Up in smoke


As regulations for smokers become stricter, electronic cigarettes seem like the perfect alternative to smoking, but Health Canada says they’re not entirely safe.

“To date there is not sufficient evidence that the potential benefits of e-cigarettes in helping Canadians to quit smoking outweigh the potential risks,” said Eric Morrissette, senior media relations advisor for Health Canada, in an email interview.

E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that convert liquid nicotine into vapour, which is then inhaled by the smoker.

Sheridan’s policy treats e-cigarettes the same as tobacco products, restricting them to designated areas.

Sheridan’s policy treats e-cigarettes the same as tobacco products, restricting them to designated areas.

E-cigarettes have been gaining popularity as a healthy alternative to smoking because, while they still release nicotine, users do not inhale the tobacco and other chemicals found in regular cigarettes.

However, the sale of these products is illegal in Canada because they have not been regulated by the government.

“Health Canada advises Canadians not to purchase or use electronic cigarette products with nicotine as these products may pose health risks and have not been fully evaluated for safety and quality,” said Morrissette. “No such products have been approved to date… and are therefore illegal.”

A study done by the American Heart Association found that e-cigarettes “emit numerous harmful toxins and could lead to detrimental health effects, although the long-term biological effects need more study.”

Similarly, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found that e-cigarettes “may contain ingredients that are known to be toxic to humans, including carcinogens.”

For that reason, many smoking aid programs, such as Leave the Pack Behind, do not suggest using e-cigarettes to help smokers quit.

Laurie Ritchie, a registered nurse at Sheridan’s Health Centre, which is a member of LTPB, said the program recommends smokers try other alternatives, such as nicotine gum or patches, to help them quit because these have been tested and approved for sale and use by Health Canada.

“We do not endorse e-cigarettes,” she said.  “They are not regulated, so there’s no way of knowing what chemicals are in them.”

Chris Bowlatshahi, a security supervisor at Sheridan, said the college does not allow e-cigarettes to be smoked indoors and students face the same penalties for smoking e-cigarettes in undesignated areas, as per the Health and Safety and Smoke Free Sheridan policies.

These policies are in conjunction with the Smoke Free Ontario Act, which states that any violators can be charged up to $4,000.

“Students have to use e-cigarettes in smoking shelters,” he said.  “They are considered, as far as the college policy goes, the same as cigarettes.”

For more information on smoking cessation aids and safer alternatives to tobacco products, or to receive free nicotine patches or gum, Ritchie encourages students to visit www.leavethepackbehind.org.

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