How Safe are E-Cigarettes?
New York Considering Becoming First State to Ban E-Cigarettes
The state of New York is pushing to be the first state to ban electronic cigarettes. The debate surrounds the device and its safety. The devices are unregulated and come in all kinds of cute colors and fun flavors like bubble gum and chocolate. They are easy to obtain over the internet and at mall kiosks. Lawmakers are afraid electronic cigarettes may be too appealing to young people and they have been pinned as a gateway to nicotine addiction among the younger population.
New York's criticisms clash with the equally strong arguments in favor of the devices. Electronic cigarettes are tobacco-free and don't carry the 5,000 known chemicals in a traditional tobacco cigarette. Advocates for e-cigarettes also point out thousands of testimonials from smokers who used the devices to quit.
Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration struggles to gain regulatory control on electronic cigarettes, studies are a work in progress. Electronic cigarettes isolate the nicotine and carry far fewer chemical risks than regular cigarettes. Michael Siegal, a tobacco researcher from Boston University states that tobacco contains about 5,000 known chemicals and as many as 100,000 more that have yet to be identified. Using an e-cigarette eliminates most of those because there is no tobacco involved. The devices run off of a rechargeable battery-operated heating element that vaporizes nicotine dissolved in a chemical frequently found in inhalers and cough medicines called propylene glycol. Propylene glycol is a safe substance regulated by the FDA.
A study published in the Journal of Public Health Policy
found that the levels of harmful chemicals in electronic cigarettes were in the same ball park as levels found in cessation devices such as nicotine patches. The levels were hundreds of times lower than the chemical levels found in traditional cigarettes. The study also found evidence that electronic cigarettes helped reduce cravings among smokers. Many smokers have trouble quitting with the patch because they still have a need to hold something in their hand or put something in their mouth, because of this, e-cigarettes are more appealing to someone trying to quit than patches of gum.
Electronic cigarettes are certainly safer than smoking and can aide in quitting but there are simply too many unknowns still. The FDA will keep studying them and work toward regulation. Without proper regulation, cartridges may contain undisclosed chemicals which could turn out to be more dangerous than tobacco smoke. The Journal of Tobacco Control
did a recent study of six brands of e-cigarettes and found that not all of the devices were labeled clearly with nicotine levels, expiration dates, ect. For now the devices remain unregulated but they certainly seem to be the better alternative to smoking.