Electronic Cigarettes: Helpful Or Harmful? (An Ongoing Experiment)

electronic cigarette
electronic cigarette

This is the big question and controversy regarding the new electronic cigarette ‘trend’: can they help smokers to break the habit, or are they equally harmful to the health?

Several weeks ago my husband, a smoker, bought himself an electronic cigarette. Since then, he hasn’t looked back, and when he did try smoking a real cig. recently out of curiosity, he found it disgusting. He almost immediately declared he could breathe better and felt his lungs and sinuses clearer. I have stopped having to battle with the smell of smoke in the house and on clothes. So we’re all happy (including the cat).

The only reservations we have are:

How safe are its ingredients?

The basic substances in an electronic cigarette are:  propylene glycol, a substance viewed with suspicion by some though declared safe by the FDA and used widely in medicines, food products and even inhalers for asthma sufferers), vegetable glycerol (hype-allergenic, non-carcinigenic, non teratogenic and non-mutagenic and easily metabolized by the body), deionized water, natural aromas and a small amount of nicotine, which can be progressively reduced. A World Health Organization warning states that electronic cigarettes “pose significant public health issues and raise questions for tobacco control policy and regulation”, while a study conducted by the FDA in 2009 claimed to have found traces of carcinogenic chemicals.

Those in favour argue that because the increasing popularity of these e-cigarettes is, well, not exactly posing a threat to the tobacco industry, but not doing it any favours either, it is difficult to know who is circulating information about their so-called ‘dangers to health’ and how objective the reports are. Good point.

The second reservation we have is that these e-cigarettes are so pleasant to smoke (I am told) that it makes you wonder whether they might even take away a smoker’s incentive to stop smoking altogether. For my husband it’s early days yet, but he is still pleased about his decision and intends to continue, gradually reducing the nicotine as he goes on.

Our personal opinion is that 1) no way can these e-ciggies be as dangerous as normal cigarettes which, in addition to the nicotine, contain also tar, ammonia and countless other notorious nasties; 2) they are also (speaking from experience) a godsend to those who live with smokers; 3) they are definitely well worth changing over to as a first step towards quitting, or if someone cannot or will not give up smoking, BUT we must not be conned into believing that they are as good as giving up. Nothing can take the place of stopping smoking completely. The only thing we can inhale that is really healthy for our lungs is fresh air, clean and unpolluted…

But that’s another story.

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