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Are E-Cigarettes a Safer Alternative to Smoking?

Posted June 12, 2013 1:34 PM by HUSH
Pathfinder Tags: cigarette electronic Health smoking

The culture of cigarette smoking has never been more ambiguous. There used to be a time where smoking tobacco was a rite of passage. I grew up in an era where smoking acceptance was readily marketed to children: it was an ice-breaker in Tom and Jerry cartoons; big tobacco would use mascots that I could gravitate too; candy cigarettes were a cool imitation. Evil ad men everywhere thought up ingenious ways to train my mushy brain to start smoking as soon as possible -- heck, even in 2013 Don Draper makes it look cool.

Fortunately, there was also a considerable amount smoking education in my middle and high school years. Even though I've puffed my way though a few packs of my own in college, I've never considered myself a 'smoker' and I haven't had even a drag of a cigarette in over six months (I've probably smoked less than 50 cigarettes total). I know how dangerous smoking is so I never smoked enough to become addicted. I've also witnessed my older brother go through a cycle of quitting and starting again a few times.

Thanks to some timeworn innovations that only in the past few years have reached the mainstream marketplace, there may well be hope for me to join the 'cool kids' outside for cigarette breaks. That is, as long as they accept I'm smoking an e-cigarette.


Electronic cigarettes were first introduced in China in 2004, but had been invented nearly 40 years earlier. In 1963, Pennsylvanian Herbert A. Gilbert applied for a patent regarding a battery-powered cigarette which delivered nicotine by atomizing it in water vapor. Tobacco companies appeared interested in further developing and marketing the device, but it [not so] mysteriously got stuck in development hell until the idea was ultimately scrapped.

In 2000, Hon Lik, a Chinese pharmacist, reinvigorated the electronic cigarette by diluting nicotine in propylene glycol (the same stuff used in fog machines) and vaporizing it with a piezoelectric ultrasound-emitting element. When it was introduced in China, and in international markets a year later, it was mainly marketed as a smoking cessation aid, much like nicotine gums and patches. Today, many governments have required companies to remarket e-cigarettes, even though no tobacco is used and no tar is created.

If you'll excuse the annoying soundtrack, the animation at right provides a cross section of how e-cigarettes are assembled and operate. For the video-impaired, a sensor or button relays the signal to a microprocessor to initiate the heating element. A lithium battery supplies power to the element which is wrapped in flavored synthetic nicotine and water/propylene glycol-soaked pads. There is never an ignition in the device and the tip of the e-cigarette lights up to indicate that it is in use. Most e-cigarettes are rechargeable but disposable editions are made, mostly to get novice smokers into the market.

A subject of some controversy would be the safety of e-cigarettes. When originally introduced, they were marketed as a healthy alternative to cigarettes or as a means to quit smoking altogether. Yet notable health agencies, such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the World Health Organization and Health Canada, maintain that there is no conclusive evidence as to whether or not e-cigarettes are indeed a safer alternative to regular cigarettes. While there is no tobacco, no tar and no carbon monoxide in the e-cigarette, there are still high levels of nicotine and a high potential for addiction. The FDA believes that e-cigs can serve as a gateway for people to begin smoking tobacco, and the British Medical Association feels that e-cigs can further strengthen the social acceptance and normalcy of smoking overall. Many government health agencies have classified e-cigarettes as medical products and not as tobacco products; this makes them illegal to use until independent, controlled, peer-reviewed studies have been conducted.

In jurisdictions where this classification has been overturned, such as the U.S., doctors have defended the potential for e-cigs to save millions of lives. Way back in 2007, the Royal College of Physicians stated that, "If nicotine could be provided in a form that is acceptable and effective as a cigarette substitute, millions of lives could be saved. Nicotine itself is not especially hazardous." Even some antismoking organizations have jumped aboard the e-cigarette bandwagon. William T. Godshall, executive director of Smokefree Pennsylvania, has gone on-record stating that, "There is no evidence that e-cigarettes have ever harmed anyone, or that youths or nonsmokers have begun using the products." Both sides agree that significantly more study is needed on the long-term health effects of e-cigarettes, but the latest short-term studies point to a much lower risk-potential. Two Greek studies released late last year concluded that e-cigs posed a much lower risk to the user's heart and lung functions. This study indicates that the largest health risk posed by e-cigarettes would be the additional lung vacuum required to intitiate the device.


Okay. So I'm not going to start e-smoking just to be able to do so-- I lied. I may be fine with a bunch of engineering going into my food, but I don't have any interest in starting to smoke. However, there seems to be a lot of potential behind this technology: the potential to save millions of lives. I think this is another example of misguided abstinence-only social policy. It could be that unless we begin to have a meaningful dialogue about the real health benefits of this smoking alternative, we could lose millions more to lung cancer, emphysema and other diseases while we bicker.

Resources

Wikipedia - Electronic cigarette; Propylene glyocol

NY Times - A Tool to Quit Smoking has Some Unlikely Critics

Royal College of Physicians - Harm reduction in nicotine addiction (.pdf)

Discovery Health - 10 Little-Known Facts about E-Cigarettes


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#1

Re: Are E-Cigarettes a Safer Alternative to Smoking?

06/12/2013 2:14 PM

Better than cigarettes on many levels....no apparent adverse health effects...medical insurance cost drops like rock....can be smoked anywhere....no lighter required...no flame, no heat, no ash, no smell....take a hit put it in your pocket....cheap....a weeks supply can be carried in your pocket...no withdrawal, smoking cigarettes one day, this the next...

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#2

Re: Are E-Cigarettes a Safer Alternative to Smoking?

06/12/2013 2:47 PM

This chart fails to recognize a 100% successful cessation strategy: Death!

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#3

Re: Are E-Cigarettes a Safer Alternative to Smoking?

06/14/2013 12:05 PM

E-cigarettes will never satisfy the nicotine craving unless nicotine is introduced into the vapor. Without the nicotine, there's no reason to smoke. In this world, there are those who have the money and those who want to take it away. Those who want to take it away will think up any way to do it. Someone once said; "find a need and fill it". That has been changed to "CREATE a need and fill it".

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Re: Are E-Cigarettes a Safer Alternative to Smoking?

06/14/2013 3:59 PM

Uh,,,it does have nicotine....? It's actually available in 3 separate strengths that I know of....and also comes in an infinite variety of flavors....and it's much cheaper than cigarettes....so you basically save money and your health, win, win...

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#5
In reply to #4

Re: Are E-Cigarettes a Safer Alternative to Smoking?

06/14/2013 10:19 PM

I agree, since the evil from smoking is the tars being cancer causing, no tars = no problem.

Governments are going to want to tax it at the same level as the old way, they want those $$.

Sveeral of my friend love it. They still look like fools, go figger

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#9
In reply to #3

Re: Are E-Cigarettes a Safer Alternative to Smoking?

09/14/2013 3:21 PM

Yes, all the e-cigarettes are just nicotine dispensing mechanisms, and nothing more. Some have a silly red light on the tip, but that just kills the battery faster.

As a nicotine administration mechanism they have safer aspects in terms of cancer and emphysema but riskier aspects in terms of dosage.

If you tried to smoke 500 regular cigarettes, with inhalation, it might make you ill far before the 500 were done, however, you could probably inhale 500 e-cigs- but would you inhale a lethal does of nicotine?

If you look here, it is quite apparent that e-cigs are riskier in terms of dosage limitations

LD-50 nicotine

electronic cigarette toxicity

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#6

Re: Are E-Cigarettes a Safer Alternative to Smoking?

08/14/2013 10:26 AM

I don't know if they're long term safe. I'm more concerned about the heating element that getting red hot when working, probably releases metal vapor for the smoker to inhale. But I am also confident it proved to be the ONLY thing that could possibly make me quit smoking. It's been two years now that I haven't smoked a real and more than one and a half year an electronic cigarette and haven't missed it at all. And I've been a heavy (meaning HEAVY) smoker for many many years. I did have a problem however. I inhaled a small plastic fragment of the darn mouth piece which was not one piece on my model as I thought, and coughing it out, it stuck somewhere inside my throat or chords, and is there for a long time now. I sometimes feel it moving around, but the @@@ doctor that stuck a snake camera in my nose and couldn't find it had the nerve to tell me it was only my idea. By the way, can anyone tell me if that plastic can be seen on a medical ultrasound monitor? I am fairly sure about its exact shape, I broke another pipe to see what was missing from the first. But please don't rush in laughing, this whole thing is no freaking Joke. S.M.

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#7
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Re: Are E-Cigarettes a Safer Alternative to Smoking?

08/14/2013 12:52 PM

Yes, ultrasound can find the plastic part as long as the area can be flooded with normal saline. This would involve you being placed in such a way that your lungs were up and your nose and sinus cavities were down and you would mouth breath. Ultrasound propagates well through liquids and bounces from air filled passages

An MRI will also find it, and that might cost $500 or so at a walk in MRI clinic

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#8

Re: Are E-Cigarettes a Safer Alternative to Smoking?

09/14/2013 2:30 PM

I don't smoke, but if I did, I would feel stupid puffing on an E-cig; especially in public. Smoking an E-cig is telling the world "I am an addict and can't stop". What's next? Imitation food that looks real, but contains no calories, fat or carbohydrates.

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#10
In reply to #8

Re: Are E-Cigarettes a Safer Alternative to Smoking?

06/14/2014 5:48 PM

If you read my response properly, it was stated as a personal opinion of how I, personally would feel. Maybe you wouldn't feel stupid, but that is up to you. Sounds like you are an E-cig user.

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#11
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Re: Are E-Cigarettes a Safer Alternative to Smoking?

06/15/2014 12:55 AM

No, I don't use E-cigs. I have tried them, but they just do not do it for me. If they help some other person to quit then I can see no harm in that.

My previous post was a bit terse, and for that I apologize. I'm not currently trying to quit smoking, but one side effect of trying to do so is getting more than a little tetchy.

It may not read so, but I was not intending to get personal or insulting on the topic. Perhaps you would be kind enough to write it off as 'Kris on a bad day' thing. Were I currently trying to stop smoking, I might try rephrase that all better but it's hard to speak sensibly on the topic when I'm not in the process of quitting right now.

People either smoke or they do not. They may also find themselves in the position of trying to stop or not. Unfortunatly, people can get in a ratty mood if trying to quit. Mea culpa, I should have expressed whatever was going on in my head better.

The only reason I ever get close to feeling stupid on CR4 is because of my atrocious spelling.

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#12

Re: Are E-Cigarettes a Safer Alternative to Smoking?

02/25/2020 5:56 AM

E-cigarettes claim to bypass many of the health risks of tobacco smoking, and to offer a more healthful alternative to cigarettes and other conventional forms of nicotine intake. Some studies have found that using e-cigarettes can help some smokers quit.

https://www.freshairguide.com/best-smoke-odor-eliminator/

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