Sales of electronic cigarettes in the United States have exploded in recent years. Based on some estimates, this market is expected to reach 1 billion dollars in 2014. It is well known that the smoking cessation process can be very consuming and frustrating. Unfortunately, a large number of these attempts turn out to be unsuccessful.
Electronic cigarettes have been marketed as a healthier option to tobacco smoking. In some countries, such as New Zealand, nicotine free electronic cigarettes are available over the counter.
What is the truth?
Does the use of electronic cigarettes help with tobacco smoking cessation? How about the safety of these cigarettes?
Let’s find out!
What are electronic cigarettes?
According to the Center for Disease Control, E cigarettes are battery-powered devices that provide doses of nicotine and other additives to the user in an aerosol. Depending on the brand, e-cigarette cartridges typically contain nicotine, a component to produce the aerosol (e.g., propylene glycol or glycerol), and flavorings (e.g., fruit, mint, or chocolate). Potentially harmful constituents also have been documented in some cartridges, including irritants, geno-toxins, and animal carcinogens.
If you didn’t understand the above CDC explanation, you are not alone. Please read it again or let me explain it a little. A battery operated device burns a mixture of strange sounding chemicals added to nicotine and some “nice flavor” of a fruit, mint or chocolate. In some of these mixtures, irritating and cancer causing materials have been found.
It sounds a little creepy.
To date, only four studies have been published that look at the benefits and safety of these nicotine containing cigarettes. However, the size of these studies is very small with duration of less than 6 months (short-term). In other words, the quality of these studies is lacking and they do not provide long-term reliable information about the safety and benefits of these cigarettes.
If we would have studied the effects of tobacco smoking on only 300 people for less than 6 months, we would probably not discover any negative side effects of smoking on the body. In order to find out about health problems such as lung cancer or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) it requires smoking over a longer period of time with a longer study time.
In a study published in Lancet, a modest benefit of using e-cigarettes (with or without nicotine) in helping tobacco smokers to quit smoking was noticed. This benefit was similar to using old fashioned nicotine patches.
Smoking is bad, whatever or however we smoke. The results are only devastation, waste of health (e.g cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer) and certainly, money. I am sorry that I can’t paint a nicer picture about the effects of smoking on our bodies. But if we go back to electronic cigarettes; we don’t have enough data that would support recommending or using these products for smoking cessation purposes. The battery operated cigarettes still push strange and creepy chemicals into the body. Why should they be better than other ones? It is difficult to think otherwise.
If somebody requires nicotine to stop smoking then probably a nicotine patch would be a better choice because of its smoke-free action and the availability of better knowledge about the long-term effects of the products.
But research is still ongoing and more information is forthcoming. Stay tuned.