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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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Slandering Dr. Eissenberg
By VocalEK on 2/10/2010 7:54:10 PM , Rating: 3
To state that the test subjects were inhaling a "toxic vapor" borders on slanderous toward Dr. Eissenberg. He would not knowingly expose test subjects to potential harm. Furthermore, his research, sponsored by the National Cancer Institute, was required to undergo approval by an Institutional Review Board. The IRB knew ahead of time that test subjects would not be exposed to anything more toxic than the cigarette smoke they inahled on a daily basis. Indeed, the vapor is thousands of times less toxic than cigarette smoke.

There are two glaring inaccuracies in this blog:

"At least one manufacturer used diethylene glycol as a key ingredient , a chemical commonly used in antifreeze and toxic to humans."

The FDA tested 18 cartridges made by two manufacturers. One cartridge contained 1% diethylene glycol (DEG). Since when does 1% constitute a "key ingredient"? Now FDA characterized DEG as "antifreeze", knowing full well two things: 1) The active ingredient (nicotine) was extracted from tobacco and 2) DEG is added to tobacco to keep it moist.

"...instead users were actually inhaling a nicotine-devoid toxic vapor of compounds like diethylene glycol or nitrosamines, a family of cancer-causing nitrogen compounds."

Now, the author of this piece is starting to sound like one of FDA's PR hacks. We have already covered the issue of DEG. Now, on to the nitrosamines. Again, the nicotine in the cartridge is extracted from tobacco, and these were "tobacco-specific nitrosamines." I invite the author to access the FDA test report look up the quantity of nitorisamines detected, expressed as nanograms per gram (ng/g). He will be unable to find this data, because FDA chose to leave a quantitative anlaysis out of its toxicology report -- a glaring scientific error. We know, however, from the test report issued by Health New Zealand that the quantity of nitrosamines in a "high nicotine" cartridge is 8 ng/g -- which is the same quantity you find in FDA-approved nicotine products. Surprise!

Why did FDA fail to mention this? In a word, "Spin". FDA was asked to make electronic cigarettes go away, and this was their way of getting the job done.

Even more interesting is the fact that most of those 8 nanograms don't even make it into the vapor. Soterra, one of the companies victimized by the FDA's illegal product seizure, hired an FDA-approved testing laboratory. That testing revealed that only one nitrosamine makes it into the vapor in an extremely minute quantity, and that one is not carcinogenic .

To put all of this into perspective, a day's supply of tobacco cigarettes delivers from 5,500 to 11,000 ng/g of nitrosamines. So which daily dose of nitrosamines do you believe is more likely to cause cancer, eh?

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