Any news exposure these days is good exposure and there has certainly been much in the news lately regarding electronic cigarettes. Merely typing the product name into your favorite search engine brings a plethora of articles ranging from CNN to MSNBC to even your local papers. Why all the press for e-cigarettes and what are people saying?
The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) recently released statements warning Americans not to use electronic cigarettes and thus began the press war between the FDA, WHO and American sellers of electric cigarettes. The FDA maintains that upon testing certain brands of e-cigarettes, they found cancer-causing chemicals and other compounds, such as diethylene glycol, which is a component found in antifreeze. Other samples tested also contained carcinogens, including nitrosamines. The FDA has yet to follow Canada’s health agency and ban electronic cigarettes but they have issued warnings and have even gone as far as to block some shipments from being brought on US soil.
E-cigarettes have been marketed as an alternative to regular tobacco cigarettes, an alternative that may be healthier. Though there are many variations on the market today, from the “pen-style” to those that look like an actual tobacco cigarette, e-cigarettes all employ the same basic components: circuitry, a rechargeable battery, an atomizer and a mouthpiece. All models operate in the same basic way. When it is inhaled upon, the air activates the atomizer to vaporize a small amount of liquid contained within the cartridge in the filter, which is in actuality a plastic mouthpiece. The nicotine cartridges in most models are said to have varying levels of nicotine, from high levels to having no nicotine at all. However, at a recent news conference an FDA analyst, Benjamin Westenberger, described testing nineteen different cartridges from the two United States based sellers of e-cigarettes and of those tested, all but one of the cartridges was marked as having no nicotine when they actually contained the addictive substance.
Another fear the FDA mentioned in their warning is that these products may encourage smoking, especially among youth. Electronic cigarettes are sold online and can be found in mall kiosks around the United States. The nicotine solution in the cartridges is available in flavors including chocolate, mint and bubblegum. Jonathan Winickoff, M.D., who is the chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics Tobacco Consortium, warned that these types of products seem to be tailor-made to be appealing to kids. He stated that the devices could get kids addicted to nicotine and eventually turn them into smokers. “Past experience suggests that these products may be particularly appealing to young people,” Winickoff said.
Representatives of the two American based sellers of e-cigarettes have not taken these concerns silently. CEO of NJOY said in a statement, “NJOY’s products have been on the market since at least April 2007 with no reports of adverse health consequences. We do not market our products to children, and indeed take affirmative steps to ensure that our products are not sold to minors by requiring retailers to agree to where the product is placed and request verification of appropriate age as it pertains to each state law.”
Smokers would do well to consider all of the information provided about this alternative to conventional tobacco cigarettes.
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