Smoking cigarettes fell from societal grace 50 years ago, but millions still light one up every day. A product introduced less than 10 years ago may make tobacco obsolete. The electronic cigarette (e cig) comes in any flavor imaginable and users control the amount of nicotine delivered to their body.
Now a $3 billion industry, e-cigarettes reach new consumers in countries all over the world monthly. With so many people using these products and new companies putting unregulated products on the market each year, the safety of their use comes into question.
Nicotine Addiction *
Addiction, as defined by the Merriam Webster Dictionary, includes compulsively seeking and using a substance that changes the brain’s structure and can lead to self-harm or death.
Drug addiction affects 1 in 20 people throughout the world. The most addictive drugs in the world’s top 3:
Over a billion people worldwide awaken to the call of the first cigarette of the day. Overcoming the draw of tobacco eludes the majority of smokers wishing to stop because the nature of the compulsion goes much deeper than the addictive chemicals the body craves. Smoking a cigarette involves:
Daily activities revolve around the habit and breaking these habits often seems impossible. However, the ways to break the unhealthy habit that also caters to the lifestyle of a smoker can prove more successful than other cessation programs. The health of the world’s population will improve measurably when tobacco use drops substantially or stops.
Worldwide, 1.1 billion people smoke tobacco cigarettes. Over the next 20 years, this number will increase by 5 billion. Tobacco kills half of those who use it and adversely affects the health of those exposed to it. Every year, 6-million people die of tobacco related illnesses. Of those, second-hand smoke causes 600,000 deaths. Logically
, if the smoke goes away, the deaths caused by it stop.
Alone, nicotine causes few health issues other than addiction and withdrawal symptoms when quitting. The nicotine delivery method and the chemicals in tobacco cause heart disease, stroke, cancer and other life threatening illnesses.
Quitting reduces the chances of getting one of these diseases. Quitting does not always come easy. Withdrawals from nicotine cause mood swings, headaches, sleepiness and depression. It can take one or two weeks to start feeling normal and over 85% of those who try to quit fail. With the aid of nicotine replacement products, more people quit smoking successfully.
Smoking cessation products on the market today include:
- Nicotine gum
- Prescription tablets
- Nicotine Patches
Of these most used cessation products, e-cigarette is the newest and, recently, the most talked about.
Inventing an Electronic Cigarette *
Herbert E Gilbert designed the first e-cigarette in 1963. His ahead-of-its-time innovation did not interest the public and his idea vanished without going into production. Twenty years later in China, a pharmacist named Han Lik developed the modern electronic cigarette after his father died of lung cancer. His invention became popular in China and continues to gain popularity worldwide.
The years between 1963 and 2003 saw dramatic changes in the public’s opinion about using tobacco products. In 1963 smoking was seen as a natural part of life. Television programs often showed the main characters smoking. The most popular smokers included:
- Lucy and Ricky
- Ward Cleaver
- Andy Griffith
- Rob and Laura Petri
Adults and children saw beautiful people doing adventurous and sexy things because they smoked a certain brand of cigarettes. In the 1960s medical proof of the health problems associated with smoking tobacco began trickling into the public’s awareness. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, volumes of information about the dangers of tobacco flooded society.
The UK and Australia banned all advertising of cigarettes on television in 1965. The World Health Organization (WHO) reiterated the bans in these countries plus the other 26 participating European Union countries in the 1980s. The United States began banning tobacco advertising in 1969.
Slowly, smoking became unacceptable socially and bans on the activity in public buildings began in the United States and other countries. The bans spread to restaurants, grocery stores and bars, which prompted several retailers, like Target, to stop selling tobacco products all together.
E-cigarettes, when first introduced, seemed the perfect way to continue using nicotine without the harmful chemicals or exposing non-smokers to the toxicity of second-hand smoke. The e-cig produces vapor that leaves little odor and no smoke.
How an Electronic Cigarette Works *
Electronic cigarettes have three main components:
- A chamber where vaporization takes place
- A rechargeable battery
- A cartridge of e-cig liquid, also called e-cig tanks
When activated, by puffing or pushing a button, the liquid in the chamber heats and turns to vapor, which is drawn through the
chamber and into the lungs. E-cigarette users, vapers, call this vaping, a term that made its way into the Oxford dictionary in 2014.
E-cig juice comes in different 7,764 different flavors and nicotine stre
ngths. Those wanting to quit smoking tobacco cigarettes can purchase e-cigarette kits designed to reduce the amount of nicotine taken in over time. These step kits include rechargeable e-cig batteries and cartridges that gradually decrease in strength until they need no nicotine in the e-juice.
Are E-Cigs Bad for You? *
The main ingredient, nicotine, poses few health risks other than addiction and withdrawal symptoms when withheld. They do not contain the 4000 other chemicals of tobacco cigarettes like:
- Carbon monoxide
This lessens the health risks to users and those exposed to the vapor second-hand. When tested in an enclosed room, researchers found that the nicotine level in an e-cigarette equals about one tenth of that in a combustible cigarette.
E-Cig Mods *
Also under scrutiny, modified e-cigarettes pose more health concerns than their older counterparts. Regular e-cigarettes need frequent battery charges and e-liquid refills. These inconveniences led to using larger, stronger batteries and bigger e-liquid tanks that keep the e cigarette working all day or for several days.
The stronger batteries also heat the e liquid to a hotter temperature, which concentrates larger amounts of nicotine into each puff. Studies of a few modded e-cigarettes found:
- Users inhale higher concentrations of particles
- Users take in much higher levels of nicotine
- Second-hand vapor holds potentially harmful particles
Laboratory tests in the United States found the toxins formaldehyde and acrolein concentrated in several products vapors. Other e-cigarettes had harmful levels of cancer causing carbonyls.
Vapers dispute these findings because of the conditions used to come to these results. Researchers did not consider the amount actual e-cigarette users inhale and the concentration of nicotine. New studies in real world environments have already begun.
Regulating a Growing Industry *
Amid complaints and controversy, the European Union (EU) passed legislation declaring e-cigarettes be categorized as tobacco products. All the regulations concerning selling, advertising and dispensing tobacco products now apply to e cigarettes and e-fluids in all EU nations.
The company, Totally Wicked, will take the decision to court charging that the categorization is disproportionate and inappropriate.
The company’s managing director, Fraser Cropper, said the legal challenge was the culmination of:
“A Battle between those who recognize the public health potential vaping offers … and those who either do not understand vaping, or see it as a threat to established interests and therefore wish to see e-cigarettes subjected to a disproportionate and inappropriate regulatory regime”.
The director of policy at the campaigning charity Action on Smoking and Health, Hazel Cheeseman, said:
“Good regulation is important to drive up standards. Elsewhere in the world countries are opting to ban e-cigarettes.
“In Europe we will have a balanced model of regulation that will keep safe and effective products on the market. There is also much scope for improvement. We know that two out of three smokers who try e-cigarettes do not continue vaping. Balanced regulation can drive innovation and improve the market as a whole.”
The ban of e cigarettes in other countries focuses mostly on e-juices. By categorizing the e-fluids as medicines, manufacturers must license their products and, in the United States, get approval from the Food and Drug Administration. Because of the inconsistencies in nicotine levels and not knowing the long-term impact to the public’s health, no e-fluids meet the standards needed for licensing.
Users concerned with the inconsistency of nicotine levels and product safety may want to use well-known products. For example, V2 cigs and the Blu e-cig brand, have longevity in the market and are priced competitively. Finding the best e-cig will likely prove impossible as each vaper has a personal favorite.
Like the EU, the FDA wants to include e-cigarettes in the tobacco product category, which puts them under the same regulations as cigarettes. A few members of Congress, devout vapers and small e-cigarette businesses oppose the FDAs proposal because:
- The law does not allow the market to grow
- Small businesses cannot compete in a regulated market
- The proposed bill will take away all but 3 e-liquid flavors
The FDA’s proposal will restrict e cigarette production for any products made after February 15, 2007. Because the devices became popular in the United States in 2007 and 2008, few manufacturers existed before that date. The market would quickly stagnate leaving users with few choices and makers with no market in which to compete.
Time Will Tell *
Because so many e-cigarette factors remain unknown, lawmakers, researchers and physicians debate the safety of the products. Though electronic cigarettes have some of the same harmful chemicals of tobacco, the concentrations are much smaller, which reduces the health risks to users and those exposed to the vapor second hand. Most agree that if choosing between tobacco cigarettes or electronic cigarettes, the electronic cigarette remains the best choice for the health of all.