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Electronic cigarettes not the safest alternative to smoking

Published: Sunday, April 7, 2013

Updated: Sunday, April 7, 2013 23:04

Electronic cigarettes were originally invented to help people quit smoking, but many use them only to maintain their need for the action and satisfaction of smoking.

If an individual is looking for a safe way to quit smoking, there are other ways for one to begin improving one’s health. These options include support programs, along with nicotine patches, gums or sprays.

Electronic cigarettes look very similar to regular cigarettes, but they are actually very different with regard to their structure and various other ingredients. They are white cylindrical tubes with brown filters and they have glowing colored tips.

The device is battery-powered and contains a liquid mixture. The mixture is a water solution containing propylene glycol, tetramethylpyrazine, vegetable glycerin, formaldehyde, ketones, mercury and polyethylene glycol. Propylene glycol is found in antifreeze, which is used for decreasing the freezing point in automobiles.

There are several parts to an electronic cigarette, which include a cartridge, atomizer, cartomizer, battery and liquid.

The atomizer is a small twisted wire used to heat and vaporize liquid, which may fail with extended use as particles build up within the device.

The cartomizer is a combination of the atomizer and cartridge, which contains a heating element coated in a foam, soaked with liquid.

The battery is able to work over an extended period of time because it is a rechargeable battery and comprises the largest extent of the device.

It is a power source that involves an electronic sensor — specializing in airflow detection activated by taking in breaths through the device.

The batteries can be recharged using a portable charger. The liquid is often sold in disposable cartridges or bottles, which contain various chemicals.

The device works as a person inhales and exhales from one end of the electronic cigarette, which then causes the nicotine to heat up and produce a vapor that is inhaled to the lungs.

The end result is that the person using the electronic cigarette feels as though he or she has smoke in his or her lungs and mouth, but without having to smoke an actual cigarette.

The advantages of smoking electronic cigarettes are numerous, but they do not outweigh the negative mental health effects. The device allows one to experience the mental action of smoking, but is not as addictive.

However, nicotine is still present in the ingredients. While tar and carbon monoxide are not present in the inhaled or exhaled substance, the smoker can adjust the amount of nicotine that he or she inhales.

Many often use the device to help them quit smoking, because it allows them to slowly reduce the presence of the nicotine that they consume, which in turn decreases their withdrawal symptoms from the lack of nicotine.

The withdrawal symptoms of nicotine usually occur two to three hours after using nicotine. Symptoms include decreased appetite, mood changes, increased abdominal issues, saliva and mucous overproduction, rapid heart rate and increased blood pressure. Other symptoms include the possibility of sweating, diarrhea and nausea.

A number of other withdrawal symptoms occur two to three days after one quits using nicotine. These include an increased need for nicotine, tiredness, difficulty sleeping, anxiousness, headaches, decreased attention span, increases in appetite and weight gain.

Other advantages of using electronic cigarettes include fewer health risks, a variety of flavors and reduced prices of the device used. Electronic cigarettes do not fill the lungs with as much nicotine and they do not have as big of an impact on the user’s blood sugar.

The individual using the device is able to adjust the flavor, consistency and amount of nicotine in the device with respect to their present needs.

The disadvantages of using electronic cigarettes include the possibility of direct exposure to nicotine (due to nicotine leakage from the device). There are no labels or warnings on the device, instructions for use or instructions as to how one might dispose of the device without harming others and the environment.

There are no warnings or labels on electronic cigarettes because they are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.

Although electronic cigarettes have been classified as delivering drugs due to the presence of tobacco, they are not regulated because they are classified as medical or therapeutic devices.

The long-term effects of using electronic cigarettes are unknown, but ingredients used in the device have included  propylene glycol, formaldehyde, vegetable glycerin and polyethylene glycol.

Three substances have been identified in the vapor emitted into the environment by the electronic cigarettes.

This vapor can negatively affect those who have no intention of using electronic cigarettes, because their lungs can also take in the electronic cigarette’s ingredients.

Propylene glycol is used to manufacture polyester compounds and to absorb water synthetic materials.

Formaldehyde induces cancer symptoms and contains a distinct pungent smell.

Vegetable glycerin is colorless, odorless and has as thick a consistency as a liquid used in the manufacturing of prescription medication.

Polyethylene glycol is a flammable, thick and colorless liquid used for the absorption of moisture from its surroundings.

Ketones are a mild eye and skin irritant. When ingested in large amounts, ketones may cause drying and inflammation of the skin, along with irritation of the digestive system.

Mercury negatively affects all body systems because it can damage the nervous system, kidneys and developing children. Tetramethylpyrazine is a medication used to treat heart disease in China.


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Sat Jan 4 2014 07:57
Are the vaporizers device by safe in vaping just like the gums and patches??
Sat Sep 21 2013 19:14
Why is this still online? The least you could do was post a correction at the top of the article.

This article isn't just factually incorrect, it's dangerous. This article could actually hurt people.

You and your editor should be ashamed of yourselves.

Sat Sep 21 2013 13:55
Wow! I am stunned by the blatant lies and misinformation contained in this article. It's bad enough this was written by someone who considers themselves a journalist, but I assume it made it past an editor as well. You are illustrating why the public has lost faith in journalism with your bias and lack of research.
Sat Sep 21 2013 13:31
Wow, this is one poorly written, factually inaccurate article. Anyone interested in the topic would be better served by doing some genuine research; I would suggest starting with
Mon Sep 9 2013 00:49
i used the ecig for 8 days different ones and after 2 days of not using them my body had a reaction... i started getting "HUGE" under the skin boil's that hurt like hell for weeks until they finally came to a head n burst. ive done nothing different in my life style besides trying those e-cigs. its the only thing that could have caused what happened. anyone else had anything like this happen please contact me at thanx
Thu Aug 15 2013 09:52
Where do you get your information from Keely? I don't know of any e-cig liquid that contains tetramethylpyrazine, formaldehyde, ketones or mercury. They contain either food grade vegetable glycerin, propylene glycol or a combination of those two. The liquid can also be purchased with or without any nicotine. The only other ingredients are non-toxic food grade artificial flavorings to create the desired flavor. The liquid is vaporized, so you aren't getting all of the byproducts of combustion like you would with a regular cigarette. You mention propylene glycol being used in antifreeze which seems to insinuate that it is some sort of toxic chemical, but fail to mention it is also a component used in asthma inhalers and has been deemed safe for many years by the FDA.

While quitting smoking altogether is definitely best, I will say from personal experience that switching over to e-cigs from normal cigarettes has improved my health tremendously. I no longer have the nasal and chest congestion I had with regular cigarettes and find the taste of normal cigarettes to be horrible now. I no longer smell like an ashtray or have to worry about my secondhand smoke bothering others. If you've tried other methods for quitting cigarettes and failed, I would DEFINITELY recommend making the switch, if for no other reason than the only "toxic" component in them is nicotine as opposed to tobacco, which contains hundreds of toxins, pesticides and other additives along with the fact you are burning the tobacco, which produces even more toxins through combustion.

You don't have to take my word on it though. Anyone reading this should do their own research to get the facts. This article is a BS scare tactic, likely written by someone tied in with a tobacco company somehow.

Thu May 23 2013 18:09
wow. use sources much? any? ever? what a horrible article.
Sun Apr 28 2013 06:26
The advantages of ecig vs cigarettes is they allow nicotine to be taken into the body without smoking carpet glue introduced by Obama as a fire safe cigarette just as one point of interest . Hospitalized recently in south florida at Cleveland Clinic with a broken back and was allowed to use the device to get my nicotine fix , so what does this tell u about the advantages of ecigs ? ecigarettemate sells a great product also that works!
Jay Redmond
Sat Apr 13 2013 18:13
In reading this article, I am appalled that such information is allowed to be printed in this day and age without respect to accuracy and/or source identified information. The information in this article is a blatant outright lie, and nonetheless contains information that sounds as if someone from the major pharmaceutical manufacturers is coaching the author. As the comments below are correct in fact, I would suggest a followup article dispelling the original articles information and restore the credibility of the author, Keely Hilton.

I actually laughed when I read the comments about the ingredients listed. Propylene Glycol as antifreeze. In industrial grade concentrations, yep it is. In USP grade concentrations it is also used in the medical community in vaporizers to deliver albuterol and other drugs to inhale. It is also in about every cosmetic, and deodorant, shampoo, and toiletries made today. Enough. If the compounds you listed have been found in an E-liquid, I suspect the origin may have been from China. But those liquids made in USA, by competent companies with licensed chemists, contain only four ingredients. Propylene Glycol, Vegetable Glycerin, (used in medicine, and cooking, baking), Dihydrogen Minoxide (water), and USP grade food grade extracts. And I know of one USA based company very close to you, who uses only extracts specifically made for Ecigarettes, or "vaping" and are formulated by a chemist with the extract company.

This article is trash. Grade F, and lets hope when you get out in the real business journalism world you do not get fired immediately for publishing content like this.

BTW I smoked for 38 years. I quit using Ecigarettes sometime ago and haven't felt better.

Tue Apr 9 2013 18:49
tanga ka. tanga. tanga. tanga...
Eric March
Mon Apr 8 2013 13:53
Sadly, this is just another example of how real journalism is dying and being replaced by armchair bloggers who simply parrot information they've heard without checking the veracity of any of its alleged facts. While plenty of good information has been posted in the comments already, I would also like to address the ridiculous "antifreeze" myth. Specifically, there is a world of difference between automotive antifreeze (which contains, or used to contain, ethylene glycol, which is highly poisonous) and water-line antifreeze. The latter is propylene glycol, which is poured directly into water lines in order to reduce the freezing point of the water it's mixed with due to PG's significantly lower freezing point. It's safe for human consumption, and thus is one of the main bases used in liquids for use in electronic cigarettes.

However, this lack of specificity and understanding seems to be a running theme with this article.

William Pitt
Mon Apr 8 2013 13:08
This article contains an unfortunate amount of information. I would like to note that hydric acid (more commonly known as water) is also found in antifreeze. The fact that one chemical can be FOUND IN a poison does not mean that chemical is toxic. I'm not sure if this was done out of ignorance or malice, but using chemical terms to increase the shock-and-awe factor of an article is unacceptable.

-Propylene gluycol is commonly used as a solvent in many medications for injection and inhalation and is regarded as safe for consumption by the FDA. Your albuterol inhaler likely contains propylene glycol.
-Vegetable glycerine is found in your toothpaste, cough syrum, and personal lubricants.
-Formalaldehyde - there is no evidence that modern, commonly used electronic cigarette liquid contains this chemicle
-Ketones are a class of chemicals (of which there are thousands, including those made naturally by your body). You cannot, in good faith, state that ketones are harmful without specifying to which ketone your are referring.
-Polyethylene glycol is toxic and was found in a group of e-cigarette liquids manufactured abroad several years ago. No US manufacture would use this in e-liquid manufacturing.
-Mercury: see formalaldehyde
- Tetramethyl pyrazine is a chemical flavoring that you may have enjoyed in your beef, cheddar cheese, coffee, or whiskey. It is also not commonly used in e-liquids.
-Nicotine is similar to caffeine. It is a stimulant and is minimally toxic by itself unless you consume an excessive quantity. Eggplant also contains nicotine.

Most people who read this and do not have a background in chemistry will see several long chemical terms and assume that they are poison. This could not be further from the truth. Look at the ingredient label of the food/drink you consume every day.

As for the mental health aspects mentioned, there is an important distinction between addiction (which is a specific clinical term) and dependency. I am dependent upon coffee and sleep. This does not make them inherently unhealthy.

I certainly agree that long term studies are needed on the health effects of electronic cigarettes and their efficacy as a smoking cessation tool. That said, they are most certainly a less damaging alternative to cigarette smoking and their smoking cessation rates history is good (anecdotally, in the interest of full disclosure). I would also recommend looking at the efficacy of the other smoking cessation products you mentioned. They are not very good.

If the purpose of this piece was to provide information that consumers can use to make an informed decision, then serious editing or retraction is in order.

Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos
Mon Apr 8 2013 12:48
I regret to say that this is the definition of misinformation.
Joe Nance - Ringgold, Georgia
Mon Apr 8 2013 11:38
The lack of fact checking in this article is truly appalling.
Mon Apr 8 2013 11:25
I want to know were you find this information that there is formaldehyde and antifreeze in all of this. all except for nicotine is food grade products. Propylene Glycol is used in inhalers and Vegetable Glycerine is harmless. the only other thing that is in electronic cigs are food flavoring and nicotine. and sometime sweetener. It is and has been used by Drs. EMT's Police, and many others. I have made my own nic juice. and have had juice on my hands. NO ILL EFFECTS have happened. and as for warnings. there are warnings all over.

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