Understand the risks of electronic cigarettes

By Hao Lu

 

As electronic cigarette sales have grown nationwide during the past year, there is heightened interest in their health risks compared to traditional cigarettes. E-cigarettes are battery-operated products designed to turn nicotine and other chemicals into a vapor, simulating the act of tobacco smoking.

Boston issued 61 permits to sell e-cigarettes in March. This is five times the number of permits issued in the same time period last year, according to the Boston Public Health Commission’s Tobacco Prevention and Control Program.

Image courtesy of Flickr.

Image courtesy of Flickr.

Although e-cigarettes look just like regular ones, there are still major differences between the two. E-cigarettes do not require a match or lighter for use. Instead, they hold a battery, a vaporization chamber and a cartridge filled with liquid nicotine.

When using e-cigarettes, just puff on the device as you would do to a regular cigarette. The device heats the liquid and changes it to a nicotine-filled vapor that smokers inhale and exhale. It looks like smoking a regular cigarette, but since there is nothing burning, there will be no smoke fumes.

Proponents of the e-cigarette say that while e-cigarettes give nicotine addicts the same amount of nicotine as a regular cigarette, they do not produce the same toxic smoke that would cause lung disease and cancer when inhaled over time. Since there are no products of combustion to be inhaled, no tobacco toxins are inhaled besides nicotine.

The lack of tobacco toxins, however, does not mean that e-cigarettes pose no health risks. While e-cigarettes do not produce secondhand smoke, they do produce secondhand vapor. Even though manufacturers say it is merely water vapor and therefore harmless, regulatory agencies and health experts contend that e-cigarette makers have not conducted the research needed to prove this. Meanwhile, manufacturers often do not make specific health or safety claims about e-cigarettes.

Opponents of e-cigarettes have argued that people shouldn’t be subjected to secondhand vapor until manufacturers can prove it to be safe for everyone, including children, the elderly and people with certain medical conditions. Some individuals with health conditions have reported that the vapor is irritating to their eyes, noses and throats, and that it affects their breathing and makes them nauseous.

One other problem is that e-cigarettes can be easily purchased online, which makes it easier for children to buy them than regular tobacco cigarettes. U.S. laws requiring age limits for tobacco cigarette purchases do not apply to e-cigarette sales. Some states have their own policies requiring e-cigarette buyers to provide proof of age, while other states are still working on the process.

The FDA said “further research is needed to assess the potential public health benefits and risks of electronic cigarettes.” It is still unclear how many years it would take before regulation of e-cigarettes is implemented.

This post is also available in: Chinese

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3 Comments

  1. Donovan McDabb

    The first day I used electronic cigarette was the last day I smoked a real one. I advocate it’s use. I use a pulsar vaporizer with much success, although honestly, most of them are very similar so brand may not matter.

  2. “One other problem is that e-cigarettes can be easily purchased online, which makes it easier for children to buy them than regular tobacco cigarettes” – ummmm, ok I’m from the UK and things could be really different over here I suppose, but how many kids in MA have a credit card?? You gotta be over 18 to get one here in Limeyville, and what with websites not being so keen on sending out products without payment I’m not sure how this statement is anything except scare-mongering nonsense.

    “Even though manufacturers say it is merely water vapor and therefore harmless, regulatory agencies and health experts contend that e-cigarette makers have not conducted the research needed to prove this.” And neither have these ‘regulatory agencies and health experts’ to any worthwhile scientific extent. Rather than constantly moaning about it why don’t some people just go ahead and do the research….oh yeah, because it may show why there is no need for any further regulation than already exists (remembering that all consumer products already have health and safety regulations that have to be passed in order for them to be on sale in the first place)

  3. I don’t see much risk in using electronic cigarettes. In fact, the much allegedly risks are nothing but speculations, 1st risk you mentioned electronic cigarettes produce secondhand vapor. What is secondhand vapor and how dangerous is it? I suggest you do some more research about it before mentioning such. Secondly, yes they can be purchased online but how – through the means of a credit card of debit card? And who do you think can avail a credit or debit card, do you really think that a simple kid (much described as in the many articles like this) can avail e-cigarettes easily now? I’ve been using electronic cigarettes for almost a year now and I’ve felt way better – and don’t tell me I don’t know my body too well. I’ve breath easier, run longer and my body feels lighter.

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