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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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FDA Evaluation
By spookynutz on 2/10/2010 3:58:25 PM , Rating: 2
I was trying to quit smoking myself, and I looked heavily into the e-cig. I did read the FDA evaluation before purchasing one, which is actually where I first heard about it. A year ago there were a lot of web articles referencing this study and the e-cig. The researchers did find diethylene glyclol in one import manufacturers e-liquid. (555 High flavor). However, all other 17 liquids involved in the evaluation contained less than harmful levels of all ingredients. None of the others contained DEG. The study is available online.

I have used the e-cigarette. As a 12+ year smoker (Pack-a-day Camel Menthols), I can honestly say it was the only cessation method that actually worked for me on all fronts. It is the only worthwhile alternative in my mind. It completely satisfied every craving I had associated with a real cigarette. Throat hit, head rush, and oral fixation. Whereas gums, patches, etc. all just made me wish I was smoking a real cigarette instead. In some cases I ended up doing just that.

While I'm not qualified to discount this article, whether they actually deliver nicotine or not is irrelevant in my mind. As a last resort it helped me quit smoking regular cigarettes, and my only regret is that I didn't use it as the first resort. The e-cig itself I quit without even consciously thinking about.

RE: FDA Evaluation
By UncleRufus on 2/10/2010 4:42:37 PM , Rating: 2
There haven't been enough studies about e-cigs, true.

However. I know this.

I smoked for 16 years. Tried all kinds of crap, including gum, the patch, prescriptions, etc...

None of them worked.

I bought an e-cig from a local shop about 2 months ago. I made the transition from regular to e-cig almost effortlessly. I wanted a regular cigarette for maybe a day or two, but the e-cig was an acceptable substitute, AND I could use it in the apartment, at work, at a restaurant, etc..That was a big deal, as I hadn't smoked in my apartment for many years.

I would say I used it slightly more than regular cigarettes for the first couple of weeks, but then I started using it less and less. I carried it around in my pocket, which was great, because I could take one or two puffs if I felt the need, and then just put it back in my pocket. It wasn't like I needed to finish a whole cigarette.

I smoked less and less until, about 2 weeks ago, after about 1.5 months of usage...I just haven't bothered taking a puff off of it. AND I don't feel like having a smoke. It's still in my jacket pocket, but it's been sitting there like an unused security blanket, honestly.

So, smoke free for 2 months, and haven't even used the e-cig in a couple weeks. Honestly they could be twice as bad for as regular smokes, but if you can get off of them that much easier, it's still worth it.

So it's been like gold for me.

That said...there seems to be a WIDE variation in quality with these things. Most seem to be made in China and are really cheap. I would much rather see a good quality made-in-america version.

Hell, they are missing the boat. If Camel made one of these, I would have paid more for it happily.

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