No Proof That Electronic Cigarettes Are Safe, Help Smokers Quit
December 31, 2012

No Proof That Electronic Cigarettes Are Safe, Help Smokers Quit

Lawrence LeBlond for - Your Universe Online

Smokers who are looking to quit the habit or are just finding healthier ways to get their nicotine fix may be shocked to learn that electronic cigarettes do neither. The finding, which comes from a study by the Italian Health Ministry, indicates that e-cigarettes, despite their growing popularity, do not help smokers quit, nor do they provide a safer alternative to traditional smoking.

The report, published Friday, warned that this “fashion gadget” should not be used by young people because, even in smaller quantities, nicotine still poses serious health risks. The Ministry said that while the e-cigarette is ℠less toxic´ than its real counterpart, it is still dangerous.

ABC News reported that electronic cigarette makers said their devices were intended only to help smokers quit the habit. And in fact, as many as 650,000 smokers are thought to be using them as we speak. However, there are growing fears that many young people who try e-cigarettes, could be inadvertently getting themselves addicted to nicotine, leading them to graduate to regular tobacco products.

Report author Roberta Pacifici, director of Italy Observatory on Smoking, Alcohol and Drug Use at the National Health Institute, told Italian news agency ANSA, that she is not totally convinced the e-cigarettes are entirely as safe as the companies make them out to be.

“We have to have a prudent approach towards this product as we know little about its worth in stopping people smoking or how toxic it is,” she said, adding that scientific reports studied “do not reassure us about the effectiveness or the innocuousness of its use.”

Pacifici noted that levels of nicotine vary in electronic cigarettes and most generally have much lower doses than normal cigarettes. However, she told the La Repubblica newspaper, even if e-cigarettes are proven to work as a way to curb smoking, “it should still be treated like all the other substitutive nicotine products like nicotine gum and band a medical device.”

The e-cigarette is an electronic inhaler made up of a plastic cartridge that acts as a mouthpiece, a battery, a reservoir for liquid aroma and an “atomizer” to vaporize the liquid solution. Each solution varies in the amount of nicotine delivered, but all produce a smoke-like vapor that simulates the act of tobacco smoking. When inhaling this vapor, nicotine is delivered into the bloodstream via the lungs.

Legislation concerning e-cigarettes varies around the world since they first came on the market less than a decade ago. Many countries are awaiting further tests before warning against usage as the device may help reduce reliance on cigarettes. However, there has been a limited amount of scientific testing and controlled studies on the product to date.

Pacifici´s institute recommends that e-cigarettes and the liquid solutions be sold with detailed health information. Currently, the only warnings are against the sale to those under the age of 16, and recommendations to keep the product away from children.

Despite lack of solid proof that e-cigarettes help smokers kick the habit, some smokers have reported beneficial usage.

Selvaggia Gurrieri bought her electronic cigarette nearly two months ago and says it has helped her cut down on cigarettes. “I use it in places where I cannot smoke like in restaurants and at the movies and it has helped me cut down on the amount of cigarettes I smoke.”

However she now "smokes" in bed too, her non-smoking partner, added.

Another smoker reported that he recouped the $100 he spent on his e-cigarette, because it helped him cut down from 20 cigarettes a day to only five.

Ray Story, CEO of The Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association (TVECA), said there is no proof that e-cigarettes are harmful and that attacks on their use is more about protecting revenues than public health.

“In Italy, tobacco is sold through government stores. That old Mafioso-type environment protects its own,” he told ABC News.

Story also said that e-cigarettes do not claim to help people quit smoking.

“Yes, nicotine is addictive, like caffeine and sugar. We're not in the non-addictive business. We cater to someone who is already a smoker. Starbucks sells coffee; Coca-Cola sells cola. Both have caffeine. But e-cigarettes deliver nicotine in the cleanest way,” he said.

Regarding the Health Ministry´s recommendation that e-cigarettes not be given to young people, Story said that´s “common sense.”

He also scoffed at the concern that the use of e-cigarettes could lead young people to graduate from the devices to smoking real cigarettes.

“Yeah, and virgin daiquiris make people alcoholics. It's absolutely inaccurate; there's no proof,” Story said.