Are Electronic Cigarettes A Healthy Alternative?

Image by: Michael Dorausch
By Kurt Garrity

Electronic cigarettes can be found just about everywhere these days, usually where conventional cigarettes are sold. The device, also known as an e-cigarette, is actually a pretty sophisticated little machine that simulates the smoking experience, complete with “fake smoke” and a “classic” cigarette look and feel.

It actually vaporizes an on-board liquid into a breathable mist, releasing nicotine into the system at much the same rate as standard cigs do.

They are touted as a great way to quit smoking the Marlboro Man’s business, by weaning you off that burning leaf stick thing in your hand.

Cool stuff. No toxic smoke. No ashes. Just good clean cigarette fun without all that fire and smell. And they are generally considered a safer way to get your nic fix, without the same lung disease and cancer risks associated with smoking regular cigarettes.

Is There A Doctor In The House?

The American Association of Public Health Physicians (AAPHP) is behind the electronic cigarette movement. In a statement released to coincide with a state push to ban the devices, AAAPHP Tobacco Control Task Force chairman Joel L. Nitzkin, MD, MPH, DPA, said that the association of health officials, “favors a permissive approach to E-cigarettes because the possibility exists to save the lives of four million of the eight million current adult American smokers who will otherwise die of a tobacco-related illness over the next twenty years.”

A Boston University School of Public Health study also weighed the pros and cons of electronic cigarettes and declared them “much safer than tobacco cigarettes and comparable in toxicity to conventional nicotine replacement products.”

Doctors and scientists are seemingly on board the e-cig train. Manufacturers and retailers are delighted as brands such as South Beach Smoke and Victory fly off the shelves and websites.

Not So Fast, Says The Government

Not everyone is signing off on e-cigarettes just yet. The use of e-cigarettes was discouraged in a big splashy public way by a suspicious Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in 2009, although no specific studies were cited by the government agency. They did say that testing on a small sample of products revealed some impurities in the liquid. They also pointed out that the amount of nicotine dispensed by the device is not consistent enough to deliver exacting doses.

The American Lung Association goes one step further, calling the devices more harmful than good. How? They actually say that the devices don’t give you enough nicotine to satisfy your cravings. So they aren’t STRONG enough? That’s not the position I expected for sure. They also say that since the FDA hasn’t yet approved the devices, that you should look elsewhere if you are trying to use an e-cig to quit smoking regs.

So, Is That A Yes Or A No?

While we wait for studies to be concluded on the safety aspects of using electronic cigarettes, they are generally considered safe-ish, and certainly better for you than regular cigarettes and, for some, an effective tool to be used to help kick the habit altogether.