Electronic Cigarettes are a relatively new product to emerge on the global market place in the 2000’s. They are also known as nicotine inhalers, e-cigs, or personal vaporizers and provide an inhaled vapor of nicotine along with flavoring as an alternative to traditional tobacco products such as cigars, pipes, and cigarettes. Current e-cigs are produced to mimic the look and feel of traditional tobacco cigarettes along with a “pen-style” model produced by a number of companies. The first electronic cigarette was produced by the SBT Company in 2003. Popular electronic cigarette models on the market at the time of this writing were Green Smoke, Luci, and Blu.
How Does the Electronic Cigarette Produce Vapor?
Most electronic cigarettes produce vapor through the use of an atomizing unit. When the smoker inhales on the electronic cigarette, the flow of air is detected by a microprocessor or sensor that then activates the atomizer which produces a vapor from the nicotine solution contained in the electronic cigarette cartridge. The smoker, in-turn inhales this vapor which is also mixed with propylene glycol to produce a visible smoke-like vapor, nicotine, and flavoring agents. The majority of the popular brand of electronic cigarettes on the market place also have an LED light that illuminates when the smoker inhales on the e-cig to further provide the look and feel of smoking a real cigarette.
Is the Electronic Cigarette Nicotine Solution Safe?
Most electronic cigarette producers use a nicotine solution that has propylene glycol as the carrying and vapor producing agent. Glycerin is also used interchangeably by companies for the same reasons. Nicotine, and e-cig flavoring are the other two components in the electronic cigarette nicotine solution. Manufacturers provide varying levels of nicotine concentrate to mimic traditional tobacco cigarettes such as regular, light, mild, and even none. Common flavors are traditional tobacco flavor, menthol, strawberry, vanilla, caramel, coffee, and mint. The electronic cigarette vapor does not contain the carcinogens found in traditional tobacco cigarettes (over 4000 at last count), however, extensive testing is still required to be carried out by the U.S. FDA and other major health organizations to verify if there are other health risks associated with the product other than those associated with nicotine.
Health New Zealand conducted testing in the fall of 2008 which determined that trace levels of tobacca-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs) were detected in some electronic cigarette cartridges but below harmful levels to humans. Testing in the United States has been less rigorous, but independent analysis of initial FDA findings was consistent with that found by Health New Zealand.
The bottom line is, yes there could be health risks associated with electronic cigarettes, but the risk is significantly less than that of continuing to smoke traditional tobacco cigarettes and other products.