The electronic cigarette is the newest technology used to replace tobacco cigarettes, particularly by smokers who are trying to kick the habit. It resembles a cigarette, is battery-operated, and the cartridges used within them contain a liquid that usually has less than 2% nicotine. This liquid is then vaporized by the same type of chemical that is used in a fog machine. You can avoid incurring lung damage by using electronic cigarettes because they do not require the combustion that is involved in smoking cigarettes. The risks for heart attack and stroke are reduced because poisonous gases like carbon monoxide are not present. Also, the tobacco contained in conventional cigarettes is not present in electronic cigarettes, and the nicotine that is used in them is of the same pharmaceutical grade that is found in other nicotine replacement products such as the patch, gum, lozenges, and oral inhalers.
Despite these claims, in July of 2009, the FDA issued a report stating that a lab analysis revealed carcinogens and toxic chemicals such as diethylene glycol, which is used in antifreeze, were present in samples tested. It also stated that the electronic cigarettes emitted a vapor which contained nicotine and other chemicals, and that it also detected nitrosamines, which are carcinogens.
Before this report came out, in April of 2009, Dr. Murray Laugeson of Health New Zealand conducted a study which showed that the vapor which is emitted in electronic cigarettes does not contain anything which will harm users. He reported that: “E-cigarettes are akin to a medicinal nicotine inhaler in safety, dose, and addiction potential.”
Additionally, the report issued by the FDA in July of 2009 was rather incomplete. Regarding the tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAS), the way in which the FDA worded the statement, it made it seem as though several different types of carcinogens were detected. Not only that, but the quantity of TSNAs measured was not mentioned. From the testing conducted, it was found that there are 8 nanograms on 1 gram of liquid that contained 1.6% nicotine. An FDA-approved 4 mg. nicotine replacement patch also contains 8 nanograms. So why are there no cancer warnings on FDA-approved nicotine patches? The answer is clear—because 8 mg. is such a small amount that it has never been shown to cause cancer.
The report also stated that “toxic chemicals” were found, but the study tells of only one toxin, which was a chemical found in one cartridge in a non-toxic concentration of 1%. These cartridges held no more than 0.5 g of liquid; therefore, an adult of average weight would have to drink several thousand cartridges of liquid in a single day that contained the diethylene glycol in order to consume a fatal dose.
The report also left out the fact that only a tiny trace of minor tobacco alkaloid was found in the vapor, and this is not even toxic or carcinogenic.
According to Dr. Michael Siegel of the Boston University School of Public Health and Dr. Zachary Cahn from Berkeley: “Although the existing research does not warrant a conclusion that electronic cigarettes are safe in absolute terms and further clinical studies are needed to comprehensively assess the safety of electronic cigarettes, a preponderance of the available evidence shows them to be much safer than tobacco cigarettes and comparable in toxicity to conventional nicotine replacement products.”
Furthermore, as far as bystanders are concerned, as demonstrated in another study, in a comparison of the effects of electronic cigarette vapor and cigarette smoke on indoor air quality, the conclusion states: “For all byproducts measured, electronic cigarettes produce very small exposures relative to tobacco cigarettes. The study indicates no apparent risk to human health from e-cigarette emissions based on the compounds analyzed.”
Because the electronic cigarette is a relatively new technology, uncertainty still exists among the medical and scientific professions as to its benefits and risks, but in April of 2010, the American Association of Public Health Physicians gave their support to the electronic cigarette “because the possibility exists to save the lives of four million of the eight million current adult American smokers who will otherwise die of a tobacco-related illness over the next twenty years.”