Do electronic cigarettes work, and are they the best tool on the market in quitting smoking? Some researchers have a varied opinion. An increasing number of adults are buying electronic smoking devices, also known as e-cigarettes. For some, these electronic vaporizers have actually replaced the real thing.
Of course, not all people who smoke e-cigarettes want to kick the habit. For some, smoke-free devices are simply a cleaner way to take a hit. While they deliver nicotine, they are free of the poisons associated with tobacco smoke. They do not require ash trays or clean up, and they are also much less expensive than cigarettes.
The American Lung Association (ALA), the American Cancer Society (ACS) and other anti-tobacco groups caution smokers to avoid using e-cigarettes. However, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have not banned their sale. American consumers can purchase these devices online or at mall kiosks everywhere.
What Are Electronic Cigarettes?
Electronic cigarettes are small, personal vaporizers that change a liquid solution into a smoke-like aerosol mist. They may or may not be marketed as tobacco replacement or smoking cessation aids.
Electronic smoking devices simulate the act of tobacco smoking. They create a vapor that looks, feels and tastes like real tobacco cigarettes. They offer people a smoking experience without the actual smoke, odor and health dangers of tobacco smoke. Some manufacturers even offer nicotine-free devices.
How Do Electronic Cigarettes Work?
Like humidifiers and nebulizers, electronic cigarettes use heat and other technologies to vaporize liquid into a mist. They are small, portable gadgets that resemble cigarettes. Some e-cigarettes are disposable, but many are reusable with refills and replacement cartridges.
An electronic cigarette has three main components: an atomizer, a nicotine cartridge and a battery. Because these components are manufactured to set sizes and standards, they are usually interchangeable between device models.
Most smoke-free devices have a portable power unit with a rechargeable battery. Wired power units use a simple USB connection. Many consumers purchase car chargers for their electronic cigarettes.
The liquids used in electronic cigarettes are available as disposable cartridges or bottled refill solutions. They contain water and flavoring in a propylene glycol or glycerin solution. They are often sold as liquid nicotine, e-liquid or e-juice. According to the FDA, these liquid bases are safe and acceptable to use in electronic smoking devices.
The Health Impact of Electronic Cigarettes
Since electronic cigarettes are relatively new devices, their long-term health impact is still unknown. Researchers are currently studying the effect of nicotine vapor on the smoker and bystanders. Since e-cigarettes work on demand, there is no second-hand smoke stream.
A study conducted by Boston University in 2010 examined the use of electronic cigarettes by first-time buyers who were tobacco smokers. At the end of six months, nearly a third of the study participants had stopped smoking cigarettes. The remainder cut down on their smoking, and a third of these participants even quit using e-cigarettes.
According the one Boston researcher, the evidence shows that electronic devices are effective for smoking cessation, at least for some people. They are also much safer than tobacco cigarettes, since they do not contain the toxins found in tobacco smoke. This is encouraging news for those who want to kick their tobacco habit.
Pending litigation on the jurisdiction of smoke-free devices prohibits manufacturers from selling e-cigarettes as smoking cessation aids. Until more research is conducted on the benefits of e-cigarettes for smokers who want to quit, their full health impact will remain uncertain.
Electronic Cigarette Objections
Many anti-tobacco groups object to the use of smoke-free devices, citing their influence on teenagers and young adults. They believe that electronic cigarettes can lead to nicotine addiction which, in turn, could entice young people to smoke tobacco cigarettes.
Additionally, these groups believe that nicotine cartridges are toxic. Although the liquid bases are deemed safe by the FDA, one study indicates that the cartridges may contain harmful toxins.
Since electronic cigarettes are not currently regulated by the government, smokers may not be aware of the true nicotine content in e-cigarette solutions. This lack of awareness concerns some groups about the safety and purity of liquid nicotine.
Nevertheless, many researchers maintain their belief that electronic cigarettes are less harmful than tobacco cigarettes. Those who smoke them do less harm to themselves and bystanders. In some respects, e-cigarettes are similar to nicotine patches and gum.
If given the choice between real cigarettes and smoke-free devices, the Boston researchers are adamant that people are better off with electronic cigarettes. Although it may look like they are smoking cigarettes, people who puff on e-cigarettes are practicing a healthier form of the habit.