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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 slybootz on 2/10/2010 3:52:45 PM , Rating: 3
There are a lot of great comments to this article, and unfortunately a few very misinformed comments as well. I will try to clarify a few points that are typically misunderstood about e-cigarettes. Some may think my knowledge is biased, but it is research based. I have been using an e-cigarette for over a year, with no side effects. I was able to quit a 1-2pack/day cigarette habit.

Antifreeze - i've heard people say over and over, that e-cigarettes contain antifreeze. This is just nonsense, and ill-informed data. Yes, PG, or propylene glycol(one of the main ingredients in many nicotine e-liquids) is used in antifreeze. But propylene glycol is also found in a LOT of products: shampoo, deodorant, food, food coloring, hospital-safe air sanitizers. If you use an ASTHMA INHALER, you are inhaling PG. If you've ever been to a rock concert or theater production that uses a smoke/fog machine, you are inhaling PG. Many people are misinformed about the dangers of PG, and claim there have been no studies on the effects of PG....

This website has a collection of studies done on PG.

Some, very few in fact, have an acute allergy to propylene glycol, and therefore cannot use it. They have another option: VG, or vegetable glycerin. Very similar in properties to PG, but chemically different. When it comes to e-liquid, the liquid nicotine solution found in pre-filled cartridges, there are only a few ingredients in these liquids. The most simple e-liquids contain: either propylene glycol(PG) or vegetable glycerin(VG), or a mix of the two, nicotine, and flavoring. Some e-liquids may also contain alcohol, used for lowering viscosity(thickness) of the liquid. Some liquids also may contain distilled water, used for the same purpose.
As for the import of e-cigs and their components from places like China, I do believe the FDA has a valid point to want to regulate import of nicotine. However, as many other have pointed out, there are many reputable USA-based manufacturers of e-cigarettes and e-liquid. Personally, I only use USA-made products, but many Chinese companies, such as Smoore(, have strict productions standards in their factories, and are generally acknowledged as safe.

As for the argument that long term testing has not been done specifically in regards to e-cigarettes, but this is because e-cigs have only been available to the USA for 2-3years. Long term testing HAS been done on traditional smoked cigarettes, and the health effects are devastating...yet they are still available on every street corner. Think about energy drinks such as Red Bull: energy drinks have only been marketed in the USA since the 1990s, and Red Bull in specific has only been available since 1997. There have been no studies that prove that Red Bull and other energy drinks are lethal, but over-use of them can result in caffeine addiction, diabetes, and other health problems. Still, these drinks are still widely available to those who wish to purchase them and are aware of potential side effects.

Why should e-cigarettes be treated differently than products with similar relative circumstances?

E-cigarettes are not for everyone, just like Nicorette gum, Chantix, the nicotine patch, and other Nicotine Delivery Systems are not for everyone. I know, for me at least, that e-cigarettes are one of the main reasons why I do not smoke analog cigarettes anymore. While the technology behind e-cigs may be new and different, we should all be able to agree that e-cigarettes are significantly safer than combusted tobacco cigarettes.

Feel free to correct me if I am misinformed. One of my biggest pet peeves is when people claim to know the facts, when instead they have done little or no un-biased research. I am not a doctor, but simply one, of thousands of people, who have had a positive experience from e-cigarettes. I will continue to use my PV(personal vaporizer, another term for e-cig), because I know it works for me.

RE: research
By slybootz on 2/10/2010 3:57:49 PM , Rating: 3
forgot to mention another comparison:

Tobacco smoke from analog cigarettes contains about 4000 chemicals, 43 known to be carcinogenic.

Several e-liquid manufacturers have done studies on the chemical content of exhaled e-cigarette vapor, and found that only a handful of chemical compounds are being exhaled(less than 1% the amount created by burning a regular cigarette), and none of these chemicals have been shown to be carcinogenic. Results will vary from different e-liquid manufacturers, but in general, studies have shown that the vapor is safe(at least 99% safer than cigarette smoke).

"If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion." -- Scientology founder L. Ron. Hubbard

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