Study: E-Cigarettes Fail at Nicotine Delivery, No Better Than Unlit Cigarette
February 10, 2010 11:42 AM
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
, 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,
, "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."
"So if you want to save the planet, feel free to drive your Hummer. Just avoid the drive thru line at McDonalds." -- Michael Asher
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