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e-Cigarettes or Vapor Cigarettes: Safety, Facts and Information

Author: Disabled World : Contact: Disabled World

Published: 2013-12-06 : (Rev. 2014-09-05)


Information regarding electronic cigarettes also known as water vapor cigarettes as a quit smoking aid.

Main Digest

Approximately 1 out of every 3 smoking adults die from their addiction and greater than 400,000 people in America alone die prematurely each year from use of tobacco.

Smoking tobacco produces more than 4,000 chemicals, to include at least 44 known toxins. Some of the combustion products of tobacco, collectively known as, 'tar,' may cause cancers of a person's mouth, throat, lungs, stomach, bladder and other organs. Smoking also causes heart attacks; 30% of all heart disease-related deaths are the result of cigarette smoking.

The well-known addictive substance in tobacco is nicotine. Electronic cigarettes, also known as water vapor cigarettes, have been produced with this in mind. Instead of tobacco, the cartridges inside electronic cigarettes contain liquid nicotine that is vaporized using micro-electronics. Nicotine Replacement Therapies (NRT's) such as nicotine gums or patches work on a similar principle.

Chart showing facts related to tobacco smoking
Chart showing facts related to tobacco smoking

According to a number of professors, doctors, and associations like the American Association of Public Health Physicians (AAPHP), the electronic cigarette is far less harmful than regular tobacco cigarettes. The reason why is because electronic cigarettes do not contain tobacco and because of this do not produce the thousands of chemicals and more than 40 carcinogens that cause forms of cancer and heart disease. Still, two basic issues remain:

Vapor or electronic cigarettes are available for purchase online and in regular shops and may be purchased with relative ease by smokers who are underage.

Electronic cigarettes are still fairly new and have yet to receive long-term testing. Nicotine delivery through a person's skin via nicotine patches, or orally through lozenges or chewing gum, has been approved by the FDA and have been shown to be harmless. The effects of inhaling pure nicotine; however, have not received sufficient studies, particularly by the FDA.

July of 2009 found the FDA making a statement regarding electronic cigarettes. The FDA stated that laboratory tests conducted by them showed that some of the samples they tested had toxic chemicals such as, 'diethylene glycol.' The statement upset a lot of people because the FDA failed to mention that the chemical is only toxic at high levels and is also found in approved NRT's, as well as air fresheners and asthma inhalers.

The AAPHP; meanwhile, favors a permissive approach to electronic cigarettes because the potential exists to save 4 million lives out the 8 million American adults who currently smoke tobacco who will otherwise die due to illness over the next 20 years. Tobacco cigarettes account for around 80% of nicotine consumption in America, yet more than 98% of the illness and death. The harm is not caused by nicotine itself but by toxic products from smoke. A tobacco cigarette smoker may reduce their risk of future tobacco-related death by 98% or better simply by switching to a low-risk smokeless tobacco product. A person could cut that risk by 99.9% or more by switching to a nicotine-only delivery product such as a pharmaceutical product or an electronic cigarette.

An article in a popular scientific journal stated that everyone is now aware that tobacco use is bad for people. Yet people have not used purified nicotine for enough time to learn the effects it may have. A study of the long-term results on rats has been presented; bear in mind that 2 years is considered long-term for rats...

The rats breathed in a chamber of nicotine at a concentration providing 2 times the plasma concentration found in heavy smokers. Nicotine was given to the rats for 20 hours a day, 5 days a week, for 2 years. The scientists were unable to find an increase in mortality, atherosclerosis, or the frequency of tumors in the rats when compared with controls. In particular, there were no microscopic or macroscopic lung tumors or any increase in pulmonary neuroendocrine cells. Interestingly; however, the body weight of the rats exposed to nicotine was reduced when compared with controls. The study did not find any harmful effect of nicotine when provided in its pure form by inhalation.

A Human Study

Tobacco cigarette smoking programs aimed at helping people to quit are helpful, but smoking is a notoriously difficult addiction to break. There is a need for unique and effective approaches to help people quit smoking. Electronic cigarettes are battery-powered nicotine delivery devices that might help tobacco smokers to remain abstinent during their attempt to quit tobacco.

Chart showing results of a test involving 40 people who used electronic cigarettes
Chart showing results of a test involving 40 people who used electronic cigarettes

In a proof of concept study the smoking habits of 40 regular smokers who were not willing to quit were monitored for potential modifications; they experimented with an electronic cigarette with a focus on the reduction of smoking and abstinence. The participants were invited to attend a total of 5 study visits:

The products the participants used, the number of cigarettes they smokes, and exhaled carbon monoxide (eCO) levels were all measured at each visit. The participant's reduction and abstinence rates were calculated. Adverse events and product preferences were reviewed as well.

The results of the study involving these participants found a sustained 50% reduction in the number of tobacco cigarettes they smoked per day at week-24 in 13 out of 40 of the participants. Their median of 25 cigarettes a day decreased to 6 cigarettes a day. A sustained 80% reduction was shown in 5 out of the 40 participants; their median of 30 cigarette a day decreased to 3 per day. Sustained smoking abstinence at week-24 was observed in 9 out of 40 of the participants with 6 out of the 9 still using the electronic cigarette by the end of the study.

A combined sustained 50% reduction and smoking abstinence was shown in 22 out of 40 of the participants; more than half, with an overall 88% fall in the number of cigarettes smoked each day. Throat irritation and dry cough were common, yet diminished substantially by week-24. Overall, participants used 2-3 cartridges each day throughout the study. The participants' acceptance and perception of the product was good. In other words, the use of electronic cigarettes decreased the number of tobacco cigarettes the participants smoked each day without causing significant side-effects in these people who did not intend to quit.

The AAPHP pointed out that ethylene glycol is found not only in electronic cigarettes, but in other FDA approved Nicotine Replacement Therapies (NRT's). Electronic cigarettes deliver the same nicotine found in pharmaceutical products with no more contamination by toxic substances than the pharmaceutical products the FDA has already approved. Propylene glycol and glycerin are used as carriers of the nicotine, which cause the visible vapor. The substances are generally recognized as being safe. They are commonly used in theatrical fog machines, air fresheners, and asthma inhalers. There is no smoke and no products of combustion.

The AAPHP says the vapors from electronic cigarettes present much less than 1% of the risk posed by environmental tobacco smoke. Pharmaceutical nicotine vaporizers have been used for years without visible vapor and without apparent concern about use in non-smoking areas. A group of doctors and tobacco researchers to include:

All challenged the FDA to present the full quantitative data of the study upon with the FDA has based its warning against electronic cigarettes. The doctors are concerned that the FDA's disingenuous targeting of electronic cigarettes through a biased presentation of the scientific data has had a significant negative impact on the public perception of electronic cigarettes. The best available evidence suggests the devices offer immense potential to reduce serious health issues among people who smoke tobacco.

European Lung Foundation (ERS) position on e-cigarettes

The ERS agrees with the recent report from the World Health Organization (WHO) and is opposed to the use of unregulated e-cigarettes. While the short-term negative impact on health appears not as great as tobacco cigarettes, the long-term effects of e-cigarettes are not known. As a Society grounded in scientific principles, ERS believes that the precautionary principle should be applied when scientific evidence is inconclusive and insufficient.

ERS agrees with the WHO proposal and believes that a strong regulatory framework is required in particular to protect children, young people and non-smokers. Furthermore, there is a clear need for more independent research to find out both potential benefits and risks of these products.

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