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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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RE: More scare tactics?
By omnicronx on 2/11/2010 12:09:30 PM , Rating: 2
I'm guessing your not a smoker (on my 6th week of no smoking ang going strong)...let me let you in on a secret. Yes smokers know its bad for them...its a weird complicated thing..but this may come to a suprise to you that generally, smokers do NOT have a death wish...So even though there is still so many unknowns of these e-cigs, so many smokers are butting out because of them. is there a risk? I dont know...but niether does the FDA.
I am a smoker thank you very much (also trying to quit). I basically agree with you, as we seem to be on the same page.

The fact here remains that all studies conducted have been short term, and its really naive for one to think that a few studies performed over a small period of time as conclusive. Even smoking cigarettes it can take 50 years of use to get cancer, how on earth can anyone make the claim that these are safe?

These are not even being marketed as smoking cessation devices in most cases (i.e devices to help quit smoking). They are mainly marketed as safe smoking alternatives, when nobody can possibly prove it as such. That includes all of you who have tried it, and use it on a daily basis. Just because you don't feel the same symptoms as smoking, does not mean its good for you.

I'm not against ecigs, I think they could potentially be a good alternative to cigarettes, I'm just not that naive to think they are a safe alternative as it is impossible to prove it as such as this point in time.

In the end its not a bad thing for anyone to quit smoking, by nature inhaling carcinogens are more than likely worse for you in the long run, but their are a bunch of avid users even on this board that would like to claim that there are little to no side effects when they could not possibly know this for sure. Whether it be you, me, the FDA or some other government agency, nobody really knows.

Consume what you would like, but don't be spreading false information.

RE: More scare tactics?
By SPOOFE on 2/11/2010 10:53:11 PM , Rating: 2
The fact here remains that all studies conducted have been short term, and its really naive for one to think that a few studies performed over a small period of time as conclusive.

The fact here remains that it's silly to demand a study when there's no real mystery; the ingredients, and the properties of those ingredients, are very easy to understand. Demanding a study is asinine.

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