Nov
16
2014

Smoking E-Cigarettes Of No Benefit

Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) were invented to help people get away from the carcinogenic content of real cigarettes and they were thought to help people in the process to quit smoking as well.

In the October 2014 issue of the BC Medical Journal a review article is entitled: “Electronic cigarettes: Do we know the benefits vs. the risks?” In it Dr. Roy Purssell, the Chair of the Emergency Medical Services Committee in BC, Canada reviewed the literature about e-cigarettes (Ref.1). He pointed out that several studies have shown that the number of cigarettes used may have declined with the use of e-cigarettes, but the quitting rate on e-cigarettes is not higher than when quitting conventional cigarettes.

Why were e-cigarettes developed?

Originally they were marketed as an alternative to cigarette smoking with the thought that they would only contain the nicotine, but not the myriad of cancer producing chemicals. However, studies now show that this is not the case. As explained earlier people use e-cigarettes, but they often still smoke real cigarettes on the side, in effect just reducing the number of cigarettes smoked per day. Says Dr. Purssell: “Reducing the number of cigarettes smoked per day is much less effective than quitting entirely for avoiding the risks of premature death from all smoking-related causes of death” (also based on Ref. 2).

Chemical composition of e-cigarettes

E-cigarettes are battery-operated vaporizers that give you the feel of smoking a tobacco cigarette. The container inside the e-cigarette can be refilled with “e-juice” that can be bought through the Internet. The liquid contains highly concentrated nicotine, propylene glycol, glycerin, and flavorings (you can choose from cinnamon to cherry flavor and more). The liquid is vaporized by a heating element and the vapor is inhaled. No long-term experiments are available at this time with regard to the safety of these inhaled chemicals in humans. Only short-term experiments are behind the FDA’s declaration that propylene glycol would be “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) as a food additive. But there is still a difference between inhaling and ingesting propylene glycol, and the same is true for glycerin.

The manufacturers of e-liquid (or e-juice) always put this disclaimer on their products: “Warning: Always keep e-cigarette liquid in a safe place and out of reach from children and pets. Nicotine in its pure form is a poison, and can cause harm if ingested by a child.”

Smoking E-Cigarettes Of No Benefit

Smoking E-Cigarettes Of No Benefit

Toxic effects of e-juice (e-liquid)

From September 2010 to February 2014 there were 2405 reports to the poison control centers in the US about e-cigarette exposures. In the month of February 2013 there were 70 calls, in February of 2014 there were 215 calls, a 300% increase.  More than 50% of these cases involved young children.

In BC, according to Dr. Purssell the Drug and Poison Information Centre received 70 calls between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2014. 50% of these involved children who were younger than 4 years old. There was no case of serious toxicity. If, however, enough fluid is swallowed, there can be deaths from nicotine overdose, particularly in children and in pets. Seizures can be caused by nicotine overdoses and poisoning of the breathing center in the brain stem.

Nicotine is highly addictive. In children and in adolescents nicotine has a negative effect on brain development. Here is a report from the Minnesota Poison Control Center, which reports poisoning incidences with e-juice that was swallowed by young children and it reports also about adolescents who overdosed on e-cigarettes.

It appears that the nervous system is more sensitive for toxic effects of nicotine at a younger age.

Regulations of e-cigarettes

At this point e-cigarettes are illegal because the FDA is still examining the pros and the cons. The situation in Canada is similar: Under the Canadian Food and Drugs Act regulations it is currently illegal to sell e-cigarettes containing nicotine. The international Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease has issued a position statement saying that its preferred opinion is to regulate e-cigarettes as tobacco products. The UK will be following this advice.

Dr. Purssell commented: ”This is a reasonable course of action for a product that delivers a highly addictive substance with negative effects on brain development and can cause serious poisoning.“

While the Internet merchants are busy marketing these products, it is important that the legislators around the globe take swift action to draft policies and regulations now to protect children and adolescents.

Conclusion

In conclusion it can be stated that smoking e-cigarettes will not have any benefits whatsoever. Smokers still smoke, as the addictive substance (nicotine) in e-cigarettes undermines their efforts to quit. It may be true that they are not exposing themselves to lung cancers as much as those who puff away on regular cigarettes, but instead their cardiovascular system is exposed to the nicotine that causes heart attacks and strokes. It sounds very sobering that they just traded one cause of  unnecessary death (lung cancer) for another one (cardiovascular disease leading to strokes and heart attacks).

More information on:

1. Causes of lung cancer: http://nethealthbook.com/cancer-overview/lung-cancer/causes-lung-cancer/

2. Heart attacks: http://nethealthbook.com/cardiovascular-disease/heart-disease/heart-attack-myocardial-infarction-or-mi/

3. Strokes: http://nethealthbook.com/cardiovascular-disease/stroke-and-brain-aneurysm/stroke-prevention/

References:

1.BC Medical Journal Vol. 56, no.8, October 2014 (www.bcmj.org)

2.US Department of Health and Human Services. The health consequences of smoking – 50 years of progress: A report of the surgeon general. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health, 2014.

Last edited Nov. 16, 2014

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About Ray Schilling

Dr. Ray Schilling born in Tübingen, Germany and Graduated from Eberhard-Karls-University Medical School, Tuebingen in 1971. Once Post-doctoral cancer research position holder at the Ontario Cancer Institute in Toronto, is now a member of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M).

Comments

  1. I would draw your attention to the following articles drawn from the website of Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos, a cardiologist and one of the worlds foremost researchers into e-cigarettes.

    Evaluation of the cytotoxic potential of e-cigarette vapor on cultured cardiac cells: a new study – http://www.ecigarette-research.com/web/index.php/research/2013/135-evaluation-of-the-cytotoxic

    Electronic cigarettes, contrary to tobacco, do not stiffen the arteries – http://www.ecigarette-research.com/web/index.php/research/2013/144-electronic-cigarettes-contrary

    Electronic cigarettes: no adverse effects on blood and oxygen supply to the heart – http://www.ecigarette-research.com/web/index.php/research/2013/127-no-adverse-effects

    The links to the relevant peer-reviewed studies are included in each article. As you can see, your claim that e-cigarettes offer no benefit but are merely trading one cause of death for another is unfounded in evidence. I am sure Dr Farsalinos would be more than happy to enter into correspondence with you should you have any questions.

    • Thank you for your contribution. The problem with these experiments is that they were short-term studies and simply compared real cigarette smoke with e-cigarette smoke. No long-term studies for 5 or 10 years have been done at this point. This was the problem initially with cigarette smoking, namely that short term experiments found no negative effect from real cigarette smoking. Cigarette companies exploited that until other researchers did long-term exposure studies to show that cigarette smoking did indeed cause heart attacks and lung cancer on the longterm.

  2. David Hicks says:

    I smoked for 40 yrs, at least 2 packs per day. I am now an exclusive Vaper for more than one year.
    Your conclusions are totally wrong. A smoker moving to Vaping gets immeadiate health dividends.
    There are now 700,000 ex-smokers in England thanks to Ecigs and 1.4 million who have cut their consumption of Tobacco thanks to Vaping. A dual user, Vaper/Smoker, is usually on their way to smoking cessation. The stats in UK also show there is very little use by non-smoking people.
    Ecigs are brilliant products and to not support their use is criminal.

    • I am glad that you found some use for e-cigarettes. You are right that the removal of carcinogens gives you immediate benefits. You say that people when on e-cigarettes are “usually on their way to smoking cessation”. The point of the other literature that I cited is that not everybody does and gets hooked to this new type of smoking or else combines it with traditional smoking. With Vaping you are still exposing yourself to some form of chemical and this cannot be healthy for your tissues in the mouth, the pharynx, the bronchial tubes and the lungs.

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