Are E-Cigarettes a good way to quit smoking or they actually a health hazard as some health experts think?
The electronic cigarette concept first appeared in a patent acquired by Herbert A. Gilbert in 1963. The device was described as, "...a smokeless non-tobacco cigarette ... to provide a safe and harmless means for and method of smoking by replacing burning tobacco and paper with heated, moist, flavored air..." Due to the limitations of technology available at the time, and because tobacco was not yet generally accepted as harmful, this device never reached manufacturing.
The modern electronic cigarette was invented by Chinese pharmacist Hon Lik in 2003 and introduced to the market the following year. The company he worked for, Golden Dragon Holdings, changed its name to Ruyan (meaning "to resemble smoking"), and started exporting its products in 2005–2006, before receiving the first international patent in 2007.
Some users of the modern E-Cigarette swear by them, telling everyone that will listen that the tech-savvy method actually works. They state adamantly that the E-Cigarette actually helps people stop smoking. Health experts, on the other hand, well at least some health experts question the safety of using electronic cigarettes.
The Health Issues
Food and Drug Administration
In May 2009, the Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) Division of Pharmaceutical Analysis tested the contents of 19 varieties of electronic cigarette cartridges produced by two vendors (NJoy and Smoking Everywhere). Diethylene glycol was detected in one of the cartridges manufactured by Smoking Everywhere. In addition, tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs), known cancer-causing agents, were detected in all of the cartridges from one brand and two of the cartridges from the other brand. The study found that the actual nicotine levels did not always correspond to the amount of nicotine the cartridges purported to contain. The analysis found traces of nicotine in some cartridges that claimed to be nicotine-free. Further concerns were raised over inconsistent amounts of nicotine delivered when drawing on the device. In July 2009, the FDA issued a press release discouraging the use of electronic cigarettes and repeating previously stated concerns that electronic cigarettes may be marketed to young people and lack appropriate health warnings.
The Electronic Cigarette Association said that the FDA testing was too "narrow to reach any valid and reliable conclusions.” Exponent, Inc., commissioned by NJOY to review the FDA's study in July 2009, objected to the FDA analysis of electronic cigarettes lacking comparisons to other FDA-approved nicotine replacement therapy products where similar levels of TSNA were detected. Exponent concluded that the FDA's study did not support the claims of potential adverse health effects from the use of electronic cigarettes. Furthermore, FDA methods "have been lambasted in journals" by some medical and health research experts who noted the potentially harmful chemicals were measured at "about one million times lower concentrations than are conceivably related to human health.”
American Association of Public Health Physicians
As of April 2010, The American Association of Public Health Physicians (AAPHP) supports electronic cigarettes sales to adults, "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." However, the AAPHP is against sales to minors. The AAPHP recommends that the FDA reclassify the electronic cigarette as a tobacco product (as opposed to a drug/device combination
On 27 March 2009, Health Canada issued an advisory against electronic cigarettes. The advisory stated "Although these electronic smoking products may be marketed as a safer alternative to conventional tobacco products and, in some cases, as an aid to quitting smoking, electronic smoking products may pose risks such as nicotine poisoning and addiction.
World Health Organization
The World Health Organization stated in September 2008 that to its knowledge, "no rigorous, peer-reviewed studies have been conducted showing that the electronic cigarette is a safe and effective nicotine replacement therapy. WHO does not discount the possibility that the electronic cigarette could be useful as a smoking cessation aid." WHO Tobacco Free Initiative director ad interim Douglas Bettcher stated that claims that electronic cigarettes can help smokers quit need to be backed up by clinical studies and toxicity analysis and operate within the proper regulatory framework. He added: "Until they do that, WHO cannot consider the electronic cigarette to be an appropriate nicotine replacement therapy, and it certainly cannot accept false suggestions that it has approved and endorsed the product."
In 2010, the Tobacco Regulation meeting held in Uruguay came out with warnings about electronic cigarettes. Signatories of the meeting's treaty included representatives of countries and regions such as Canada, Brazil, Thailand, Hong Kong, and Saudi Arabia, where electronic cigarettes had been banned.
The secretariat of the meeting refused and stated that electronic cigarettes do not violate articles 9 and 10 of the framework convention for tobacco control regarding COMPOSITION (toxins, carcinogens, harm to self) or EMISSIONS (second hand smoke or harm to others). The secretariat stated that the problems regarding electronic cigarettes relate to regulatory issues and not to the work that the convention is tasked with. In the memo, they also mentioned that electronic cigarettes can be considered a medical product only IF the marketer wanted to make medical claims, otherwise they are a tobacco product.
Health New Zealand Ltd. study
In 2008, Dr. Murray Laugesen, of Health New Zealand, published a report on the safety of Ruyan electronic cigarette cartridges funded by e-cigarette manufacturer, Ruyan; Laugesen and the WHO claim that the research is independent. The presence of trace amounts of TSNAs in the cartridge solution was documented in the analysis. The results also indicated that the level of nicotine in the electronic cigarette cartridges was not different from the concentration of nicotine found in nicotine patches. John Britton, a lung specialist at the University of Nottingham, UK and chair of the Royal College of Physicians Tobacco Advisory Group said “if the levels are as low as in nicotine replacement therapy, I don’t think there will be much of a problem.” The study's detailed quantitative analysis concluded that carcinogens and toxicants are present only below harmful levels. It concluded: "Based on the manufacturer’s information, the composition of the cartridge liquid is not hazardous to health, if used as intended."
Boston University School of Public Health study
A study by researchers at the Boston University School of Public Health in 2010 concluded that electronic cigarettes were safer than real cigarettes and may aid in breaking the habit of smoking. Researchers said that while further studies on electronic cigarettes were needed, "Few, if any, chemicals at levels detected in electronic cigarettes raise serious health concerns." Electronic cigarettes were found to be "much safer" than traditional tobacco ones, and had a level of toxicity similar to existing nicotine replacements.
In the report, the level of carcinogens in electronic cigarettes was found to be up to 1,000 times lower than regular cigarettes. It also said early evidence shows that electronic cigarettes may help people to stop smoking by simulating a tobacco cigarette.
The jury is still out
Are E-Cigarettes helpful or harmful? More studies need to be conducted before a definitive statement can be made on that.