E-cigarettes: Healthy tool or gateway device?

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(CNN) — If the tiny sample of smokers in a new study in the British journal Lancet are any indication, electronic cigarettes might be slightly more effective than nicotine patches in helping people quit smoking.

Great, right? Except another new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests more children and teens are trying them.

The implications of both these studies means electronic cigarettes have been getting a lot of attention lately. Just what e-cigarettes are and what role they should play in helping people quit smoking depends very much on who you speak with about this topic.

Smoking is still the leading cause of avoidable death in the United States. The devices are not one of the FDA-approved methods to help people quit, but many people are using them this way. A growing number of scientists are studying them to see whether they may be a way to end an epidemic.

The topic, though, remains as polarizing a health issue as sex education or diet sodas.

An e-what?

The e-cigarette was actually developed by a pharmacist in China.

The pharmacist, Hon Lik, was a three-pack-a-day smoker. That was nothing unusual — more than 300 million people in China are regular smokers. But when Lik’s father, who was also a heavy smoker, died of lung cancer, Lik decided he had to come up with an alternative that wouldn’t kill him.

Most scientists believe nicotine itself, while highly addictive, is not what causes cancer for smokers or for the people around them who breathe their second-hand smoke. Instead, it’s the toxic chemicals that are created when tobacco and filler products burn that are dangerous.

If there was a way to get nicotine addicts their fix without the burn, you just might avoid the health problems. Nicotine then becomes as harmless as any other addictive substance, such as caffeine, some experts say.

So Lik developed an e-cigarette — a device that uses a small battery to atomize a pure liquid solution of nicotine. Nothing is burned. There is no ash. There is no smoke. There is nicotine, and then there is flavoring added for taste.

Essentially the person using these inhales a kind of vapor that looks like fog from a fog machine. A recent review of all the scientific research done on e-cigarettes by Drexel University professor Igor Burstyn concludes “current data do not indicate that exposures to vapors from contaminants in electronic cigarettes warrant a concern.”

In plain language, Burstyn concludes: “It’s about as harmless as you can get.”

“I wouldn’t worry at all if someone was smoking one of these by my kids,” Burstyn said. “From a pure health perspective, these are not as bad as a cigarette.”

E-cigarettes came to the U.S. market around 2009. The CDC now estimates about one in five Americans have tried smoking an e-cigarette — that’s about 6% of adults who smoke.

There are e-cigarette stores, but now you can also buy them online or in convenience stores. Some look like regular cigarettes; some look like pens or thumb drives.

First you buy a starter kit, which costs between $40 and $130. In the kit is the e-cigarette, a charger and a few cartridges. The cartridges typically last as long as a 20-pack of cigarettes and sell for around $10. You can also buy a bottle of e-liquid to refile the cartridge yourself.

The anti-e-cigarette camp

Critics point out e-cigarettes come in kid-friendly flavors such as gummy bear, atomic fireball candy and cookies and cream. It makes them worry that e-cigarettes will become a gateway to encourage kids to develop a lifelong nicotine addiction — or worse, try the real thing.

Only about 20 states specifically forbid the sale of e-cigarettes to children.

Tobacco use has been on the decline with kids; it’s about half what it was in the mid-1990s. But the latest CDC study shows a growing number of middle and high school students have tried e-cigarettes.

One in 10 high school students surveyed said they had tried e-cigarettes last year. That’s double the number from 2011. One high school in Connecticut banned them after the principal said administrators dealt with at least one incident involving e-cigarettes every day.

CDC director Tom Frieden characterized this trend as “deeply troubling.”

But as far as risky behavior goes, it’s still a tiny fraction of students. The survey showed about 3% of these kids said they had used one in the last 30 days. By contrast, 39% of students said they drank some amount of alcohol in the past 30 days, 22% binge drank and 24% rode with a driver who had been drinking.

The real problem is that 88% of adult smokers who smoke daily said they started when they were kids, according to the CDC. Kids who start down the path to using e-cigarettes may stick with them for life.

“So much is unknown about them and what the long-term complications could be with their use,” said the American Lung Association’s Erika Sward. “Bottom line, we don’t know what the consequences of using them are, and we are very troubled that kids would find them attractive.”

E-cigarettes are unregulated in the United States; no laws make manufacturers tell you what you are actually inhaling. The unknown is one of the many qualities of e-cigarettes that the American Lung Association doesn’t like.

It’s “a complete unregulated Wild West,” Sward said. She wants the FDA to move quickly with regulatory oversight, which she says would make manufacturers disclose what the actual ingredients are in each of the 250 or so brands available.

In 2009, a FDA test on a small number of e-cigarette samples found “detectable levels of known carcinogens and toxic chemicals to which users could potentially be exposed.” They found diethylene glycol in one cartridge at a 1% level; this is an ingredient used in antifreeze and can be toxic to humans in large quantities. Diethylene glycol is also found in some dental products and in some pharmaceuticals.

After that study, the FDA banned the sale of e-cigarettes. They warned e-cigarette smokers that they were inhaling “toxic” and “harmful” chemicals. However, in 2010, a court ruled that “the FDA had cited no evidence to show that electronic cigarettes harmed anyone,” and stores could go on selling them.

The early e-adopters

On the other side of the debate are the passionate supporters of e-cigarettes. Many who use them say it is the first thing that has helped them stop using cigarettes — something more than 90% of smokers fail to do with any of the existing FDA-approved methods. There are blogs and message boards dedicated to them. And there are countless impassioned testimonials from the people who use them.

Florida resident Craig Lashley says they’ve changed his life.

“I got tired of being like that little kid in ‘Peanuts’ who had the cloud of smoke following him all the time,” Lashley said. “I didn’t like the way I smelled when I smoked, and I didn’t like what smoking said about me, especially to kids.”

He discovered the e-cigarette about a year ago and hasn’t smoked a regular cigarette since.

He says he smells better, feels better and spends a lot less — about $10 a week on e-cigarettes. He used to spend about $45 a week on regular cigarettes.

“I like the feel of blowing smoke,” Lashley said. “It seems to me like (e-cigarettes are) a healthier alternative.”

A growing number of respected physicians and scientists agree, and they say these products could end a major health problem.

“Electronic cigarettes and other nicotine-containing devices offer massive potential to improve public health, by providing smokers with a much safer alternative to tobacco,” the Royal College of Physicians says. “They need to be widely available and affordable to smokers.”

The latest study, published in the British journal the Lancet, examined whether people who used them as an alternative to smoking would abstain from using regular cigarettes.

The New Zealand authors studied the behavior of 657 people who were trying to quit. One group got nicotine patches, another got nicotine e-cigarettes and others got placebo e-cigarettes without the nicotine.

Over a period of six months, only a tiny fraction of the people in the study actually quit smoking.

People using the nicotine e-cigarettes quit at a slightly better rate compared with those using the patch, though. Some 7.3% using the e-cigarettes abstained from smoking traditional cigarettes compared with the 5.8% who stopped with the patch. About 4.1% stopped with just the placebo e-cigarettes.

It was such a small number of people who quit that the authors concluded “more research is urgently needed to clearly establish their overall benefits and harms at both individual and population levels.”

Dr. Michael Siegel, a physician who has spent the past couple decades working on tobacco control initiatives, has been surprised by the negative reaction to e-cigarettes from so many people in the public health sector. Siegel says the studies he’s done have shown e-cigarettes are a help.

“True we don’t know the long-term health effect of e-cigarettes, but there’s a very good likelihood that smokers are going to get lung cancer if they don’t quit smoking,” he said. “If they can switch to these and quit smoking traditional cigarettes, why condemn them?”

Siegel theorizes the e-cigarettes might look too much like smoking.

“It’s ironic the very thing that makes them so effective … drives the anti-smoking groups crazy. But what makes them so effective is it mimics the physical behaviors smokers have, which is something the patch can’t do.”

Siegel does believe there is an urgent need for more regulations.

Ray Story, founder of the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association, agrees. He says his association has also pushed for age verification legislation.

“When you have these companies trying to promote these as something they are not, and you have stores that sell them in the candy aisle, you are going to have a problem,” Story said. “If they are officially categorized as a tobacco product, you get an automatic age verification put in place.

“Nicotine is addictive, and we want the federal government to create guidelines and a structure that will confine these to being sold as adult products.”

Lashley says no matter what the debate, he will continue to spread the e-cigarette gospel to his fellow adults.

So far, his co-workers have been receptive to the idea. He used to be the only one with an e-cigarette on smoke breaks. Now he says he’s got more than a dozen colleagues doing the same.

One colleague, though, complained about it.

“He said ‘I’m sick of all these people smoking electronic cigarettes,” Lashley said. “When I asked him why he said. ‘Simple, now I can’t bum any off of them.’ “

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5 LEADING BENEFITS ELECTRONIC SMOKING HAS OVER TRADITIONAL CIGARETTES

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In order for someone to switch brands or consider alternatives, they need to clearly see the benefits of the new approach. E-cigarettes are no different.

Many, if not the vast majority of those interested in electronic smoking, are current smokers. Chances are you’re one of them – searching for an alternative but wanting to understand the benefits of switching from your current brand.

E-cigarettes are indeed an alternative to traditional cigarettes. They’re a suitable alternative for many because of the benefits they have over “smoking.”

We invite you to continue reading for 5 of the leading benefits electronic smoking has over traditional cigarettes…these benefits were discovered from customer feedback as well as numerous scientific studies examining both traditional and e-cigarettes.

Reason #1 – E-cigarettes do NOT have that distinctive odor

Just about anyone knows – cigarettes smell!! It’s their hallmark.

Scent from cigarette smoke gets into, and clings, to just about anything it comes in contact with – hair, clothes, your car – anything. Not only does the odor cling, many consider cigarette smell offensive and avoid close contact. If you’re a smoker, you don’t notice it so much since you’re immersed in it all of the time. To non-smokers, and especially ex-smokers, this smell is very noticeable.

One reason cigarette smoke smells so bad is because you’re burning tar and chemicals in addition to the tobacco itself. Properties from burning these substances make them cling to clothing, hair, walls, furniture, etc.

E-cigarettes on the other hand do not have this ominous odor because instead of exhaling smoke, you’re exhaling a vapor that evaporates almost immediately. Customers and non-smokers/vapers report the smell from an e-cigarette to be either nonexistent or reminiscent of cotton candy or even pop tarts!!

Whatever it is, e-cigarettes certainly smell a whole lot better than traditional cigarettes.

Reason #2 – Electronic smoking is MUCH cheaper than traditional cigarettes

If you’re a smoker reading this, you can certainly relate to this point – cigarettes are expensive these days.

In 1980, you could buy a good quality pack of cigarettes for $1. By the 90s, the cost had risen to $2, on average. Today, a good quality pack of cigarettes will cost you anywhere from $7 to $12 depending on which state you’re in.

Some of this increase in cost can be attributed to regular inflation or rising prices of production (tobacco) and even distribution (fuel).

Taxes however play a big role too. In 2009 for example, the federal tax was raised from $0.39 to $1.01 per pack. Add state taxes, which vary, and taxes end being around 20% of the cost of a pack of traditional cigarettes.

Between all of this, a pack-a-day smoker can spend upwards of $300 each month! And this doesn’t include the cost of other incidentals such as lighters, ash trays and much more.

E-cigarettes do not share this dilemma. While some of the entry costs of a starter kit may be a little bit higher, the month-to-month cost of electronic smoking is typically about half when compared to traditional cigarettes. Cartomizers and batteries constitute the bulk of this expense, which can range anywhere between $20 and $40 depending on how much you vape.

Currently, e-cigarettes are not subject to any sort of taxes like traditional smokes are. Also, as the technology develops and becomes more mainstream, the cost will continue to decline (…think cell phones, DVD players, etc.).

Reason #3 – E-cigarettes are much safer

Since you’re “burning” tobacco, not to mention using an open flame to light it, traditional cigarettes by default pose serious fire hazards. Cigarettes are in fact the #1 cause of fire-related death in the United States and 7 other countries. Worldwide, fires started by lit cigarettes constitute 10% of all fire-related deaths.

With e-cigarettes, you’re not burning an open flame and don’t have a hot cherry that can burn you, your clothes, your furniture, and so on.

There was an incident where an e-cigarette exploded in the user’s face in early 2012. It was determined though that the particular unit the person was using was a “mod,” which is a way vapers can alter their devices for more power that involves stacking the batteries. When used as intended, there have been no reports of an e-cigarette exploding.

Reason #4 – Health

While we can’t make the claim that e-cigarettes are healthier, we can point out how traditional cigarettes are harmful to your health.

You don’t have to take our word for it – there are countless studies out there showing how smoking traditional cigarettes can put you at a higher risk of a whole host of conditions, including (but not limited to) – stroke, heart attack, lung cancer, throat cancer, pneumonia, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s, and countless others.

Traditional cigarettes contain a litany of chemicals as well, many of which are considered carcinogenic, or cancer causing.

Many of our customers have reported feeling better physically after switching to electronic smoking.

Reason #5 – Social

Last but not least are the social impacts of traditional cigarettes, which is in a way related to reasons one through four. Over the years, smoking has increasingly been viewed negatively by society at-large for a variety of reasons.

The smell, the health consequences, and even the healthcare costs all combine to give traditional cigarettes a bad name these days. If you’re a smoker, you’ve certainly noticed an increasing amount of restrictions around where you can light up, even at private parties where the host is a nonsmoker.

Also, traditional cigarettes can have impacts on your social life, literally. Take dating for an example – it’s pretty rare for a nonsmoker to be with a smoker. Also, smoking can also impact job prospects since more employers are taking a more critical eye toward traditional cigarettes.

As you can see, e-cigarettes and electronic smoking carry many benefits over traditional smoking. Many have discovered how they can still enjoy smoking and get the nicotine they crave without using methods that are increasingly seen as intrusive and irresponsible.

E-cigarettes from Eversmoke provide this alternative in a cost-effective, easy way. If you’re searching for that alternative, consider trying Paradise Vape. http://www.paradisevapeusa.com