December 22, 2010

Safety of Electronic Cigarettes

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Welcome to the future of smoking.  The electronic cigarette has revolutionized the way smokers get their nicotine fix, but it has also been the topic of debate for health care professionals everywhere.  Is it really safer than actual cigarettes everyone asks? A recent report showed that electronic cigarettes are far safer than actual cigarettes, and show promise in the fight against tobacco-related diseases and death.

In a first of its kind study, scientists examined scientific evidence about the safety and effectiveness of these innovative inventions.  These battery-powered devices offer tobacco-less doses of nicotine in a vaporized solution.  Vapor instead of smoke?  That doesn't sound too bad now, does it?  What else can you tell us?"Few, if any, chemicals at levels detected in electronic cigarettes raise serious health concerns," which the authors of the study were quoted as saying.

"Although the existing research does not warrant a conclusion that electronic cigarettes are safe in absolute terms and further clinical studies are needed to comprehensively assess the safety of electronic cigarettes, a preponderance of the available evidence shows them to be much safer than tobacco cigarettes and comparable in toxicity to conventional nicotine replacement products."

The report reviewed 16 laboratory studies that identified the components in electronic cigarette liquid and vapor.  The authors discovered that carcinogen levels in electronic cigarettes are up to 1,000 times lower than in tobacco cigarettes."The FDA and major anti-smoking groups keep saying that we don't know anything about what is in electronic cigarettes," which Michael Siegel, professor of community health sciences at Boston University School of Public Health, was quoted as saying.  "The truth is, we know a lot more about what is in electronic cigarettes than regular cigarettes."

It has been three years since the renowned e-cigarette has hit the streets and took off, but controversy has stayed close behind it the whole time.  The FDA has threatened to ban the sell of e-cigarettes and six national anti-smoking groups "“ the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Legacy Foundation, and Action on Smoking and Health "“ have additionally requested for the removal of electronic cigarettes from the market.

Their concerns are that the FDA has not yet carefully evaluated any e-cigarettes for safety or effectiveness, that the devices contain detrimental chemicals, and that they are in due course marketed toward children.  In December, nevertheless, a federal appeals court ruled that the FDA should regulate e-cigarettes as tobacco products rather than as drug-delivery devices, such as nicotine-replacement patches or gum.  The latter undergo far more stringent FDA regulations.

"Taking these products off the market would force thousands of users to return to cigarette smoking," Siegel added.  "Why would the FDA and the anti-smoking groups want to take an action that is going to seriously harm the public's health? The only ones who would be protected by a ban on e-cigarettes are the tobacco companies, as these new products represent the first real threat to their profits in decades."

The report furthermore covers preliminary evidence that electronic cigarettes can be effectual in suppressing the urge to smoke, principally because they simulate the act of smoking an actual cigarette.

E-cigarettes might offer an advantage over traditional nicotine delivery devices as well because smoking-related stimuli alone have been found capable of suppressing tobacco abstinence symptoms for long periods of time.  Everyone always says they are going to quit but never do.  With a safe and effective means to do so, what is stopping them now?

SOURCE: Journal of Public Health Policy, December 21, 2010