Nicotine exposure from e-cigarettes may damage the developing brains of infants

13 Jan 2016 / 19:03 H.

    PETALING JAYA: Nicotine exposure from e-cigarettes may damage the developing brains of infants in the womb, as well as the brains of children and adolescents, suggests a new review of nicotine's effects.
    Animal experiments have shown that exposure to nicotine can harm developing lungs and brains, said US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention's Office on Smoking and Health director, Dr Tim McAfee.
    He said the harm in the animal brains occurs in areas involved in thinking and language development, and short- and long-term memory,
    McAfee, who was part of the review, said manufacturers contend that e-cigarettes are safe because they release harmless water vapour, but that vapour contains nicotine which can be inhaled by kids who are near people using these devices.
    He added that children can also be exposed to nicotine from surfaces where it has accumulated from the vapour, if children touch those surfaces and then place their hands into their mouths, they can potentially be exposed to nicotine.
    It should be noted that most of the studies in the review did not look specifically at e-cigarette use, instead, most looked at the effects of nicotine exposure on animals and humans from other sources, such as cigarettes or chewing tobacco.
    McAfee said the devices also shouldn't be used by pregnant women or teens.
    "In pregnant women, the developing foetus is exposed to nicotine from e-cigarettes because the mother's blood is shared with the foetus. And, teens using e-cigarettes can become addicted to nicotine, which can damage their developing brain.
    "Steps have to b taken to protect children, teens and pregnant women from the negative health effects of nicotine on the developing brain," he said.
    HealthDay News quoted the CDC as saying that exposure to and use of nicotine products by adolescents is of particular concern because adolescence is a critical period for brain growth and development.
    It said as a consequence, adolescents are especially vulnerable to the toxic effects of nicotine.
    "Exposure to nicotine during adolescence may harm brain development and predispose future tobacco use. Even a brief period of continuous or intermittent nicotine exposure in adolescence elicits lasting neuro-behavioural damage," HealthDay News reported.
    It has also been reported that nicotine, the primary psychoactive ingredient in e‐liquid, stimulates pleasure/reward pathways in the brain and it is a highly addictive neuro-toxin that is as addictive as heroin and cocaine.

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