The health value of electronic smoking devices

Many smokers will tell you that they can’t answer a ringing phone or turn the ignition in their cars without lighting a cigarette. For them, the feel of a cigarette in their hand is as important, maybe more important, than the nicotine they’re inhaling. That tactile need explains a lot of the ruckus that arose when smoking was banned in bars and restaurants. For a segment of the population, a beer and a smoke go hand-in-hand, like peanut butter and jelly.

Enter the e-cigarette.

It looks like a cigarette, feels like a cigarette, lights like a cigarette and produces a puff of “smoke,” all without the yucky bad stuff that smokers inhale into their lungs and spew into the air. Best of all, manufacturers say, you can use them anywhere, including airports and restaurants, because they produce vapor, not smoke.”It’s the smoke that’s harmful in cigarettes, not the nicotine”. The manufacturer of Smokefree, one major brand of electric cigarettes, said the primary ingredient in the cartridge is propylene glycol, which is used in food coloring and flavoring, as an additive to keep food, medicines and cosmetics moist, and in machines that simulate smoke. It’s what creates the vapor mist in e-cigarettes.

Secondary ingredients are water, nicotine and a flavor to replicate the taste of traditional smoking. What the cartridges don’t contain are the 4,800 ingredients, including tar, additives and carcinogens, found in most tobacco-based products. But the American Cancer Society isn’t convinced. The society says e-cig have no published clinical trials to suggest they might work as a way to help smokers quit and questions the safety of inhaling some of the flavorings and other substances in the nicotine mists into the lungs.

Drug companies that manufacture smoking cessation products give millions of dollars to organizations like the American Cancer Society, he said, and they aren’t looking for competition. They consider e-cigarettes competition even though most don’t market themselves as a cure-all for smoking.

Smokefree, a product of India, says on its Web site that its e-cigarette “has never been proven to be a smoking cessation device and is not marketed as such.”The reason? Government restrictions on stop-smoking devices. If they claim to help people quit, the FDA will want to see proof in the form of long and expensive studies. But Abhinav, who describes himself as a pragmatist, said he’s never encountered even one report of anyone harmed by e-cigarettes, while he’s heard countless stories of people who cut their cigarette consumption or quit completely with e-cigarettes.

“If they ban these e-cig, just a blanket ban, you’re going to have tens of thousands of people who use them going back to cigarettes,” he said. “I just wanted to get one of these to smoke where you couldn’t smoke, and within four days I hadn’t picked up a cigarette,” said Kamal, 41, who smoked for 13 years. Within days of buying his first Smokefree, he gave up a carton a week habit, which was costing him over Rs 700 a week.

That’s all he has spent in the past month and a half, and he expects his stock to last six months to a year. “I just take a couple of puffs of these and I haven’t needed a real cigarette,” he said.


• The user inhales through a mouthpiece.

• Air flow triggers a sensor that switches on a small, battery-powered heater.

• The heater vaporizes liquid nicotine in a small cartridge (it also activates a light at the lit end of the e cigarette).

• Users can opt for a cartridge without nicotine.

• The heater also vaporizes propylene glycol in the cartridge.

• The user gets a puff of hot gas that feels a lot like tobacco smoke.

• When the user exhales, there’s a cloud of PEG vapor that looks like smoke. The vapor quickly dissipates.

E-cigarettes contain no tobacco products; even the nicotine is synthetic.


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