The truth about e-cigarettes

E-cigarettes are growing in popularity with smokers who are trying to get away from real cigarettes, and their ensuing health risks. But the truth about their safety, and effectiveness in helping people quit smoking, is less clear than manufacturers would have you believe.

Some e-cigarette manufacturers try to market their products by saying that you can smoke them virtually anywhere, unlike regular cigarettes made from tobacco.  That’s not entirely true.

John told me recently that he witnessed his first e-cigarette over the Christmas holiday, and while the device emitted a puff of something, there was no odor. In fact, that “something” might not be entirely safe, as we’ll find out.

Some companies even imply that e-cigarettes are “safer” than smoking tobacco cigarettes.

E-cigarettes 101

E-cigarettes have been around for about 10 years. First developed and marketed in China (not known as a bastion of consumer safety), they were designed to offer a convenient way to enjoy smoking. The e-cigarette is designed to vaporize a liquid (that contains nicotine, flavorants and other substances) and allow it to be inhaled. The liquid can have varying amounts of nicotine. It can also have other substances (flavorants) added (mint, fruit flavors and others.) These flavorants are seen by some as a marketing ploy to get children to start smoking. The liquid may contain other chemicals or impurities, as well.

The basic structure of an e-cigarette, courtesy of the FDA.

The basic structure of an e-cigarette, courtesy of the FDA.

Possible carcinogens, inconsistent nicotine delivery

An Food and Drug Administration analysis of two different e-cigarette liquid bases showed that both tested positive for the presence of nitrosamines. The National Cancer Institute says that some nitrosamines have been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals and may increase the risk of cancer in humans.

Additionally, the amount of nicotine that was inhaled could vary substantially from the amount of nicotine listed for the cartridge. The amount of nicotine could even vary significantly (by up to 60%) from one puff to the next. And one brand  of e-cigarettes, that claimed to contain no nicotine, in fact contained a very small amount of nicotine. So the e-cigarettes would seem to be inefficient in actually enabling someone to cut down on, or quit, smoking, and could also cause exposure to potential carcinogens.

In a recent study (published as a detailed letter in the JAMA Internal Medicine), the authors state that e-cigarettes are no better than other methods for helping people to quit smoking.

Nicotine is hellishly addictive. Once started, it is difficult to stop. You can ask any smoker who has quit or tried to quit. Most will confirm that quitting is quite a struggle. Quit rates are in the single digits on each attempt that someone makes, even when they use something to help quit, like medications or nicotine patches. (General information on nicotine, addiction and e-cigarettes can be found here.)

Some cities have prohibited e-cigarettes in public spaces, and nicotine-free e-cigs aren’t necessarily nicotine free

As far as being able to smoke e-cigarettes anywhere, that isn’t true.

Some cities, like New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia have passed laws that prohibit the smoking of e-cigarettes in public places, just as tobacco cigarettes are prohibited. Some businesses, restaurants, schools and other places have banned e-cigarettes. Hospitals generally prohibit them, as well. There is some risk to nearby non-smokers from second-hand smoke.

The FDA has recognized the risks of smoking e-cigarettes and has tried to regulate them as medical devices. When taken to court, the courts have ruled that e-cigarettes are not medical devices. The FDA can, however, regulate them as tobacco products, but that will take longer to do than if they could regulate them as medical devices.  Currently their production is unregulated by the federal government.

Last year, e-cigarette sales in the US were expected to double from the year before, reaching anywhere from $1 billion to $1.8 billion. So there’s a major incentive for manufacturers to delay any action on the FDA’s part as long as possible.

E-cigarettes are not to be sold to persons under 18 years of age. However, some adults with good intentions may buy these for children under 18 thinking that they are not addictive and don’t have any deleterious effects.

An editorial comment in the JAMA Internal Medicine addresses some of the above points.

Reusable e-cigarettes pose their own health risk

One more point: The delivery system is changing, and may now be turning more dangerous.  Reusable e-cigarettes are now on the market, and the liquid nicotine, that you refill the e-cigarette with yourself, is highly toxic if it comes into contact with your skin.  The NYT delved into this in more detail just a few days ago.

E-cigarette via Shutterstock

E-cigarette via Shutterstock

These “e-liquids,” the key ingredients in e-cigarettes, are powerful neurotoxins. Tiny amounts, whether ingested or absorbed through the skin, can cause vomiting and seizures and even be lethal. A teaspoon of even highly diluted e-liquid can kill a small child.

But, like e-cigarettes, e-liquids are not regulated by federal authorities. They are mixed on factory floors and in the back rooms of shops, and sold legally in stores and online in small bottles that are kept casually around the house for regular refilling of e-cigarettes.

So, is there any value in using e-cigarettes to attempt to quit smoking? There might be a slight advantage over the nicotine patches. But, as described above, the difference isn’t statistically significant, and those nicotine patches are regulated by the FDA — e-cigarettes have not been.

Are e-cigarettes dangerous? Those containing nicotine can be addictive. They may also contain other substances that may be carcinogenic. And keeping the refill vial around your house, and using it, could pose serious health risks as well.

Is it a good idea to stay away from products containing nicotine? Yes.  Are e-cigarettes such products? Yes.

Here’s a recent CNN segment on e-cigarettes, so you can see one in action:

Mark Thoma, MD, is a physician who did his residency in internal medicine. Mark has a long history of social activism, and was an early technogeek, and science junkie, after evolving through his nerd phase. Favorite quote: “The most exciting phrase to hear in science... is not 'Eureka!' (I found it!) but 'That's funny.'” - Isaac Asimov

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89 Responses to “The truth about e-cigarettes”

  1. Traci in Texas says:

    This is RIDICULOUS! I have NEVER been able to get away from cigarettes before…now, after using the e-cigarette I can actually do it! I plan to lower the nicotine levels until I quit totally! The cigarette companies DO NOT want e-cigarettes unless they get a piece of the pie. That’s what this is about! Cigarettes are legal, Alcohol is legal…these are things proven unhealthy. Leave us alone!! This is America. No tobacco in these products.

  2. Bill Godshall says:

    This article simply repeats false and misleading fear mongering propaganda that e-cig prohibitionists have been manufacturing since 2009.

    In April 2009, Obama’s FDA revealed its unscientific, unethical and inhumane policy to deceive Americans about e-cigs and defend the FDA’s e-cig ban and nearly 1,000 product seizures by US Customs agents: “We don’t want the public to perceive them as a safer alternative to cigarettes.”

    Seems like that’s Thoma’s policy as well.

    In July 2009, Obama appointee (and former Waxman staffer) FDA Deputy Commissioner Josh Sharfstein held a press conference with CDC OSH Director Matt McKenna and Big Pharma financed AAP (to defend FDA’s e-cig ban from lawsuits filed by two e-cig companies whose products were seized) to falsely claim e-cigs are carcinogenic and toxic, are target marketed to children, are addicting children, can be gateways to cigarettes, may renormalize smoking, and don’t help people quit smoking.

    While FDA’s 2009 lab test found that e-cigs contain the same trace levels of nitrosamines that are in nicotine gums and patches, FDA officials, Thoma and thousands of other e-cig opponents have REFUSED to acknowldege that critically important fact (and instead try to scare people to deceive people to believe e-cigs cause cancer).

    Thankfully for the rule of law, public health, civil
    liberties, market competition and common sense, all 12 federal appeals court
    judges upheld Judge Richard Leon’s Janaury 15, 2010 ruling striking down FDA’s
    e-cig ban as unlawful.

    Even better, during the past four years, the growing mountain of scientific and empirical evidence consistently indicates that e-cigarettes:

    – are 99% (+/-1%) less hazardous than cigarettes,

    – are consumed almost exclusively (i.e. > 99%) by smokers and former smokers
    who quit by switching to e-cigs,

    – have helped several million smokers quit and/or sharply reduce cigarette

    – have replaced (reduced consumption of) nearly 1 Billion packs of cigarettes in the US in the past five years,

    – are more effective than FDA approved nicotine gums, lozenges, patches and
    inhalers for smoking cessation and reducing cigarette consumption,

    – pose fewer risks than FDA approved Verenicline (Chantix),

    – emit similar trace levels of constituents as FDA approved nicotine inhalers, posing no risks to nonusers,

    – have never been found to create nicotine dependence in any nonsmoker, and

    – have never been found to precede cigarette smoking in any daily smoker.

    But in response to losing the federal lawsuit filed by e-cig companies, on April 25, 2011 the FDA stated its intent to regulate e-cigarettes as tobacco products by imposing the “deeming” regulation and by imposing additional regulations on e-cigarettes (despite the agency’s repeated
    claims that it bases all of its regulatory policies on scientific evidence).

    Later in 2011, more than 5,000 people signed a Petition to the White House to “Recognize electronic cigarettes as an effective alternative to smoking and support job creation in this new industry”

    In response to the 2011 White House Petition, FDA’s then Director of the Center for Tobacco Products Lawrence Deyton unscientifically, dishonestly and misleadingly wrote:

    “E-cigarettes may contain ingredients that are known to be toxic to humans or otherwise harm public health – for example, if they are attractive to young people and lead kids to try other tobacco products, including conventional cigarettes, which are known to cause disease and lead to
    premature death. Because clinical studies of these products have not been submitted to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), consumers currently have no way of knowing what types or
    concentrations of potentially harmful chemical are found in these products, or how much nicotine people inhale when they use these products. . . . However, in light of the lack of validated scientific data, including a lack of reliable indicators of nicotine and harmful chemical content, FDA cannot at this time conclude that electronic cigarettes are an effective alternative to smoking.”

    On December 17, 2012, more than a dozen e-cig consumers and supporters testify at a FDA public
    hearing about the many benefits of e-cigs, and how FDA approved drugs didn’t help them quit smoking

    Then in January 2013, e-cig consumers submitted more than 5,200 comments to the FDA’s Docket on Section 918 (accounting for >99% of docket submissions) informing the agency of the benefits of e-cigs, and urging the agency to not ban or unjustifiably regulate the products. But the FDA has only made 99 of these comments available to the public!docketDetail;D=FDA-2012-N-1148

    And in February 2013, more than 25,000 people submitted a Petition to White House to
    “Prevent the FDA from regulating or banning the sale and use of electronic cigarettes, accessories and associated liquids”, but the White House still hasn’t responded.

    But in April 2013, FDA sent a Report to Congress per Section 918 of TCA that contradicted and misrepresented the evidence provided to the agency on the health benefits of smokers switching to e-cigarettes or smokefree tobacco products, and on NRT’s dismal success rate for smoking and nicotine cessation at the 12/17/12 Section 918 public hearing, in >5,200 public comments submitted to agency’s dockets, at a 2/3/11 IOM MRTP meeting, at a 8/25/11 FDA MRTP meeting, and at many FDA TPSAC meetings.

    Perhaps worst of all, during the past 3 years the FDA (and the news media) have refused to acknowledge that the deeming regulation (per Section 905(j) and Section 910 of the Tobacco Control Act) would once again ban ALL e-cigarettes.

    Even if the FDA exempts e-cigarettes from the prohibition clauses in Sections 905 and 910, imposing the “deeming” regulation and additional regulations on e-cigarettes would likely ban 99% of the several thousand e-cigarette products now on the market, eliminate 99% of the
    approximately 500-1,000 e-cig manufacturers and importers, and basically give the entire e-cigarette industry to Big Tobacco (and perhaps several of the largest e-cigarette companies).

    Since the FDA’s current webpage on e-cigs continues to repeat false and misleading fear mongering claims about e-cigs, and denies the products provide and health benefits for users
    the agency cannot be trusted to regulate e-cigs, or to protect public health.

    In September 2013 to lobby for the FDA “deeming” regulation, CDC Director Tom Frieden and OSH Director Tim McAfee not only lied about the scientific evidence on e-cigs (by falsely claiming nicotine damages the brain, e-cigarettes are addictive, and are a gateway to cigarette smoking), but also
    intentionally misrepresented their own NYTS survey findings (i.e. finding that “past-month” use of an e-cig by teens increased from 1% in 2011 to 2% in 2012)

    But in fact, the most important findings by far of the NYTS survey were that:

    – teen smokers were >20 times more likely than nonsmokers to have reported “ever use” and “past-30-day-use” of e-cigs in both 2011 and 2012,

    – among high school students, 7.6% of smokers and .36% of nonsmokers reported “past 30 day” e-cig use in 2011, increasing to 15.7% of smokers and .7% of nonsmokers in 2012.

    – among high school students, exclusive use of cigarettes plummeted from 14.6% in 2011 to just 11.8% in 2012 (a record low),

    – among junior high students, 7% of smokers and .3% of nonsmokers reported “past 30 day” e-cig use in 2011, increasing to 20% of smokers and .4% of nonsmokers in 2012,

    – among junior high students, exclusive cigarette smoking plummeted from 4% in 2011 to 2.8% in 2012 (a record low), and thus

    – e-cigs are a gateway away from (not towards) cigarette smoking.

    CDC’s intentional misrepresentation of the scientific evidence and their own survey data was unethical public health malpractice.

    The NY Times and CDC’s Tom Frieden’s recent claims about e-cigs poisoning people are also false, as there is no evidence that nicotine ingestion has ever caused a human death. Last year, a woman in the UK tried to commit suicide by swallowing 1,500 mg of nicotine, and she promptly vomited it out (just as occurs if someone accidentally swallow chewing tobacco juice).

    Those are some of the many truths that Thoma either doesn’t know about, or refuses to reveal.

  3. caphillprof says:

    I’m not talking smoke, I’m talking smell

  4. Karen Hart says:

    Oh they totally overexaggerated ;) Funnily enough the FDA study currently going on is finding no major health risks due to e-cigarettes

  5. Zillatron says:

    It can happen. Nicotine is absorbed through the skin – or patches would be even more useless -, but as usual they vastly exaggerated the dangers.

    You need more than a few drops on your skin to experience the first symptoms (Cold sweat, dizziness, nausea). Just don’t use it as a cold creme. I’m pretty sure you don’t. ;)
    Maybe they simply confused liquids (usually 1-3% nicotine) with pure nicotine again.

    And completely ignored for teh sake of scaremongering.

  6. Zillatron says:

    No, I totally agree with you on this aspect.
    This is one point, where regulation and independent verification is necessary. And I’m pretty sure most other vapers will agree, too. I personally would never buy liquids from tobacco companies. Maybe I’m a bit paranoid, but I expect them to try stunts like that. I get get my ready made liquids and flavors from reputable producers of food flavorngs who have expanded their business to select vapeable falvors from their stock.

    And yes, regulation is needed to make sure those substances won’t be “smuggled” in. I wouldn’t ban them outright, but make their explicit and prominent declaration mandatory. my reasoning is, that a few vapers seem incapable to completely switch, even after learned they dispise the bland taste of tobacco. So I figure in these cases the dependence is not only on nicotine but also on other substances. i wouldn’t use those liquids, but I wouldn’t deny the chance to other.

    Ironically the EU has just come up with an excremental “regulation” the deals with the most absurde issues. But not THIS. No, this they leave to the member states to do as they please.

    Our last chance to fix this mess is the european citizens initiative EFVI. That much tougher than any petition. We need ONE MILLION signatures from european citizens. And they must be complete and legit, since they will be verfied. Anything not perfectly correct will be kick out.
    What we want is a sensible regulation. Based on scientific facts. And we want to input our experience. The crap they have concocted now only servers the financial interrests of Big Pharma and Big Tobacco. Certainly not our wishes or our health.

    So, if you know anyone in Europe, please spread the word. we need any help and valid signature we can get:

  7. Naja pallida says:

    Your link says things like acetaldehyde, myosmine, anabasine, and nicotryine are also contributors to tobacco addiction, all of which have been found in various formulations of e-cig “juice”. And since those formulations are unregulated, and nobody is actually making sure they’re safe, who knows what else is in them. I wouldn’t trust the tobacco companies to make sure they’re safe, after all, they’ve already made billions with tobacco, and spent Dog only knows how much producing bogus research to deny their product kills people. They just found a new way to start the cycle all over again.

    Not that I’m against people doing whatever they want. It’s your life, and you’re free to gamble with it however you see fit.

  8. Karen Hart says:

    I don’t get where the info about absorbing through the skin causes vomiting and seizures and even be lethal. I’m not dead and have never had an issue and I get e-liquid on my fingers every time I refill my tank. Also there has been not 1 report of a child dying from drinking e-liquid.

  9. BeccaM says:

    I honestly didn’t believe it either, until my wife and I began taking walks in the bosque after the cottonwoods had bloomed. It’s like thousands of fluffy down pillows were all exploded.

    It’s always a fire danger afterwards for at least a few weeks, but we’ve had close to a decade of constant drought, and so it’s become insanely flammable. And it’s only been getting worse.

  10. Zillatron says:

    Be careful with your cell phone. They have the same kind of batteries. And some have blown up, too!

  11. Zillatron says:

    Sorry, you’re right. I should have read the article you linked before.
    We don’t have conditions like that here (in Germany). It’s hard to imagine for me.

  12. Zillatron says:

    Great scare, monger …

    Obviously you haven’t read any of the information I linked before.

    Pure nicotine has about the same temporary and totally reversible neurophysiological effects as caffeine. Is that devil’s brew too? Do you also call people who like their regular dose of caffeine “foolish junkies”? If not, why not?

    Or are you just a bit confused by all the other scaremongers who can’t differentiate between temporary reversible effects caused by nicotine and all that’s caused by the thousands of other active substances in tobacco smoke?

    Please elaborate on the number of deaths you must have witnessed caused by PG. You sure won’t inhale any when you brush you teeth, chew a gum, use an asthma inhaler, apply a lotion to your skin. And never expose yourself to the deadly fumes of theatrical fog. All the bands, stage hands, opera singers, … that are exposed to it on a daily base are all doomed. Yeah, sure.

  13. BeccaM says:

    I trust fire department arson investigators. Especially in this part of the country where wildfires, especially in the bosque, are common.

    Look Cletus, we’ve had fires started simply because it’s a sunny day and there was some broken glass nearby. Every year, when the cottonwoods drop their seeds, it’s high-alert time — and we’ve been in extreme drought conditions. They actually send fire inspectors — including the guy who dropped his e-cig out of his shirt pocket — to ensure there’s nobody in the bosque open areas during drought closures, precisely because until the summer monsoons show up, they’re like tinderboxes.

  14. BeccaM says:

    Actually, that’s not what happened in this instance, and you’re mistaken in believing an e-cig doesn’t get hot enough to ignite something under ideal conditions.

    I’m guessing you don’t know what it’s like in the Rio Grande bosque after the cottonwoods have dropped their seeds. It’s like walking through a half foot of cotton fluff — highly flammable fluff. We’ve had fires started simply because there was bright sun and a glass bottle or glass shards.

    The e-cig did not explode. It fell out of a guy’s pocket after having been used recently. It doesn’t matter if the e-cig isn’t intended to burn. Anything that can flash-vaporize liquid is, in some part of it, also hot enough to ignite highly flammable materials that come into close contact with it.

    And before you say “look up lithium battery exploded”, I suggest you instead read the official fire department reports on the story I linked. The AFD concluded it was the e-cig itself, coming into contact with cottonwood duff.

  15. Duke Woolworth says:

    Nicotine restricts blood flow, thus the dizziness and nausea. Maybe you’d like to mix your own, like some, and shut off all your blood supply permanently. This stuff is a poisonous time bomb. You are a foolish junkie if you continue.
    And it’s mixed with propylene glycol, which isn’t a treat, either. Certainly not as dangerous as its antifreeze cousin (ethylene glycol), it can kill you slower.

  16. Zillatron says:

    I use it. I’m careful, but not paranoid. I don’t abuse it.

    But I know the symptoms of (slight) overdoses of nicotine and caffeine from personal experience (a looong time ago): Dizziness, cold sweat, nausea. But those are only temporary. No permanent harm. And no intention to experience this ever again.

  17. Zillatron says:

    There is no burning involved with ecigs. No burning – no fire.
    Just enough heat to generate the vapor (80-100°C). That’s not even enough to light up a cigarette.

    So, when the was a fire it must have been a defective battery.
    Look up: “lithium battery exploded”

  18. Duke Woolworth says:

    My treat if you’d like to experiment. Perhaps a pinch to start?

  19. BillFromDover says:

    When was the last time you smoked your laptop or cell phone?

  20. Zillatron says:

    Your choice.

    But should you ever consider throwing it away in favor of something to burn, just remember, that better devices are (still) available.

  21. August8 says:

    I’m not that interested in making it more fun. I’ve had plenty of fun. Now I’m more interested in stopping.

  22. Cletus says:

    I call BS on the whole story and ignorance of all involved.

  23. Zillatron says:

    That can happen with any mistreated lithium battery. Like in laptops and cell phones.

  24. Zillatron says:

    They are just trying to jump on the band waggon and cut their losses.
    Incidentally their junk fits perfectly to those proposed “regulations” that will eliminate all the pesky competition by more advanced devices and a great variety of liquids, that they haven’t bought.

  25. Zillatron says:

    If you believe what the pharma companies claim concerning their NRTs: YES!

    Pure nicotine is much less addictive than in combination with all the other stuff in the smoke.
    But you don’t have to beleive them (I wouldn’t). THE leading scientist on this topic says:

  26. Zillatron says:

    That same “antifreeze” is used in asthma inhalers, chewing gums, tooth paste, …
    GRAS by the FDA.

    Ever been eposed to theatrical fog (disco, concert)?
    Same stuff.
    The ecig work exactly like those fog machines. Just on a much smaller scale.

  27. Zillatron says:

    So what?
    Where is the danger in traces of nicotine?
    Do you propose ban tomatoes, egg plants, and other nicght shades?
    They also contain traces of nicotine.

    Nicotine is NOT coarcinogenic.
    Nicotine is completely metabolized. No accumulating deposits of anything harmful in the body.

    What about caffeine?
    Similar properties. Ban that too?

  28. Zillatron says:

    This actually is a war where BigPharma and BigTobacco join forces to squash the pesky competition by real ecigs.

    BigTobacco is just trying to cut their losses by buying and promoting mosty useless, bland cig-a-likes.

  29. Zillatron says:

    I guess it’s such a “thing with s light at the end”. Those are just barely good enough as “proof of concept”. Get a real one with bigger batterie and a refillable tank atomizer and explore the wide range of flavors of liquids. That’s where the real fun starts and makes this even better than a substitute for smoking.

  30. Zillatron says:

    And don’t forget the stakes of BigPharma!
    Their sales of expensive and mostly useless NRTs have dropped noticeably with the growth of ecigs. I tried those pesky patches once. Once is enough. And one gum and one drag at an inhaler convinced me, that I’ll rather keep on smoking.

    Until I discovered the ecigs. Switched 2 years ago. No intention to go back to bland smoke and smokers cough.

  31. Duke Woolworth says:

    Nicotine is a poison. Read the package at your garden supply dept.

  32. Zillatron says:

    About the same level of nitrosamines and the other oh so fearsome traces can be found in the FDA approved, perfectly safe – foul tasting – “inhaler” NRTs. And these you DO inhale.
    Numbers don’t lie. But you can lie with numbers …

  33. Zillatron says:

    It’s the other way round: Those zealots who want to ban something should have scientific proof for their claim. Do they have it?

    NO! There are no studies … that support it. But there were a lot of attempts to find something. They all failed to reach this goal. So just sprout ominous speculation about mysterious hypothetical dangers that might still lurk in the dark. Or inflate insignificant trace amounts to catastrophic proportions by omitting to mention the numbers and their meaning compared to other products, that people usually consider safe and acceptable. Or they just blatently make up “conclusions” that have absolutely no foundation in the data they cite as reference. Just look at the raw numbers and draw your own conclusions by comparing them.

    And then there is real science. Just gathering the facts and drawing unbiased objectively conclusions. E.g.:

  34. mirror says:

    Isn’t anyone going to make the argument that it is perfectly benign to START e-cigarettes? I mean, that is why they are making them, right? To get people addicted and create a market into the future?

    Or is this form of nicotine noticeably less addictive?

    As a former minimum pack and a half a day Camel straight smoker, I’m sympathetic to the argument that it doesn’t matter what you gotta do to quit if you need to quit.

  35. mirror says:

    I think the issue is not so much whether it might help people quite tobacco smoking as much as whether it is a safe drug to get addicted to, when it likely isn’t. For example, my son told me about young people at his college starting to try/use e-cigarettes when they never smoked before in the first place. He himself, an avid non-user of mind altering stuff, wasn’t aware there could be safety issues.

    And yes, congratulations! When your life is in danger sometimes you worry less about the nature of the life-line.

  36. cole3244 says:

    capitalism might not be the worst but its far from the best.

  37. Naja pallida says:

    It’s probably no accident that the same companies that have made billions off killing people with cigarettes are also the ones pushing e-cigs now. (RJ Reynolds – Vuse, Phillip Morris – MarkTen and Green Smoke, Lorillard – Blu, British American Tobacco – Vype) I’m sure they love to be able to skirt around the laws on marketing actual cigarettes, and are happy to have no FDA restrictions on what they can put in the “juice”, but yet still sell a highly addictive product to anyone who can afford it, including minors.

  38. August8 says:

    During the Bush years, this ‘blog’ had quite a bit of journamalism going on. These days, less so. Just saying.

  39. August8 says:

    They are smokeless. You must have been mistaken, or else he wasn’t really smoking an e-cigarette and just appeared to be.

  40. James Sandwitch says:

    Spreading false prohibitionist views doesn’t help smokers quit. I quit a 40 year pack-a-day habit the day I got my Personal Vaporizer. I have never had one of those e-cigarette. The ingredients in my e-liquid don’t contain nitrosamines or any cancer causing chemicals. The two main ingredients were recertified by the FDA in 1987 for inhalation and ingestion. Nicotine was found to be safe at amounts used by vapers in a Swedish study of Sinus users. E-cigarette and Personal Vaporizers can spell the dead of smoking tobacco if allowed.

  41. caphillprof says:

    I’m confused. I thought ecigarettes were smokeless. But last week a guy was smoking one in the bowels of metro center and the area reeked; he later boarded the same car and at the next stop I had to change cars for better air.

  42. Dameocrat says:

    This is a very revealing comment.,

  43. Dameocrat says:

    This is about neoliberal regressive taxation. They know most smokers can’t quit but most taxes in the US are collected from them so they are really really peeved about the invention of the ecig.

  44. Dameocrat says:

    Yet you aren’t trying to ban other products made in China, just ecigs.

  45. cole3244 says:

    the public will be told the hazards of e cigs long after the damage has been done because the bottom line is all that matters in a capitalist society.

  46. BeccaM says:

    I’ve never been a smoker, but grew up in a family that could be accurately be characterized by the term “smokestacks.”

    I’d say given the choice between being cooped up in a house — and a car — with two parents who chain-smoked Pall Malls or using e-cigs, I honestly think I would have preferred the latter. Of course, I’d rather not have been exposed at all…

    That said, there is one detail that also bears mentioning: Too many people seem to think these e-cigs are totally safe in another way, that they’re not flammable or can’t start fires. Well, they can. A little under two years ago, a dropped e-cig resulted in a 360 acre bosque brush-fire, which we were able to see from our house at the time.

    Just something to keep in mind.

  47. Silver_Witch says:

    Totally agree Indigo. When did it become passe to be polite and allow others to enjoy life if it didn’t hurt you (strickly talking about consenting grown-ups now).

    There are two types of people that are sometimes very hard to deal with (1) those who have quit smoking and are sure if they harp at you enough you will join the legions of the saved; and (2) those who found religion, especially if they have lived a very “sinful” life…they just know you too can find Jesus (or whomever).

    I try to avoid both…and I try very hard to let everyone enjoy their own vice, food, music and dance without judgment. Because really what is life with out a little Vice!!!

  48. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    It sure does.

  49. Indigo says:

    Live and let live? Yeah . . . that’s pretty much a gone attitude. Folks around us are not relaxed any more, they need to reform us because they have found themselves pure and worthy to missionize the world. If only they’d put buckles on the shoes, strap a puritan collar around their necks, and wear their hair in a bowl cut, we could know them for the fanatical Puritans they really are. Shades of Cromwell!

  50. Indigo says:

    Statistical figures always lie and liars always figure.

  51. Indigo says:


  52. Indigo says:

    The truth about smoking is it’s bad for you. Period. I favor legalizing marijuana, however, even in the smokable format, because the truth about marijuana is that it helps you feel good.

  53. GarySFBCN says:

    I am not a smoker. “Aren’t as likely to be more unsafe” isn’t proof.

    I don’t know what your issue is – I’m saying don’t ban at all unless there is PROOF that they are harmful to others, or have the same level of harm to the user.

  54. FrozenSquirrel says:

    I smoked a pack a day for most of thirty years. Cold turkey, patches, and gum did nothing to stop my cravings. In January of 2013, I did tons of research and found an e-cig system that seemed right for me. It arrived in the mail and three days later I had my last cigarette. Quitting with an e-cig was ridiculously easy of me; no stress, no anxiety, and no weight gain. Over the last year, I’ve cut down on nicotine to almost zero, and plan on shelving the e-cig next month. Food tastes so much better, the spring blooms smell wonderful, and I no longer annoy those around me. I don’t cough, wheeze, or stink and have saved over $2,000. Please, John, tell me why this was so bad for me.

  55. 2karmanot says:

    Or take a look at Jenny McCarthy smoking e-cigs—-that’s enough to induce nausea—“Know what I’m say’un.”

  56. Monophylos Fortikos says:

    I do tend to support the idea that if someone wants to inhale atomized Black Leaf 40 then they should be able to do so. But really that’s as far as my sympathy goes.

  57. Monophylos Fortikos says:

    Wait, you ever thought a blog was journalism? Where did get this silly idea?

  58. Naja pallida says:

    I’ve inhaled bacon. You don’t have any evidence to support that inhaling bacon is not safe! You don’t inhale bacon, so don’t have any frame of reference to form an opinion, and there are no studies saying that inhaling bacon is bad for you. Your reaction sounds very knee-jerk to me. Don’t you dare suggest that my uncontrollable addiction may not be healthy for me until all the evidence is in.

  59. August8 says:

    I agree, and so far these “studies” seem to be more about fear-mongering than anything else.

    It’s almost like the studies are put forward by the tobacco companies to keep people from trying to quit.

    Just speculation…but it’s not like that sort of thing hasn’t been tried before.

    Four out of five doctors recommend Lucky Strikes…

  60. Silver_Witch says:

    Or take a look at the GM recall of cars that forget to turn off and run into things. USA USA USA….

  61. Cletus says:

    I care about studies when they’re used to put at risk something that has the potential to save a lot of lives. I’m not against an in depth study of ecigs, I’m just against fear mongering without facts.

  62. Silver_Witch says:

    I don’t know if they are safer than cigarettes….frankly I don’t really care if they are safer. What I hope is that they have less effect on those around me while I indulge in my “horrible habit”. I quit every few years for a year or two, and then something happens and I am back in the comforting arms of my habit. After years of struggling with bi-polar disorder I have also found (and some studies back up my theory) that those of us who suffer from mental illness get some relief/comfort/calming effects from smokes. And during those manic times, I am not willing, or maybe even able to stop smoking. I like e-cigs because they are less offensive to others (and hopefully less harmful). Don’t smell up my clothes or my home and are much “cleaner” to deal with than ash trays and left overs.

    It would be nice if instead of fear mongering we could have rational discussions about things.

    For example, I hear butter is NOT in fact going to kill any of us and in many ways (when used in moderation – like all things) is far better for us than butter substitutes.

    Let’s all take a breath and live and let live.

  63. August8 says:

    Numbers do sometimes lie. I’d be interested in more in-depth studies.

    And while I’ve read John Aravosis’s website for years, I notice that he doesn’t do much reporting these days, but just posts a lot of cat videos and other cute videos, and only reacts, and doesn’t do much ‘reporting’ anymore.

    He is having a knee-jerk reaction. My own observations have involved a lot of long-time smokers (decades, including myself) who have either finally been able to quit, or at least cut down significantly.

    I don’t give a crap about ‘studies’ when my own experience says otherwise.

  64. August8 says:

    There haven’t been anywhere close to enough numbers and length of experience to make such judgment calls.

    They don’t help people quit? Hard to say that when they haven’t been around long enough to really study.

    Why so down on the idea so immediately, John? Why so negative on something that might (or is, if you can believe people who know) help people quit smoking?

    Knee-jerk, sounds like.

  65. August8 says:

    Anything made in America can’t be that unhealthy either. Just look at our chicken industry.

  66. Cletus says:

    Numbers don’t lie, but small insignificant samples such as the one sited do. Plus John, we already know that eating meats that contain nitrosamines increase the risk of stomach and esophageal cancers, so where’s the movement to ban them?

  67. But they were developed in China. Anything made in China can’t be that unhealthy. ;-)

  68. You’ve inhaled bacon? Good to know it’s not cancer-causing when inhaled. Oh, wait, that’s right, you don’t inhale bacon. But you do inhale this. Could the health effects be different? Why yes they could.

    And that’s great that you’ve been able to cut back – you’re the exception. Numbers don’t lie.

  69. Cletus says:

    Bet you didn’t know ethelyne glycol is already added to cigarette tobacco to sweeten it. I for one, though I prefer vegetable glycerin, would rather vape it than inhale it in the form of smoke.

  70. August8 says:

    For all you know it’s magic-health vapor. Quit fear-mongering.

    And since you’re talking to a few long-time smokers, kindly tell us your own experience with tobacco before you judge and condemn based on what you appear to know little about.

  71. August8 says:

    I don’t want to jump down your throat, Gary, but are you a smoker speaking from experience?

    They sure as hell aren’t likely to be more unsafe than cigarettes themselves.

  72. Cletus says:

    Plenty of the reputable US based companies have EXTENSIVE quality control and only use recognized FDA approved for human consumption additives. So no, he is wrong.

  73. Cletus says:

    Well, I wasn’t going to quit any other way any time soon, so just based on the improvement in day to day quality of life, they need to be given a FAIR assessment. The thousands of ways they’re different from traditional cigarettes is the biggest point in their favor.

  74. GarySFBCN says:

    No, he is correct.

  75. Cletus says:

    You don’t have a clue what you’re talking about.

  76. GarySFBCN says:

    I agree that the rush to ban these things is based upon hysteria and not rational thought.

    However, we don’t know that they are ‘safer’ than cigarettes. It would seem that they are but there is no proof.

  77. Cletus says:

    Why would you post such a ridiculous article meant only to fear-monger?

    1. Nitrosamines? Ban bacon, hot dogs, cured ham and every cold cut. I’m sure a single slice contains much higher amounts.

    2. Amount of nicotine can vary? Not to worry, like marijuana smokers, cigarette smokers self dose. If it’s too high they’ll cut back.

    3. It’s addictive? Oh, didn’t know that.

    4. Some cities have banned them? Yeah, well they’re idiots too. E-Cigs, though not safe, are the safest and most effective alternative to cigarettes, which deliver thousands of harmful chemicals, I’ve yet seen.

    5. Refillables are now coming on the market? Show’s the level of ignorance embedded in this article. They’ve been around nearly as long as E-Cigs have. Just like with any other dangerous substance, use extreme care in handling the juices and only buy from reputable American sources.

    There’s just too much in this article to attack. All I know is for myself, though I haven’t been able to quit, I’ve gone from two packs a day to a pack every other day, something I’ve never been able to accomplish with any other cessation device or medication, and my lung capacity, endurance, and sense of smell have improved dramatically. Do a cost benefit analysis before you make these ridiculous accusations.

  78. GarySFBCN says:

    How these affect health is not known. One would think that they are less harmful than cigarettes. If so, “harm reduction” is good.

  79. August8 says:

    I got mine last July and it sat on my shelf for months. I played with it here and there but was still smoking. Over the years I’ve finally managed to cut down to just four or five per day, but when you’ve been smoking for 27 years, you know that ain’t cutting it. You need to stop.

    I’ve now been a week, which may not seem like much, but it’s six days longer than I’ve ever gotten before.

    The e-cigs satisfy partly….I imagine it’s like methadone to a heroin addict….it handles the craving, but doesn’t truly substitute for the real thing.

    More important, they satisfy the oral fixation part of it, which all the patches and gums and lozenges and hypnosis tapes and pills could never do.

    For me it’s been a godsend, and if it turns out that it will kill us also, well that’s no worse than what we were already living with every day.

  80. frogview says:

    I AM AN E CIGARETTE USER. Had I known what I smelled like from tobacco I would have stopped decades ago. I went to e-cigs not with the intention of quitting but as a nicotine substitute. It worked! My doctor is thrilled and encourages me to stay with it. However, it does make me realize that I am an addict of sorts. But until outlawed, I will continue to vape!

  81. luzeelu says:

    Well, I’ve been a smoker for a very long time and finally decided to try e-cigarettes to see whether they would help me quit. I got my “kit” the end of January and immediately was able to cut down on the cigarettes significantly. The last “real” cigarette I smoked was on March 1.

    Maybe these are bad for me as well, but hopefully not as bad as actual cigarettes. No smoke, no tars, etc. I really enjoyed smoking and wasn’t a heavy smoker, but I’m very pleased with how well this is working. And it’s costing a LOT less than cigarettes.

  82. GarySFBCN says:

    OK, 1) that should have been included in the post above and 2) there is nothing to indicate that being exposed to second-hand nicotine (1/10th the amount from smoking) and NO combustion toxicants coming from e-cigarettes is a health issue. None.

  83. docsterx says:

    The producers of e-cigarette replacement cartridges do no quality control on what chemicals are present in the liquid base. And no research on what they may be converted into when vaporized. So the e-cigarette smoker could be inhaling anything along with the nicotine vapor. Therefore, e-cigarettes may be much more stoxi than tobacco, depending on the constituents of the vapor.

  84. docsterx says:

    Recent research from a small study shows that there is nicotine in second-hand smoke in lower concentration than tobacco smoke. More research and larger numbers of participants are needed to verify and continue the work.

  85. bkmn says:

    As a former smoker I have had no desire to go anywhere near e-cigs. Look at the history of the tobacco industry and how they put up to hundreds of compounds in the tobacco that went into cigarettes. Those compounds made smoking more enjoyable and made it harder to quit smoking.

    After decades of obfuscation from big tobacco I would hope that e-cigs recieve extremely high scrutiny. I don’t know what aerosolized antifreeze will do to peoples’ lungs and i don’t want people to find out the hard way.

  86. Psyspace says:

    Can’t say I’m a big fan of e-cigarettes but come on…it is idiotic to suggest that any safety risks even approach those of inhaling the smoke from burning leaves.. Nitrosamines or no nitrosamines. This is Big Tobacco at war with Big Pharma (the manufacturers of all those pills! patches and gums with rather poor quit rates). Do you really want to take sides here? That said, I wish there was some FDA oversight.

  87. GarySFBCN says:

    “There is some risk to nearby non-smokers from second-hand smoke.”

    Without data to support that, it seems reckless to include that statement in this post.

    I fully support every ban on cigarettes (so far) because of the health issues with second-hand smoke, the nastiness of the smell (to those of us who don’t smoke), and the habitual littering of streets, beaches and parks by thoughtless smokers.

    But, none of these issues are linked with e-cigarettes.

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