Many smokers use electronic cigarettes as part of their strategy to safely satisfy their nicotine hankerings. But according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and a European study released over the Labor Day weekend, many health experts are not yet persuaded that e-cigarettes are a great thing for people.
These two and many other health sources say the devices have not been confirmed in evidence-based studies as being risk-free, or for that matter, even a successful way of addressing a smoking addiction.
E-cigarettes, or “e-cigs” as they are sometimes called, are the most up-to-date technology claimed to help smokers, and those who use other tobacco products, decrease their nicotine intake. The devices are battery-powered and deliver a flavored liquid which is vaporized, then inhaled like cigarette smoke.
E-cigs and their refill cartridges come in nicotine and nicotine-free versions. The devices are smokeless, odorless, and touted by makers to have no harmful tar residue, cancer causing chemicals, or poisonous gases present in tobacco cigarettes.
However, the FDA states on their website: “…e-cigarettes may contain ingredients that are known to be toxic to humans…additionally, these products may be attractive to young people and may lead kids to try other tobacco products, including conventional cigarettes, which are known to cause disease and lead to premature death.”
The FDA’s safety concerns were echoed at the European Respiratory Society (ERS) Annual Congress in Vienna, Austria on September 2, 2012. According to an ERS press release, the results of a study on the effects of e-cigarettes on 32 subjects on was presented. Eight of the participants had never before smoked, and the remaining 24 were current active smokers.
Investigators found during the study that immediately after using an e-cigarette for 10 minutes:
- Healthy subjects who had never before smoked, experienced “…a statistically significant increase in airway resistance from a mean average of 182% to 206%,” more than three times the norm.
- Active smokers with normal lung capacity, experienced “…a statistically significant increase [in airway resistance] from a mean average of 176% to 220%.” Again over three times the norm.
One of the authors, Professor Christina Gratziou, Chair of the ERS Tobacco Control Committee said, “We found an immediate rise in airway resistance in our group of participants, which suggests e-cigarettes can cause immediate harm after smoking the device. More research is needed to understand whether this harm also has lasting effects in the long-term.”
Electronic cigarettes have gained popularity since they can be used in places where tobacco cigarettes are banned. The product has been lauded by manufacturers as being the ideal alternative to smoking tobacco products, so many smokers may hope electronic cigarettes are the solution they’ve been seeking for a less risky nicotine fix, or even to give up smoking entirely.
Whatever the case, for now electronic cigarettes will likely continue to generate disagreement between scientists, manufacturers, and consumers.