year. According to the New York Times: 8
"Reports of accidental poisonings, notably among children, are soaring. Since 2011, there appears to have been one death in the United States, a suicide by an adult who injected nicotine. But less serious cases have led to a surge in calls to poison control centers.
Nationwide, the number of cases linked to e-liquids jumped to 1,351 in 2013, a 300 percent increase from 2012, and the number is on pace to double this year, according to information from the National Poison Data System. Of the cases in 2013, 365 were referred to hospitals, triple the previous year's number."
The nicotine levels in e-liquids vary. According to Dr. Cantrell from California poison control, most range between 1.8 percent and 2.4 percent, concentrations that can cause sickness, but rarely death, in children. But higher concentrations, like 10 percent or even 7.2 percent, are widely available on the Internet. At those levels, a lethal dose for an adult would be less than one tablespoon.9
Many of the chemicals in e-cigarettes are known to cause respiratory distress and disease. Indeed, this is what many people who have inhaled e-cig vapors are reporting—trouble breathing, cough, sore throat, chest pain, and allergic reactions such as itchiness and swelling of the lips. Chest pain and cardiovascular problems have also been reported.10
Targeting Today's Youth
The marketing of e-cigarettes is an issue of its own. Reminiscent of tobacco's early years, e-cig marketers are making vaping look cool and glamorous, even sophisticated. The rising popularity with teens is creating a whole new source of nicotine addiction—in addition to the other health hazards already mentioned. Yet, manufacturers deny that they are marketing to children. Are we seriously supposed to believe that e-cig manufacturers are not targeting children with flavors like bubble gum, cherry blast, and Gummy Bear?11
In spite of the health risks reported by both CDC and the ER docs who've had to pick up the pieces, the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH)12 remains an enthusiastic supporter of smokeless tobacco products, calling the risks "exaggerated (by mainstream media), irresponsible, harmful and malicious." However, please note that the ACSH is an agenda-driven PR firm disguised as a science organization, heavily funded by industry, with vaccine industrialist Paul Offit as its board trustee.13
AVOID Synthetic Marijuana—It Can Be Deadly!
Spice. Black Mamba. K2. MOJO. White Widow. These are all street names for synthetic cannabis (synthetic marijuana or "fake pot"), virtually unheard of five years ago but now sold widely in stores with little fear of prosecution. Introduced in 2009, this synthetic version of cannabis bears little resemblance to natural pot and has dramatically different effects on your body. It is manufactured to produce a "high" similar to marijuana, but instead of high, people are finding themselves on a bad trip to the ICU, permanently brain damaged, or even dead.
According to a recent Time Magazine feature, synthetic marijuana is the second most popular drug among teens and young adults, behind pot itself.14 Most people don't realize how dangerous synthetic marijuana can be. The synthetic powder is mixed in a lab and shipped to the US, where retailers spray it onto a leaf—often an herb or a spice—that can be smoked, just like pot. It binds to cannabis receptors in your body up to 1,000 times more strongly than real marijuana, as well as producing gripping effects on serotonin and other receptors in your brain. You can't overdose on real pot, but you CAN overdose on synthetic versions—and it doesn't take very much.
In recent weeks, more than 100 people were treated in Louisiana emergency rooms after smoking synthetic cannabis products, many suffering life-threating reactions—so many that the state of Louisiana recently banned the sale and use of eight of them.15, 16 Colorado has experienced a similar escalation in ER visits.17 The following table lists some of the frightening reactions to synthetic marijuana that emergency rooms and poison control centers are reporting:18
Seizures Hallucinations Vomiting Psychosis Extreme anxiety Permanent brain damage19 Suicidality Severe kidney damage Reduced blood flow to heart Tachycardia Heart attack Sudden cardiac arrest Stroke20 Delirium
REAL Cannabis for REAL Therapeutic Benefits
Twenty states have legalized cannabis for medical purposes, and two states (Colorado and Washington) now permit recreational use. Medical marijuana is largely opposed due to misinformation and the fact that it spells competition for the pharmaceutical industry, as the cannabis plant could replace a wide variety of synthetic drugs, especially for treating mood and anxiety disorders. The cannabis plant contains a variety of compounds with medicinal properties, including terpenes and flavonoids. Probably the most noteworthy is CBD (cannabidiol), which is associated with an array of health benefits. Different strains of cannabis have different ratios of CBD to THC.
There are strains of cannabis that contain high amounts of CBD, while being very low in THC, which is the psychoactive agent in marijuana. Such strains are the ones typically used for medical purposes, and will not produce a high. Just as with most medicinal plants, it is important to use the whole plant rather than isolated compounds, in order to take advantage of its natural synergistic actions. For more information about this, refer to the Project CBD website.21 If you do have cannabis in your home, please make sure to keep it away from your pets, as it is highly toxic to cats and dogs. When used appropriately, medical-grade cannabis offers a great range of benefits, including but not limited to the following:
- Anti-inflammatory and Analgesic: Cannabis suppresses inflammation,22 in addition to reducing pain for chronic pain sufferers
- Anticonvulsive: Cannabis is showing great promise for treating epilepsy (especially in children) by raising the seizure threshold23
- Anticancer: Binds to receptors on cancer cells, causing them to die off and inhibiting their spread. Harvard researchers found THC retards lung cancer growth, which helps explain why smoking marijuana doesn't cause lung cancer24
- Neuroprotective: CBD protects those with brain injury from nerve damage, and may help prevent Alzheimer's25
- Treatment of Tourette Syndrome: Shown effective in reducing tics and behavioral symptoms, including obsessive compulsive behaviors26
My 'Trick' for Quitting Smoking
If you're thinking about quitting smoking, swapping conventional cigarettes for electronic cigarettes may simply expose you to a new set of health risks. This is also the case with drugs designed to help you quit. For example, the smoking-cessation drug Chantix has been associated with an inordinately high number of serious side effects, including suicides and psychotic reactions in people with no prior history of violent behavior. So, what's the trick to quitting smoking? I believe the "secret" is to get healthy first, which makes quitting much easier.
Electronic cigarettes have proven to be helpful for some individuals who have chosen to quit smoking. I encourage you to do your research on the product you choose to use and continue in your effort to fully quit. My mother is 79 years old and smoked for all of her adult life. When she decided to give up smoking, she used a rechargeable, electronic cigarette in the process and found it helpful.
Exercising, eating healthy, and managing your stress are key parts to successfully managing to quit. Only when you have taken care of these basic aspects of your health should you attempt to quit smoking, and going "cold turkey" seems to work best. Two-thirds to three-quarters of ex-smokers stop without the need for pharmaceutical or medical intervention…27 and without e-cigarettes! The following are some tips for addressing each of these three key health areas.
- Eat well: Choose a diet rich in fresh, whole foods such as sustainably raised, organic produce, grass-pastured meats, raw nuts and seeds, etc. A diet rich in antioxidants will help you limit your damage from tobacco smoke. Read through my free comprehensive nutrition plan if you need some direction. It is really crucial that you convert from sugar burning to fat burning mode with the use of intermittent fasting. This will help you avoid the virtually inevitable desire to binge on junk food as a reward for giving up smoking.
- Exercise regularly: One study found that exercise doubles your chances for success in the quit-smoking battle.28 Make sure to incorporate strength training, high-intensity interval training like Peak Fitness, core-strengthening exercises, and stretching.
- Manage your stress and your cravings: Finding tools to help you improve your emotional health is extremely important when shifting lifestyle habits. Many people use yoga, meditation, or relaxation techniques for this, and these are all great. I also recommend the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), as this can reduce stress and restore your energetic balance, helping you break free of cigarette cravings.