June 1, 2015
by Dr. Bruce Pynn
My son and I were in Las Vegas at the Nascar Sprint race and the Richard Petty Driving Experience this past March. Besides watching Jeff Gordon set the top lap time, driving the Las Vegas Motor Speedway at 190mph, we were also fortunate enough to take the cars out on the track ourselves, following a chase car at 150 mph — it was quite an awesome experience (it should be on everyone’s bucket list)!
Between race days, we enjoyed all that Las Vegas had to offer from our home base at the Mirage, enjoying wonderful shows and meals. While looking on the Las Vegas “What’s Happening in Town” website, my son found that ‘Vapefest’ was having a convention across the street at the Flamingo. He was anxious to go, as he said it was all the rage at high school. A little reluctant, I agreed to go along — more for my own education, as I knew very little about vaping and e-cigarettes. In light of the fact that three new vapor stores opened up in the past few months here in Thunder Bay, this convention was even more intriguing!
When we entered the exhibit hall of Vapefest, there was quite a mixed bag of attendees. Many of them with vaporizers — the size of smartphones — hanging on their necks with lanyards, letting off huge plumbs of smoke in an upward head tilt position after taking a drag off their device. The hall was filled with a dense cloud of smoke and when I made mention of it, one vape head (as they often call themselves so I am told) said, “It’s not smoke. It’s just vape, man”!
I chatted with several of the exhibitors, who were very informative on their products — the electronic vaporizers with USB chargers, e-juice, and accessories. The e-vaporizers come in numerous sizes, and they seem to be related to the size of the batteries the devices housed, which in turn controlled the speed by which the e-juice is heated. I was also surprised by the shocking number of flavours of e-juice that were available. The flavours could be had with varying concentrations of nicotine.
With my limited knowledge on the subject, I could perhaps see how a cigarette smoker could switch over to vaping, with the diminishing concentrations of nicotine in the e-juice as a method of smoking cessation. But moreover, I could also see how the curiosity and experimentation of e-cigarettes among adolescents may be the ‘gateway’ for transitioning to smoking or other risky behaviours.
Several recent articles have documented a significant increase in e-cigarettes by adolescents through the world — tripling usage in New Zealand over a two-year period as one example. This usage is especially troubling as the unregulated and understudied e-juice and related vapors can contain toxicants and carcinogens.
The e-juice flavours, like bubble gum and cotton candy, seem to target the vulnerable demographic. It is also troubling that alcohol-flavoured e-liquids, such as Kentucky bourbon or rum and cola, can be sold to teenagers online. The lack of regulation, which was illustrated in an article, suggested that there are more than 8,000 flavour names, and a sample test found varying amounts of flavour and nicotine than those listed on the labels. Nicotine exposure during adolescence, a critical stage in brain development, may lead to lasting adverse consequences causing addictions, sustained tobacco usage and behaviour modifications.
Dentists have always been at the forefront with assisting their patients with information and strategies on smoking cessation. We should now be a little more educated on the usage, safety and efficacy of e-cigarettes, so we might be better able to counsel them on the potential benefits and risks of
Dr. Bruce Pynn is Oral Health’s editorial board member for oral and maxillofacial surgery. He maintains a private practice in Thunder Bay, ON. He is an Associate Professor, North Ontario School of Medicine, Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, ON.