Thursday, July 24, 2014


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How Safe Are Electronic Cigarettes?

E-cigarettes, which are inhalers, use a small battery to heat a dose of liquid nicotine into mist. The mist also contains water, flavoring, and propylene glycol, a solvent for flavorings that are not very soluble on their own.
E-cigarettes, which are inhalers, use a small battery to heat a dose of liquid nicotine into mist. The mist also contains water, flavoring, and propylene glycol, a solvent for flavorings that are not very soluble on their own.
By Charles Recknagel
Electronic cigarettes are still so new on most markets, many languages haven't yet decided what to call the users.

Should they be called "vapers," as some American smokers dub their colleagues who smoke smokeless cigarettes?

The word makes sense. If smokers are named after smoke, then "vapers" should be named after the nicotine vapor that electronic cigarettes emit instead.

Whatever one calls smokeless smokers, their number is growing rapidly.

A recent study by the British health campaigning charity Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) found that the number of people in that country who reported trying electronic cigarettes more than doubled, from 9 percent in 2010 to 22 percent in 2012.

Almost all the new users were people who already had smoked cigarettes and 40 percent of them hoped switching would free them from the usual hazards of smoking.

Those hazards include an increased risk of dying from cancer, mostly due to inhaling the tar and other toxins released by tobacco when it is burned.

How Much Safer?

But are electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, really safer than smoking?

Amanda Sandford, a research manager for ASH in London, says the only tobacco product the new devices contain is nicotine.

"Nicotine, compared to tobacco smoke, is relatively benign. It is the addictive component of tobacco, of course, and that is what keeps people coming back to smoking, but the harm [in smoking] comes largely from the inhaling of tobacco smoke," Sandford says.

"Nicotine itself, once it is isolated and extracted from tobacco and just used in its pure state, is relatively harmless."

Individual e-cigarettes have been found to contain widely varying levels of nicotine, despite using labels promising a "light" or "strong" dosage.
Individual e-cigarettes have been found to contain widely varying levels of nicotine, despite using labels promising a "light" or "strong" dosage.


E-cigarettes, which are inhalers, use a small battery to heat a dose of liquid nicotine into mist. The mist also contains water, flavoring, and propylene glycol, a solvent for flavorings that are not very soluble on their own.

Sandford says it is still too early to know for certain the health effects of e-cigarettes because the products only arrived in Britain in quantity two to three years ago. Extensive medical testing still has to be done, leaving the door open to questions.

One question is whether people will smoke more e-cigarettes than they would conventional cigarettes because they believe they are safer, and what health risks the increased nicotine addiction might bring.

A Regulatory Issue

But a more pressing question is how to assure that e-cigarettes -- mostly imported from China and other Asian countries -- contain what they say they do.

Individual e-cigarettes have been found to contain widely varying levels of nicotine, despite using labels promising a "light" or "strong" dosage. There also can be little quality control regarding what additives are used for flavoring.

In many countries, government regulatory boards are now trying to decide how to classify e-cigarettes and assure quality standards. And as they do, a battle is developing between the new e-cigarette business and the much older conventional cigarette industry.

That battle is being fought not just over consumer loyalty. It also is being fought in courts as the new e-cigarette companies seek to get their device classified as a "tobacco product."

Ray Story, head of the U.S.-based Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association, says that across Europe regulatory agencies tend to label e-cigarettes as a medical device or drug. That puts them under much tighter sales constraints than conventional cigarettes and helps protect established cigarette distributors from competition.

'So Sue Us!'

Story says the new business is fighting back by defying the regulatory bodies. The goal is to end up in court, where his association legally challenges how the product is classified.

"The [regulatory boards] continue to stand on the position that an e-cigarette is a drug but give us zero clarity, no factual basis, zero. So, what we then do is try to force the issue by selling the product anyway in a particular [country], which will then trigger some type of ban, or legal recourse, or criminal recourse that these regulatory agencies think they have," Story says.

"And then we will end up in court to answer to the citations they have given us for selling a product without market authorization and we then question why this particular product would fall under that category."

It is an uphill battle, and for now e-cigarettes remain substantially less common on shop shelves than conventional cigarettes.

But Story says there is growing interest among major tobacco companies in the United States in entering the e-cigarette business, should many smokers switch to the new devices.

And if the tobacco giants do so, he predicts, the world of smoking could become considerably less smoky in the future.
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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Mike Morgan from: USA
February 16, 2013 19:23
E-cigarettes are simply a consumer and market response to the big government anti-smoking movement and can help avoid tobacco and reduce nicotine, so see E Cig Werks http://ecigwerks.blogspot.com/ for more.
In Response

by: paul from: uk
March 07, 2013 09:54
So how do we know we only have nicotine in them, are any regulated, must admit trying them and 3 days without a ciggy so far just hope they are safe!

by: Bill from: USA
February 16, 2013 20:22
I think e cigarettes are very safe if people only use them to quit smoking for good. I have heard a lot of success stories with e cigs. http://chooseecigarettes.com/

by: Sammy Moshe from: Kansas City
February 17, 2013 00:05
Thank you for posting this well written, and fair article on e-cigarettes. The majority of articles I find in my feed are fairly biased and not based in fact. This one is neutral, and provides a great example of what journalism on the subject should look like. Great job!

by: ecigator from: China
February 18, 2013 14:22
Even though the FDA has not approved E cigarettes, the e cigs still are a lot safer than the 400 to 500 toxins in tobacco cigs. If someone uses the e cigs to quit the tobacco, more power to them. http://www.ecigator.net/

by: Tina from: Arkansas
February 28, 2013 16:26
I've done some internet research on the use of E cigs and have learned that at this point, there is little scientific based research available to say whether they are good or bad for you. What I can say, with certainty, is that they are helpful in tobacco smoking cessation. I have been using an e cig for about a month now and I have not smoked a tobacco cigarette in that time. I have preivously quit smoking cold turkey but it never lasts and the initial cessation was brutal. I have high hopes that the e cig avenue (lessening the amount of nicotine as time goes by) will be a more comfortable and permanent way for me to stop smoking. This is my hope :)
In Response

by: Ivan from: Florida
March 06, 2013 13:59
Me too Tina. I was a tobacco smoker for 35 years and failed at every attempt to quit. I've now been 'vaping' for two years with absolutely zero desire to light up. I've successfully reduced the nicotine content to 1/4 of where I began. I just love vaping now.

So.. let's hope that research proves the relative harmlessness of e-cigarettes - because, if it does - then i can retrospectively say "i did it!"

by: Laura from: Texas
March 07, 2013 17:28
I tried some OTC ecigs in November 2012. They were okay but couldn't be refilled and the price of refill cartridges was ridiculous. It was actually cheaper to smoke! I recently got a refillable ecig online and bought several "flavored" nicotine e-liquids. I gotta say, I like it (Hazelnut Caramel Macchiato being my fav at the moment). I can also say that I smoke/vape much less with the e-cig. Before, when I would take a smoke break at work you pretty much have to smoke the whole thing (sometimes two). Now, I can just pop outside have 2-3 puffs, and I'm good until the afternoon break. Overall, I think that's definitely healthier than what I was doing with traditional cigarettes.

by: AJ from: Seatte, USA
March 10, 2013 20:38
While inhaling any chemical may not be 100% safe over a lifetime, the ingredients in electronic cigarette liquid are considerably safer than traditional smoking. Propylene glycol is considered safe by the FDA and is used in many foods you already eat. Some have demonized it by associating it with antifreeze, and their true motives could always be questioned as some states get up to a $4.00 excise tax per pack. I could buy an entire carton for that tax alone when I was in the Middle East.

It doesn't work for everyone though. For many smokers the addiction is not only physical for the nicotine, but also includes a psychological need for the actual act of going outside and smoking a cigarette versus using an electronic one without interrupting what they were doing. As is the case with any alternative to smoking, you have to actually want to quit.

by: Niamh from: Ireland
March 11, 2013 09:56
I find the e cig fantastic after only one week I feel healthier and happier to be off the conventional cig. Without the ecig I could not have given up I have never lasted more then a day in 35 years. The flavour I use is called frost with a peppermint tinge. I have a vapour with my coffee and a vapour when I am on the phone etc. I love it and surely it has to be relatively harmless in comparison to the normal tobacco cigarette. I hope so, as I would happily vapour for years. a wonderful solution.

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