You may have seen them at the mall, in a movie theater, or in a restaurant. Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigs, are everywhere these days. There have been numerous claims that smokeless cigs are a healthy alternative to smoking and that they are useful in combating addiction. Recently, however, an Italian health minister official said that there is no scientific proof to substantiate those claims, and that they could be very harmful.
The e-cigarette is like a hand-held electronic vaporizer, with a reservoir for aroma solution that contains tobacco’s addiction-forming nicotine. A battery-powered atomizer in the device vaporizes the solution, which contains nicotine, creating a smoke-like vapor that enters the bloodstream via the lungs.
Scientists who have studied the electronic cigarette say that the smoke it produces is less toxic than a regular cigarette, though not harmless. For this reason they should still not be used by young people. There is also the possibility that if young people pick up the e-cigarette habit the may eventually “graduate” to smoking actual cigarettes.
Very little is known about the effectiveness and innocuousness of e-cigarettes, but if they deliver nicotine into the bloodstream then they have the potential to be addictive all by themselves.
A group of electronic cigarette makers claims that the device is intended to help people who are already smokers. They don’t claim their product will help smokers kick the smoking habit, only that will help to provide nicotine—which smokers are addicted to already—in cleaner and healthier way.
E-cigarettes help smokers to cut down their cigarette consumption, which would presumably lead to a lower mortality rate from cigarette smoking. However, experts who have researched the product say that there is no scientific research to substantiate these claims.
Roberta Pacifici, an Italian who works with the National Health Institute, stated, “Should its efficacy as a means to curb smoking be proven it should still be treated like all the other substitutive nicotine products like nicotine gum and band aids… as a medical device.”
In other words, e-cigarettes are not intended for recreational use and ought to be sold with detailed health information.
If e-cigarettes really do help smokers to smoke less then why is there concern about their use? One experienced smoker who has used the e-cigs explains that the device may cause her to smoke less because she substitutes it for her regular cigarettes. But she also takes the device with her and smokes in places where she didn’t before, such as in her bedroom. Therefore, she may develop a habit of smoking more, albeit with a smaller nicotine intake.
The makers say that their products are not intended for young people and cite age-verification of all who purchase their products as a means of keeping them out of the hands of young people.
- NATANSON, PHOEBE, and EDWARD LOVETT. “No Proof Electronic Cigarettes Combat Addiction, Report Says.” ABC News. ABC News Network, 30 Dec. 2012. Web. 04 Jan. 2013.