Electronic Cigarettes: 5 Tough Questions Answered

by Dr Antonio Howell, MD

in quit smoking

The 3 Week Diet

With the rising concern about the health effects of cigarettes, more and more smokers are switching to electronic cigarettes. These battery-powered cylinders deliver nicotine with a puff of hot gas, minus the smoke.


Portrait of woman smoking with electronic cigaretteBut how safe are electronic cigarettes? Can they really curb nicotine addiction? Can they help save thousands of lives from the chronic health effects brought by cigarette smoking?

Let’s find out by tackling the most common questions about electronic cigarettes and their answers:


Are electronic cigarettes a substitute for traditional tobacco products?


Yes, it is being used as a substitute. But if you will ask – is it a healthy substitute? The answer is no. Electronic cigarettes are being marketed as a smoking cessation aid. But more and more studies are showing that these devices may also contain chemicals that can harm the body. Furthermore, it has nicotine too – the addictive compound in traditional cigarettes that has been shown to stimulate negative changes in the brain’s structure. When you stop using electronic cigarettes, you can get withdrawal symptoms that you will most likely to experience when you quit smoking traditional cigarettes, including feeling irritable, depressed, restless and anxious. It can be dangerous for people with heart problems. It may also harm your arteries over time.



Could it be a gateway drug?

A lot of people nowadays, even those who are not really smokers, are being tempted to try electronic cigarettes, thinking that they will not suffer from the deadly effects of traditional tobacco. Experts say that because nicotine is addictive, e-cigarettes could be a “gateway drug,” leading non-smokers and kids to use tobacco. They also worry that manufacturers, with huge advertising budgets and celebrity endorsements, could make smoking popular again. That would roll back decades of progress in getting people to quit or never start smoking.

Can electronic cigarettes help smokers quit?

 Researchers from the University of California at San Francisco analyzed 84 research studies on e-cigarettes and other related scientific materials, and found that industry claims about the devices are unsupported by the evidence to date, including claims that e-cigarettes help smokers quit. They also found that e-cigarette use is associated with significantly lower odds of quitting cigarettes. They also found that while the data are still limited, e-cigarette emissions “are not merely ‘harmless water vapor,’ as is frequently claimed, and can be a source of indoor air pollution.

 Are e-cigarettes approved or regulated by the government?

 State governments are just starting to apply stricter laws on the use of electronic cigarettes despite the lack of scientific evidence that these products are safe to use. Opponents say that e-cigarettes must be regulated because they are being marketed to children; some brands have fruit and candy flavours or are advertising with cartoon characters. They also contend that the health effects of e-cigarettes have not been well-studied, especially in children.

 Do e-cigarettes contain toxic chemicals?

A 2009 FDA analysis of e-cigarettes from two leading brands found that the samples contained carcinogens and other hazardous chemicals, including diethylene glycol, which is found in antifreeze. Last year, a report from Greek researchers found that using e-cigarettes increased breathing difficulty in both smokers and non-smokers, according to Medical News Today. A more recent study funded by a smoking-cessation advocacy group concluded that: “By the standards of occupational hygiene, current data do not indicate that exposures to vapers from contaminants in electronic cigarettes warrant a concern. There are no known toxicological synergies among compounds in the aerosol, and mixture of the contaminants does not pose a risk to health. However, exposure of vapers to propylene glycol and glycerin reaches the levels at which, if one were considering the exposure in connection with a workplace setting, it would be prudent to scrutinize the health of exposed individuals and examine how exposures could be reduced.”


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