The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has yet to receive the authority to stop importation of electronic cigarettes into the United States (this is currently being hashed out in the court system). The FDA also hasn’t approved the product as an effective means to quit smoking cigarettes. Given the very limited research conducted thus far on the safety and effects of e-cigs, it is only natural and logical to be a bit weary. Ultimately, we know little for sure – and still – this new product has caught the public by storm over the past few years and intrigued smokers and non-smokers alike.
We do know an electronic cigarette uses a solution called “e-juice” which contains water, nicotine, and propylene glycol, a chemical used to disperse the nicotine in the device. When an individual activates the device through suction (just like taking a puff of a tobacco cigarette), the atomizer inside heats the solution and produces a vapour. Propylene glycol is the same solution used in fog machines and has thus far been deemed safe for humans. However, no information has been released pertaining to possible health risks that may arise when an individual inhales this chemical in a concentrated, long term manner – such as in the use of an e-cig.
Despite the lack of health related research, each day more and more habitual tobacco cigarette smokers are trying this alternative method to satisfy their nicotine urges. For many smokers, being able to cut smoke, tar, and odour out of the equation – and the prospect of being able to smoke potentially anywhere desired – is reason enough to make the switch to an electronic nicotine source. Others have not kicked cigarettes completely, but enjoy having the option to satisfy their cravings while at their office desks, in restaurants, or even on airplanes!
In a study conducted by Thomas Eissenberg, the director of the clinical behaviour pharmacology laboratory at the Virginia Commonwealth University of Richmond, participants who took a series of twenty puffs on an e-cig in a set amount of time did feel that their nicotine craving was satisfied. However, in analysis, no measurable amounts of nicotine were found in the participants’ bloodstreams. There is still a lot of mystery around what users are actually inhaling when using these devices. Eissenberg infers while not much nicotine is inhaled per puff, a large part of the e-cig’s effectiveness is psychological: since the process of using it is so similar to smoking a regular, tobacco cigarette. It is also possible the participants in the study were not experienced e-cig users, and therefore were not inhaling properly.
It has yet to be proven even the best electronic cigarette does anything to fight nicotine addiction or the behavioural addiction to the process of smoking, but it is still worth a try for many. Some people accept they will not quit their nicotine habit, but desire the benefits of the electronic cigarette option. Others want to quit their nicotine addiction completely, and have chosen to use the product to wean themselves off over time. Both types of consumers can find this relief while cutting smoke, tar, and odour out of the picture. Being such a new product, only time will tell the effectiveness of the e-cig. As the industry continues to grow and research expands, we hope to learn more about the electronic cigarette, and ways to make an even better product.