Various companies have been marketing electronic cigarettes in different ways since they first came to market several years ago. Some of them make claims that electronic cigarettes are healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes and others have claimed that electronic cigarettes are the ultimate stop smoking devices.
Recently, the US FDA released a statement regarding a test they did on the contents of electronic cigarette cartridges from two different vendors. The FDA found traces of diethylene glycol as well as tobacco-related nitrosamines (TSNA’s) in some of the cartridges tested. The FDA was also concerned about varying levels of nicotine delivered with each hit from the devices studied. In July, the FDA issued a press release discouraging the use of electronic cigarettes as a result of this limited study.
A number of people, including prominent doctors and tobacco researchers, have spoken out against the FDA’s recommendation, claiming the FDA is misleading the public by making recommendations that are not supported by such a limited study. Critics also claim that the FDA is completely ignoring the fact that electronic cigarettes are clearly more healthy than regular cigarettes.
Critics also argue that the trace amounts of chemicals found in the tested brands of electronic cigarettes were not compared to other, FDA-approved smoking cessation devices. Specifically, similar amounts of nitrosamines are found in FDA-approved smoking cessation devices such as nicotine gum and patches. You can read about all the studies here.
A study completed in October of 2008 by Health New Zealand concluded that, while trace amounts of TSNA’s are present in electronic cigarettes, as well as various other chemicals noted in the FDA study, those chemicals are only present below harmful levels and overall, Health New Zealand concluded electronic cigarettes were a “safe alternative to smoking.”
Additionally, the US National Institutes of Health published a report recently that found that participants in an electronic cigarette study did not develop dependence on the device as was the case with participants smoking real cigarettes.
Many critics claim that the FDA’s overall dismissal of electronic cigarettes without any sort of complete study to back up their findings suggests the FDA has ulterior motives regarding the products.
Electronic cigarettes have not been around long enough to see what long-term effects they have on users, although the general consensus among scientific and medical professionals with knowledge of the products is that they’re indeed safer than traditional smokes and many suggest they may be very effective stop-smoking devices. Nonetheless, few complete studies have been done on the devices and so the exact extent to which they are safer than real cigarettes is not totally clear.