ACSH staffers noticed that today s issues of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal both address the increasingly contentious issue of e-cigarettes, smokeless nicotine vaporizers that simulate a cigarette in order to circumvent smoking bans and aid cessation. Ironically, various anti-smoking groups are calling for e-cigarettes to be removed from the market, citing a lack of information about the safety of the product, but the ACSH staff believes that such an action would be a mistake. The key issue is that nicotine is not the dangerous part of smoking, says ACSH s Dr. Elizabeth Whelan. Though it is addictive, it is not linked to cancer or any other important cigarette-related health effect.
The e-cigarette does not involve combustion as do real cigarettes, but the experience of smoking is simulated with an LED light and vapor. ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross notes, It s not just the nicotine that s habit-forming, it s the whole behavioral pattern.
The effect seems convincing. You know they re not real cigarettes, but it s impressive how accurately they simulate the real thing," says ACSH s Jeff Stier, who held one in his hand (but did not inhale) during a recent meeting on the topic.
ACSH s Dr. Ruth Kava agrees. This could be a real boon to those who are trying to quit smoking.
The articles state that the ingredients in a typical e-cigarette device include water, nicotine, flavorings, and propylene glycol, but activist groups claim that it is still too risky. According to Dr. Ross, Nobody knows what the inhalation of propylene glycol does, though it is generally regarded as safe as a food additive. Is it better than smoking? We think so, but we don t know. However, we do believe that it would be better for smoking adults to have this option.
Still, the outlook is not promising for the e-cigarette. The e-cigarette is in trouble and probably won t make it past the FDA, says Dr. Kava.