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Nurse Barbara Kilgalen, a participant in the Virginia Commonwealth University study, demonstrates e-cigarette use. The study indicates that electronic cigarettes epically fail at delivering nicotine to the body.  (Source: Paul Courson/CNN)
Despite popularity, the questions about e-cigarettes may not be all they are cracked up to be

Last year we wrote on the health risks associated with electronic cigarettes, commonly known as "e-cigarettes".  The devices have been billed as "healthy living" products and as a tool to help smokers quit their addiction.  Advocates say that since electronic cigarettes simply give smokers a vapor with nicotine and no burned chemicals, that they are relatively safe.

Those claims may be inaccurate, though.  Last March, the Food and Drug Administration banned imports of the devices, which are largely manufactured in China.  The FDA wants to investigate health concerns.  Namely, the FDA found that chemical formulas for the smoky vapor often contained dangerous components; at least one manufacturer used diethylene glycol as a key ingredient, a chemical commonly used in antifreeze and toxic to humans.

Now a new study adds to the doubts about e-cigarettes, indicating that they are about as successful at delivering nicotine as puffing on an unlit cigarette.  Dr. Thomas Eissenberg at the Virginia Commonwealth University led the study.  The study involved 16 participants and extensively monitored nicotine levels in the body and heart rates when using both traditional and electronic cigarettes.

The study, the first study of e-cigarettes to be conducted by U.S. doctors, found that almost no nicotine was actually delivered by the devices and instead users were actually inhaling a nicotine-devoid toxic vapor of compounds like diethylene glycol or nitrosamines, a family of cancer-causing nitrogen compounds.

Describes Dr. Eissenberg, "They are as effective at nicotine delivery as puffing on an unlit cigarette.  These e-cigs do not deliver nicotine.  Ten puffs from either of these electronic cigarettes with a 16 mg nicotine cartridge delivered little to no nicotine."

The study was funded by the National Cancer Institute and will soon be published in the journal Tobacco Control, a product of the British Medical Journal Group.

Nicotine has some beneficial health effects, particularly for the mentally ill, so it is disappointing that e-cigarettes appear unable to deliver the compound.

Despite the mounting criticisms, many e-cigarette users stand by the product.  Jimi Jackson, a former tobacco smoker in Richmond, Virginia, who sells electronic cigarettes, comments, "I smoked 37 years, and when I found them, I was, like, 'Thank, you Jesus.'"

The FDA is currently being sued by a company called "Smoking Everywhere" that imports e-cigarettes from China.  The company wants the FDA to lift the ban on e-cigarette imports.  The company's court filings reveal just how popular the devices are -- the company sold 600,000 e-cigarettes in a year via the company's network of 120 distributors in the United States. 

Why should the FDA lift its ban?  According to Washington lawyer Kip Schwartz, representing "Smoking Everywhere", "We are on the verge of going out of business, which is why we are suing the FDA in U.S. District Court."

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RE: Are you serious?
By Jellodyne on 2/10/2010 12:39:54 PM , Rating: 5
If the wiki is wrong point out how. Or point out conflicting research. Just slamming wikipedia as a source (for an informal blog posting anyway) says 1. you can't find any conflicting "real" sources and 2. you're an idiot.

RE: Are you serious?
By porkpie on 2/10/2010 12:51:13 PM , Rating: 2
All the research I've read says Jason (and Wikpedia) is wrong:

If other chemicals in the smoke is what's addictive, not nicotine..then why do nicotine patches control the craving?

RE: Are you serious?
By omnicronx on 2/10/2010 1:07:46 PM , Rating: 5
Jason has it half right, the super addictive properties of cigarette smoking come from the addition of MAOIs. Nicotine raises dopamine levels and MAOIs hinder your ability to clean out excess dopamine levels creating a sort of 'perfect storm' of addiction.

All that being said, your nicotine patches, inhalers etc will still raise dopamine levels, which would still help control your craving as your body is getting the increased levels, just not at the same level as smoking a cigarette.

Personally when I was trying to quit with the gum, I found myself having cravings far more often then if I were to have a cigarette, most likely because I was only getting a smaller dopamine fix compared to what I was used too.

RE: Are you serious?
By omnicronx on 2/10/2010 12:58:13 PM , Rating: 2
Technically, nicotine is not significantly addictive, as nicotine administered alone does not produce significant reinforcing properties.[36] However, only after coadministration with an MAOI, such as those found in tobacco, nicotine produces significant behavioral sensitization, a measure of addiction potential. This is similar in effect to amphetamine.[37]
A few lines later..
Modern research shows that nicotine acts on the brain to produce a number of effects. Specifically, its addictive nature has been found to show that nicotine activates reward pathways—the circuitry within the brain that regulates feelings of pleasure and euphoria.[38]
The article contradicts itself.. by reward pathways, they mean it raises dopamine levels, with or without MAOI's..

Most of your most common party drugs affect dopamine levels (such as ecstasy and cocaine) in a similar way, they too have addictive properties. If someone can show me any drug that vastly affects dopamine levels but is not have addictive properties, then I would be willing to agree with the article.
Until then...

RE: Are you serious?
By thurston on 2/10/2010 8:14:03 PM , Rating: 2
If someone can show me any drug that vastly affects dopamine levels but is not have addictive properties, then I would be willing to agree with the article.

LSD, Psilocybin and Mescaline. They all three affect dopamine and serotonin levels but actually all have very non-addictive properties. Take any of the three drugs a few days in a row and they will show diminished effect. The tolerance is a cross-tolerance effect. A few days of using any of these drugs will cause diminished effect among the others(ex. use LSD three days in a row then take psilocybin on the forth day, little to no effect would be felt from the psilocybin. None of the drugs cause any kind of withdrawal effects.

RE: Are you serious?
By slybootz on 2/10/2010 10:09:53 PM , Rating: 2
Valid points, but still misleading. While all three of these hallucinogens are non-addictive, not all of them have an effect on dopamine. LSD affects serotonin and dopamine receptors. Psilocybin actually has not been proven to directly affect dopamine; it's main reaction is with serotonin receptors. Similarly, Mescaline does not directly affect dopamine, but rather it binds to, and activates, serotonin receptors in the brain. Unfortunately, since the 60s and as a result of the War-On-Drugs, hallucinogenic research on these substances has not gotten very far.

As far as addiction to these substances, they are not chemically addictive, no. But can they be psychologically addictive? YES. Pretty much anything that affects the reward pathway in the brain can become psychologically addictive. Example: while Marijuana is not chemically addictive, there are MANY people who have become psychologically dependent on the substance, which eventually manifests into a physical addiction(the body cannot function properly without it).

But this is a topic for another discussion....let's get back to the matter at hand: e-cigarettes.

RE: Are you serious?
By SPOOFE on 2/11/2010 10:58:26 PM , Rating: 2
But can they be psychologically addictive? YES. Pretty much anything that affects the reward pathway in the brain can become psychologically addictive.

Like TV, sex, food, video games, following politics, fighting, drinking, driving, drinking and driving, walking, running, hiking, playing golf/tennis/hockey/etc., having conversations, not having conversations, reading, writing, collecting things, listening to music, going to clubs, doing a good job, getting an A on your test...

Clearly, there's some point where we can see a difference between "it's addictive" and "it can be addictive".

"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997

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