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E-cigarettes rising in popularity, but risks still unknown

By kmak, Nov 9, 2013 | Updated: Nov 10, 2013 | | |
  1. kmak
    Experts say e-cigs could be safer alternative to tobacco, but long-term studies and federal regulations are imperative

    Spend a few minutes roaming the streets of young, tech-savvy areas like Brooklyn and San Francisco and you're bound to spot somebody vaping — that is, puffing away on an electronic cigarette.

    Chinese pharmacist Hon Lik invented the e-cigarette in 2003 as a tobacco-free alternative to the traditional cigarette after his father died from lung cancer. Fast-forward a decade, and the popularity of electronic smokes has exploded into a global industry worth more than $2 billion in the U.S. alone, according to consumer analysis firm Euromonitor International.

    E-cigarettes aren't lit up in the conventional sense. Rather, a battery powered atomizer heats up a nicotine-laced solution into a vapor for the smoker to inhale — hence, the term "vaping" — a process that's touted by e-cigarette companies as healthier than regular cigarettes because it doesn't involve combustion.

    But while more and more people are using electronic cigarettes, often with the hopes of quitting conventional ones, "we don't have any data on the long-term consequences of using these products," says Maciej Goniewicz, an oncology professor at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, N.Y.

    He and his colleagues measured the chemicals present in the vapor of 12 brands of e-cigarettes and discovered that despite a lack of tobacco, they contained some of the same toxic compounds like acetaldehyde and formaldehyde, the latter of which is known to be carcinogenic.

    Granted, the compounds were found at significantly lower levels than in regular cigarettes, according to their research, which was published in the journal Tobacco Control. The team also found propylene glycol, an additive that is a known irritant when inhaled. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers it "generally recognized as safe" when used in food, but Goniewicz said more studies are necessary in order to determine whether long-term exposure to such compounds — as well as to the vapor itself — is harmful to the respiratory system.

    'Not as safe' as claimed

    Indeed, the World Health Organization cautions that the safety of e-cigarettes "has not been scientifically demonstrated" and says that claims by manufacturers that they are healthy alternatives to tobacco or effective tools to quit smoking tobacco “are unsubstantiated or may be based on inaccurate or misleading information.”

    France announced its intent to ban e-cigarettes in public places after a study conducted by the country's National Consumer Institute that was similar in design to Goniewicz's found ingredients in e-cigarette vapor that were "potentially carcinogenic." The French scientists concluded that e-cigarettes were "not as safe" as their manufacturers claimed, and said they could be as harmful as regular cigarettes because some brands contained the same amount of formaldehyde.

    Even so, the rising popularity of e-cigarettes in France has led to a 1 percent decrease in regular cigarette sales each month for the past year — meaning a 12 percent annual decrease — "without any explanation [other] than e-cigarettes," according to Dr. Bertrand Dautzenberg, a pulmonologist at the*Pitié-Salpêtrière – Charles Foix Hospital*in Paris and chair of France's Office of Smoking Prevention (OFTA), who led the French study.

    "For smokers to switch from tobacco to e-cigarettes is a very clear health benefit," he wrote in an email to Al Jazeera.

    Part of the reason that's the case, according to some public health experts, is that the e-cigarette mimics the behavioral aspects of smoking, which can help smokers wean themselves off tobacco more easily than with nicotine gum or patches can. A recent study published in the British medical journal The Lancet found that e-cigarettes were slightly more effective than nicotine patches in helping smokers to quit tobacco cigarettes.

    "Many people who are successful in quitting cigarettes are eventually able to get off e-cigarettes, too," said Dr. Michael Siegel, a physician and professor at Boston University's School of Public Health*who studies e-cigarettes.

    That's because e-cigarettes deliver much lower levels of nicotine in a less efficient manner than cigarettes do, and that may temper a smoker's level of addiction, he said. "Any health risks they have are minimal, especially when compared to tobacco cigarettes," Siegel added.

    No quality control

    What all experts do agree upon is that heightened regulation of electronic cigarettes is imperative. The FDA in 2011 announced its intent to regulate them as tobacco products rather than drug delivery devices, putting them in the same category as traditional cigarettes.

    But the agency still doesn't regulate quality control, meaning that there aren't requirements for consistency in terms of ingredients even within the same brand. The WHO has warned that "there is no way for consumers to find out what is actually delivered by the product they have purchased."

    What's more, many brands are flavored in order to appeal to children, and experts worry they could be a "gateway" to becoming tobacco smokers. A study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that e-cigarette use among children doubled from 2011 to 2012; 10 percent of high school students had smoked e-cigarettes in 2012, and among those kids who had, 76 percent of them reported having smoked regular cigarettes, too.

    While the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act of 1970 required stricter warning labels on cigarette packaging and banned cigarette advertisements on television, those sorts of controls aren't in place for e-cigarettes. Manufacturers don't have to label their products with any warnings, and TV ads for e-cigarettes are unrestricted.

    Stanton Glantz, director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco, says the FDA has been dragging its feet in terms of regulating cigarettes, and feels that indoor clean air legislation should include electronic cigarettes along with tobacco cigarettes.

    "They are less polluting than cigarettes," Glantz said, "but they are still polluting."

    As one of the nation's foremost experts on secondhand smoke, he is the principal investigator of a new $20 million, five-year study sponsored by the FDA in order to help the agency examine how it might better regulate tobacco and smoking.

    But Glantz points out that regardless of what the FDA decides to do about e-cigarettes, it can't regulate where they're smoked, because smoking bans in public places are under the jurisdiction of local governments. The Department of Transportation has, however, banned the use of e-cigarettes on airplanes (PDF).

    In the meantime, the FDA is in the process of drafting new proposed regulations on the advertising, ingredients and sales to minors of e-cigarettes, and in September, the attorneys general from 40 states co-signed a letter to FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg urging the agency to meet its previously stated deadline of Oct. 31. The release of the draft legislation was delayed due to the government shutdown and is expected to happen this month.

    Even so, while Glantz wishes the FDA would push harder to regulate electronic cigarettes, he doesn't have much faith that it will do so. When the FDA asked him what kind of research it should be funding, he said he told the agency, "they should be funding stem cell research to grow backbones."

    Source- http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2013/11/9/e-cigarettes-risinginpopularitybutrisksstillunknown.html


  1. Nanashi
    ....or the thousands of chemicals that are in regular cigarettes.

    We do however, have ample data on the long and short term effects of cigarette smoking and they have proven to be extremely dangerous. We also have data on the short term effects of e-cigarette usage and the results point towards e-cigs being magnitudes safer than regular cigarettes.

    .....at the same levels as the nicotine patch and gum.

    Propylene glycol is also found in asthma inhalers. Besides that, it is optional. Users of e-cigarettes can choose whether or not they want to have propylene glycol or vegetable glycerin(or a combination of the two) as the base in their juice.(Most of the time)

    I personally have quit using regular cigarettes and I have seen countless others have quit. My lungs feel better and I have had countless people tell me that theirs do to as a result from switching to e-cigarettes.

    Good idea. Ban something you know nothing about after doing one half assed study.

    All of the studies I've seen have shown e-cigs to be 2-3x more effective. I'll see if I can dig up some links for you all.

    That really depends on the juice you are vaping, the voltage/wattage you're vaping it at, and out of what type of atomizer.
    This is a blanket statement and thus is not true.

    Government imposed quality control is not necessary. The e-cigarette industry is already self-regulated by a group called CASAA(?). Juice vendors are asked to register with them and undergo inspections.

    Unless they make their own, just as I do. I know exactly what is in my juice because I mix it myself using USP grade ingredients. Everything I put in it is GRAS. I avoid flavorings which contain oils and other chemicals which have potential inhalation hazards.

    Appeal to children in what way?! In the way that there are fruit flavors like in alcohols? Com'on now...lets not play that bullshit children card. If you were worried about the children you'd be banning fruit flavors in alcohols. What? Are you saying that adults don't like fruit flavors?
    What's funny is that I was watching this show, (I forget where or when but that's not important) where this lady was trying to say that flavors such as pina coolada is being marketed towards children! How dumb can you get. Pina coolada is an alcoholic drink!

    Besides that, saying that e-cigs are a gateway to regular cigarettes is like saying eating candy is a gateway to eating shit. Regular cigarettes taste horrible. I have not encountered *one* story, let alone met anyone who switched from e-cigs to regular cigarettes, with the exception of a few who were already smokers before hand. In those cases it was due to not have high enough nicotine juice, not a good flavor, or a shitty device.
    They don't have to, but they do because if they didn't label it as containing nicotine and someone decided to drink it like an idiot they would likely have a big lawsuit on their hands...

    The great thing about the FDA trying to regulate e-cigarettes is that they only have the power to regulate FOOD and DRUGS. E-cigarettes which do not contain nicotine fall into neither of those categories.

    Check out these links. Look at the studies.
  2. kmak
    Right on Nanashi
    most of these articles emphasis small risks and justify with "the research is not out yet." Yet essentially all of the individual ingrediants have been studied on human health.

    80% of journalist reporting on e-cigs "ohh nooo, propolyne glycol, that is a big word.....The children!"

    typical vaporists response-"You better not use toothpaste, asthma inhalors, soap, or (insert any vast amount of commodeties that contain PG/VG here) if you are so scared of a liquid deemed GRAS by the FDA"

    My ecigarette has helped me quite analog cigarettes. It is nice to be able to smell again......most of the time.
  3. HarmRedThera
    Decades of studies were needed to get the FDA to move on tobacco while the tobacco industry limited research funding into the dangers of smoking.

    Practically no studies have been done on ecigs while the ecig industry is hardly connected to campaign spending and therefore political power to control regulation. It gets preemptively banned.

    Obviously, the solution for ecig manufacturers is to start lobbying and entrenching their industry within communities. Intertwine their industry with enough Americans' jobs, and they might be on to something. I should also note that the pharmaceutical industry has a less viable, incredibly expensive alternative: the Nicotrol Inhaler. It was going to cost me $300 a month. I did ecigs instead. Quit smoking. I and the United States save money.
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