The review, published online in the “Journal of Public Health Policy,” is the first to comprehensively examine scientific evidence about the safety and effectiveness of electronic cigarettes, also known as “e-cigarettes.” What are these things? Battery-powered devices that provide tobacco-less doses of nicotine in a vaporized solution.
The study found that few chemicals, possibly none, inside e-cigarettes are linked to serious health concerns. While more research needs to be done into the safety of such items, most evidence now shows them to be much safer than tobacco cigarettes — and similar in toxicity to nicotine replacement products like the patch. Anything that helps people not smoke is worth a good, hard look.
In this study, researchers identified the components in e-cigarette liquid and vapor. They found that carcinogen levels are up to 1,000 times lower than in tobacco cigarettes.
Also, preliminary evidence shows that e-cigarettes could help suppress the urge to smoke, largely because they simulate the act of smoking a real cigarette. E-cigarettes might also offer an advantage over traditional nicotine delivery devices, according to the study.
Since coming onto the market in the U.S. more than three years ago, e-cigarettes have been controversial. The FDA threatened to ban their sale and six national anti-smoking groups also called for the removal of electronic cigarettes from the market.
The chief concerns are that the FDA has not evaluated any e-cigarettes for safety or effectiveness, that the devices contain dangerous chemicals, and that they are marketed toward children. Though this month, 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.
It seems clear that e-cigarettes are far preferable to people smoking cigarettes. And if e-cigarettes were removed from the market, people would turn to smoking again. Anyone who is serious about shedding the smoking habit — which is the world’s leading cause of preventable illness — may do well to ask his or her doctor about e-cigarettes.
Isn’t technology great?