SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) — The state’s top health official has issued a health advisory on electronic cigarettes, calling them unsafe and urging people to avoid the increasingly popular devices.

California Department of Public Health director Dr. Ron Chapman also issued a new report calling e-cigs “a community health threat.”

The battery-operated devices often resemble cigarettes and are also known as vape pens,  hookah pens or e-hookahs. They are designed to deliver a nicotine aerosol which is sometimes infused with different flavors.

“E-cigarettes contain nicotine and other harmful chemicals, and the nicotine in them is as addictive as the nicotine in cigarettes,” said Chapman in a press release Wednesday. “There is a lot of misinformation about e-cigarettes. That is why, as the state’s health officer, I am advising Californians to avoid the use of e-cigarettes and keep them away from children of all ages.”

The report shows that there has been a spike in calls to state poison control centers over exposure and accidental ingestion of the e-cigarette liquid – from 19 in 2012 to 243 in 2014. The study also says more than 60 percent of those calls involve children five years and under.

“The e-cigarette cartridges and e-liquid bottles are not equipped with child-resistant caps, often leak, creating a poisoning risk by ingestion or by skin or eye contact,” said Chapman. “These products are not safe.”

Use of e-cigarettes among U.S. teens has surged, according to the report, with more teens using e-cigs than traditional cigarettes.

The study says e-cigarettes are harmful to both the user and those with secondhand exposure to the aerosol containing particulate matter that includes chemicals on California’s Prop 65 list of substances known to cause cancer or birth defects.

The study concludes by saying e-cigs should be strictly regulated and that the CDPH will partner with health, medical, child care and education communities to educate consumers about the dangers of e-cigs through an advertising campaign.

Comments (4)