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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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By HDBanger on 2/10/2010 1:47:49 PM , Rating: 2
They are full of shit, period. I used to smoked 2 packs of camel filters a day. I started ecigs, (vaping), christmas eve of 2008. I have not touched an "analog" (real cig), in that time. It costs me about $40 dollars a month to vape as opposed to $60x4 it would cost me to smoke. I buy from only U.S. suppliers, ( My lungs have cleared out, I have not had one withdrawal symptom. I don't reek of cig smoke anymore. I can vape anywhere I wish, no second hand smoke, no FIRST hand smoke. The propaganda being put of about ecigs is because they are losing money like no tomorrow already from lost tobacco sales. It is getting bigger and more popular daily. It does work, and if you haven't tried it your ignorant.

By melvin121 on 2/10/2010 2:02:31 PM , Rating: 2
Totaly agree.

I just quit smoking about 6 weeks ago..I did it cold turkey, I had my reasons. But i did enjoy smoking as bad as that sounds but as a vaper I know you can understand. Im getting married this year and Im totally getting a e-cig starter kit with 0mg nicotine just cause if I get the urge to smoke in a drunken craze during my bachelour party or get stressed out with wedding crap, I know I can use that to fall back on and not be worried of getting hooked again.

By omnicronx on 2/10/2010 3:23:16 PM , Rating: 3
The only real fact here is that nobody can claim any fact about ecigs as true. Why? Because there has no been any clinical or government body testing.

Everything that falls under the realm of the FDA must go through this process, good or bad, deadly or healthy.

The way I see it is if these manufacturers had nothing to hide, they would have submitted these products to the FDA years ago. So please explain to me why on earth a company which has 600k sales per year would not do so?

You are using you personal feelings to justify what is basically an illegal industry. Even if a pharmaceutical company developed a miracle drug that cured everything, it would not be cleared for sale until it had been properly tested, so why should ecigs be any different?

By ZachDontScare on 2/10/2010 4:24:33 PM , Rating: 3
I never smoked, and dont really care about the subject.

But apparently the posters above have tested it, and it works for them. Believe it or not, not everybody needs a government stamp of approval for every aspect of their life.

By omnicronx on 2/11/2010 11:35:47 AM , Rating: 2
But apparently the posters above have tested it, and it works for them. Believe it or not, not everybody needs a government stamp of approval for every aspect of their life.
I'm not making that claim, heck I'm not even saying they are bad for you. What you personally consume is your own business, what you sell is not. The importers have not followed the rules, and have not even submitted their product for testing. As such they should not be allowed to sell their product.

I can see that people here are not looking at the bigger picture, especially those are are actual users. Do people already forget what happened with the kids toys filled with lead? This is what happens when importers do not follow regulations, and what incentive will their be to make a quality product if we allow them to bypass safety precautions that all US vendors must abide by?

Its a slippery slope my friends.. slippery slope..

By melvin121 on 2/10/2010 4:46:38 PM , Rating: 2
Since when is the FDA end all be all? Correct me if Im wrong but isnt the FDA more of a North American association?

So your telling me that if some wonder drug was available over in Europe (cause you know the germans make everything lol @ shamwow) That cured a particual ailment that you or someone you cared for was suffering from (knock on wood), your telling me that you wouldnt go out of your way to import this thing, even if it didnt have the FDA's approval? Dont give me this personal feelings crap, push comes to shove you would order sound like a broken record with that argument.

There would never be any advancements if that were the case..

By nbourbaki on 2/10/2010 5:00:58 PM , Rating: 2
October 2008: In a study funded by Ruyan, Health New Zealand conducts a detailed quantitative analysis and concludes that carcinogens and toxicants are present only below harmful levels. On the basis of the findings, the e-cigarette is rated several orders of magnitude (100 to 1000 times) less dangerous than smoking tobacco cigarettes. The nicotine dose is comparable to that of a medicinal nicotine inhaler. Overall, the product tested was deemed a "safe alternative to smoking."

Really, most companies go to great lengths to avoid the FDA or any government agency because it's a time and money sink without an upside.

Actually, a federal judge has enjoined the FDA from stopping the importation of e-cigs because they had no jurisdiction. You think all of this is flying under the FDA's radar?

By borowki2 on 2/11/2010 4:17:05 PM , Rating: 2
I know. I have one. I'm sure every user probably experiencew this once, where you overfill the cartridge and end up with a massive nicotine high. This stuff works. We're not talking exactly rocket science here. A e-cig is basically a li-ion battery plus liquid nicotine. The heating element vaporizes the liquid and you inhale it. If you puff it correctly you can get as large a cloud of smoke as from real cigarettes.

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