Air Force issues warning about safety of e-cigarettes

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON — The Air Force surgeon general has issued a memo alerting all airmen about safety concerns regarding electronic cigarettes, a new type of nicotine product.

Also known as “e-cigs,” electronic cigarettes are battery-operated devices that look like conventional cigarettes. The e-cig contains a cartridge filled with nicotine, which is delivered to the user as a vapor. Water vapor is emitted from the end of the device to mimic the appearance of smoke.

“Advertisements claim electronic cigarettes are a healthier way to smoke, but one sample tested by the Food and Drug Administration contained diethylene glycol, a toxic chemical used in antifreeze,” wrote Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Charles B. Green, the Air Force surgeon general.

Other samples tested by the FDA contained cancer-causing agents, yet there are no health warnings on these products similar to those seen on conventional cigarette packages, the memo states.

“Manufacturers offer cartridges with decreasing levels of nicotine, with the idea that they can be used to help someone quit smoking,” Green wrote. “No studies have been done to demonstrate the safety or effectiveness of these products as tobacco cessation aids, and they are not approved by the FDA as a drug delivery device. Commanders also need to be aware that the cartridges used in these devices are replaceable and could be used to discreetly deliver substances other than nicotine.”

The memo states that due to the nature, appearance and safety concerns of electronic cigarettes, they are considered to be in the same category as tobacco products, the use of which is governed by Air Force Instruction 40-102, Tobacco Use in the Air Force. This new product will be included in the upcoming revision of AFI 40-102 due out this fall.