An electronic cigarette is a slender cylinder resembling a real cigarette that dishes out nicotine vapor directly to the lungs. It contains a disposable flagon of liquefied nicotine dissolved in propylene glycol, the kind of substance used in smoke machines that is gradually heated and distributed by a miniature but efficient atomizer located in its core. It allows smokers to get their nicotine hit minus the other unhealthy consequences of the real thing.
Electronic cigarettes are categorized by the US Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) as a medical device. Having this type of classification meant that the e-cig is at the same group as condoms, syringes, nebulizers and other gadgets that do not require a prescription and is deemed generally safe when used according to manufacturer’s instruction. It’s gradually superseding nicotine gums and patches as an alternative nicotine replacement therapy replacing. The alarming figures have made some people reconsider if these are really as safe as they claim to be.
Studies in favour of e-cigarettes
A scientific investigation conducted by the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center in Athens, Greece has revealed that electronic cigarettes do not pose any harmful effect to how the heart functions. However, the study is limited to 22 test subjects which is why many experts still question the validity of such result. Researchers who have disclosed the results at the 2012 European Society of Cardiology in Munich, Germany acknowledge that there is a need for a larger study to further prove their results.
In another survey carried out in the University of Alabama in 2009, the test subjects are actual smokers who have switched to electronic cigarette. About 90% agree that their health condition improved after they ditched the real thing. Like the previously mentioned study in Greece, the researchers also agree that while electronic cigarettes are not absolutely safe, they are way safer than the actual cigarette. However, this corroborates another study that to get to the same levels of carcinogenic nitrosamines of a single cigarette, one had to smoke e-cigs every day for about a year.
This result was also affirmed by tobacco researchers at Boston University in their paper published in the Journal of Public Health Policy. Vapor cigarettes have fewer chemical risks compared to real tobacco cigarettes. In addition, they also found that using such device lowers the smoker’s craving because of its tactile simulation of a real cigarette.
Possible consequences of vapor cigarettes
A report presented to the annual meeting of the European Respiratory Society in Vienna by the researchers from the University of Athens affirms that electronic cigarettes restrict the amount of oxygen that enters the body’s bloodstream. The investigation involved eight nonsmokers and the rest are made up of 24 smokers where 11 of them have normal lung function and 13 had lung conditions (such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). The researchers measured airway resistance which they have seen rise for about ten minutes after using the e-cig. This effect was more obvious in smokers with regular lung functions. An increase in airway resistance translates to less oxygen entering the body’s circulation.
Since the vapor cigarettes still deliver an unverifiable amount of nicotine in their e-juice, experts still frown upon its usage. The European Respiratory Society has advised against its use as the high levels of nicotine are addictive and may trigger lung cancer development. A pulmonary expert from New York believes that nicotine consumption has no direct effect on cardiovascular health but its impact on lung cancer will be significant. In fact, New York wants to be the first state to ban this device because it is unregulated and may lure younger people to get into the habit.
The verdict on e-cigs
Most of the electronic cigarettes being sold in the markets right now are imported from China. It is not mentioned in the Tobacco Control Act nor does it qualify as a drug delivery product according to the US FDA. Its aggressive marketing campaign online have made a killing in the market. Even if experts agree that it is a lesser evil compared to real cigarettes, there is an imperative to regulate its sales and provide strict quality standards that its manufacturers should adhere to.