Sunday, September 15, 2013

What Are Electronic Cigarettes And How Safe Are They?

What Are Electronic Cigarettes And How Safe Are They?

If you haven’t seen the strangely-sleek barrel of an electronic cigarette yet, or its peculiar vapor cloud, chances are you will soon. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported earlier this year that use of electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes, rose from about 10% in 2010 to about 21% in 2011 among adults who smoked combustible cigarettes.

Battery powered tube-like devices, e-cigarettes are often made to resemble actual tobacco cigarettes. E-cigarettes release water vapor laced with nicotine housed in a cartridge. Users then inhale the vapor as they would the smoke from a combustible cigarette.

E-cigarettes are touted by manufacturers and proponents as a safe alternative to traditional combustible cigarettes, but many physicians disagree. And, while companies say they don’t promote the battery-operated devices as smoking cessation tools, some smokers try anyway.

The fact that e-cigarettes don’t produce smoke and don’t contain most of the chemicals found in combustible cigarettes may make them the lesser of two evils, but neither is a good idea, says Ray Casciari, MD, FRCP, director of the thoracic oncology program and the chief medical officer at St. Joseph Hospital, in Orange, Calif. People who are using e-cigarettes are still inhaling substances not meant to enter the lungs. Alongside the nicotine, users may be inhaling substances that might not be safe.

“You don’t know what that is doing to your lungs,” Casciari says. “My experience over the past 35 years is that anything you put in the lungs has a chance of causing either lung damage or irritation.” He explains that lungs have no way of protecting themselves, other than producing mucus to create a barrier or by coughing.

Add to that, e-cigarettes lack regulation, meaning the actual substances used and how much the user inhales is left up to the manufacturer.

Proponents for e-cigarettes believe that people who want the option of using the devices should be able to. “E-cigarettes are part of a larger phenomenon known as tobacco harm reduction,” says Carl Phillips, PhD, scientific director of Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association (CASAA), a consumer and vendor advocacy group that promotes the use of non-tobacco products. Phillips sees e-cigarettes as a desirable alternative to combustible cigarettes.

Fans of the e-cigarettes say that users are limiting their risks for harm because they are inhaling mist not smoke, which they believe is the real danger. A study presented last year at the European Respiratory Annual Congress says otherwise. Researchers measured how effectively a group of smokers and non-smokers were able to bring air into their lungs before and after using an e-cigarette. The results showed a significant increase in airway resistance (the ease of how air enters the lungs) among most of the study subjects after they inhaled the e-cigarette’s mist.
Source : Nature and Health


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