Are E-Cigarettes Safer for Pregnant Women?

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No, there’s no “safe” form of nicotine when you’re pregnant, according to Tim McAfee, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Office on Smoking and Health, who recently reviewed the safely of e-cigarettes, according to a CBS News report. Dr. McAfee says that animal experiments show that nicotine exposure harms developing brains and lungs, with the damage to the brain occurring in areas involved in thinking and language development, and long and short-term memory.

Dr. McAfee acknowledges that e-cigarettes may help people trying to quit smoking, but points out that the amount of nicotine an e-cig delivers depends on the type and brand, ranging from the equivalent of half a cigarette to a whole one. Manufacturers contend that their e-cigarettes are safe because they release harmless water vapor — but that’s not really precise. That vapor contains nicotine, which can be inhaled by kids — or anyone else — near the person using the device, or exposed via touch from surfaces where the vapor accumulates.

In pregnant women, the developing fetus is exposed to the nicotine in an e-cigarette because the mother and baby share a blood supply. Doctors agree that while smoke-free nicotine products are generally less hazardous than smoking, the danger is still there and pregnant women should not use any nicotine product including FDA-approved products like the nicotine patch and nicotine gum.

The FDA is attempting to, but does not yet regulate e-cigarettes. Until they finish their rules and can regulate all tobacco products — including e-cigs — they cannot prevent marketing and sale to minors. If regulated under the same rules as cigarettes, warning labels could be added to packaging, and e-cigarettes could become part of smoke-free laws to protect people from secondhand exposure.

Photo: Getty