Are Electronic Cigarettes the New Trend?

electronic-cigaretteThese plastic cigs dispenses nicotine vapour without releasing any of the harmful substances found in tobacco smoke. The idea is to try and satisfy a smoker’s need for a nicotine fix without putting their lives at risk. And since this isn’t a real cigarette, it can be “smoked” indoors. Obviously bars and restaurants are in favour. The device is actually quite clever, invented by Hon Lik, working for the Ruyan electronics company in China. It looks like a cigarette, but is actually a plastic tube that houses a rechargeable battery, a heating coil and a cartridge that contains nicotine. A sensor detects when a smoker takes a drag, sends a current through the coil which then heats up and vaporizes the nicotine. There is even a light emitting diode that is activated by drawing on the cigarette, giving the illusion of a glow. Smoke is produced by vapourizing some propylene glycol included in the cartridge. This is actually the same chemistry used in theatre smoke machines. Propylene glycol is a liquid that changes into a gas readily upon heating, but as soon as it encounters cooler air, it condenses to form tiny droplets of liquid which resemble smoke. But since there is no combustion, the nasty nitrosamines and polycylic hydrocarbons emanating from a regular cigarette are not produced.
While there is no question that nicotine from an e-cigarette does get into the bloodstream, there is no evidence that puffing on such ciggies helps to give up smoking. And companies cannot make such a claim because that would put the e-cigarette into the category of a drug or a medical device and proof of efficacy would have to be furnished. So marketers are promoting their product as a healthier alternative to smoking. And it probably is. The World Health Organization though is not convinced and wants e-cigarettes to be banned until they are proven safe. There are some concerns about inhaling propylene glycol as well as the small amounts of acetaldehyde which originate from the alcohol used as a solvent to prepare the nicotine solution in the cartridge. Compared to the risk of smoking though, these risks are minimal. Because many smokers may not find puffing on a plastic tube very appealing, manufacturers are coming up with some ingenious ideas. Like adding an extract of valerian root to the smoke, claiming that 30-40 puffs within two hours of bedtime can promote sleep and relieve anxiety. You can also add liquid Belgian chocolate flavour or liquid Cuban Cigar Flavour to the cartridge if desired. But what else are you adding to the smoke? Has anyone considered whether or not the plastic of which the cigarette is made, or the the cartridge itself releases any undesirable chemicals when heated up? I can’t find any research about that at all, in fact I can’t even find out what plastic they use. So think we need to do a bit more work before declaring that the e-cigarettes are going to make you live longer.

2 Responses to “Are Electronic Cigarettes the New Trend?”

  1. Joe Schwarcz says:

    There is no doubt that e-cigs are less harmful than the real ones. While there is controversy about their effectiveness in terms of giving up smoking, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that they do help. You seem to be on the right track…but will have to see how long this satisfies you. What I talked about was the risk of getting the nicotine solution on your skin. It can lead to rapid absorption and palpitations. If a child gets his or her hands on it and drinks it, it could be lethal.

  2. shawn kelly says:

    Good DAY Dr.Schwartz

    I understand you recently did a radio interview informing people on the esmoke. I recently started smoking these. And im talking about the ones that you refill with nicotene “juice”. I wasnt able to hear what you had to say about these. Was eondering if you could give me the jist of it? i smoked about 3/4 pack a day for 29yrs and havent had a smoke in over a month. Am i kidding myself with these e smokes?

    Thanks,
    Shawn Kelly

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