Monday, December 6, 2010

Are electronic cigarettes safe? A health risk?

The press release declares: ”Electronic Cigarettes Are Unsafe and Pose Health Risks, UC Riverside Study Finds”.

The headline suggests the findings of a scientific study, conducted at UC (University of California) Riverside’s Stem Cell Center, are both definitive and unequivocal. “Electronic cigarettes are unsafe and pose health risks.” That's an explicit statement which leaves little room for doubt. The sub-heading, however, goes on to note that: “Safety evaluation of e-cigarettes is urgently needed, researchers say.” Huh?

Safety evaluation is urgently needed? That's not quite as clear cut or conclusive as the assertion that e-cigs are unsafe. So which claim is true? Do e-cigs pose health risks or not? And, the answer is . . . maybe yes, maybe no.

The press release quotes Kamlesh Asotra, a research administrator at UC TRDRP (Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program) which funded the study: "Justifiably, more information about the potential toxic and health effects of e-cigarette vapors is necessary before the public can have a definitive answer about the touted safety of e-cigarettes. Hopefully, in the near future, scientists can provide firm evidence for or against the claimed 'safety' of e-cigarettes as a nicotine-delivery tool."

But, if more research is needed, how did the scientists who conducted the study reach the conclusion that “Electronic cigarettes are unsafe and pose health risks.” Well, actually, they didn't.

The press release quotes Prue Talbot, whose lab conducted the research. "However, there are virtually no scientific studies on e-cigarettes and their safety. Our study – one of the first studies to evaluate e-cigarettes – shows that this product has many flaws, which could cause serious public health problems in the future if the flaws go uncorrected."

So, in summary, the study concluded only that flaws had been identified in the product which could cause unidentified public health problems at some future date if the flaws went uncorrected. And what “flaws” were identified by this scientific study.

The study concluded that “batteries, atomizers, cartridges, cartridge wrappers, packs and instruction manuals lack important information regarding e-cigarette content, use and essential warnings; E-cigarette cartridges leak, which could expose nicotine, an addictive and dangerous chemical, to children, adults, pets and the environment; Currently, there are no methods for proper disposal of e-cigarettes products and accessories, including cartridges, which could result in nicotine contamination from discarded cartridges entering water sources and soil, and adversely impacting the environment; and the manufacture, quality control, sales, and advertisement of e-cigarettes are unregulated.”

However, on closer inspection, the actual “hazards” identified appear to be rather trivial and easily remedied. In fact, some appear to be somewhat fatuous.

For, example, the contention that e-cig cartridges leak and could expose children to “nicotine, an addictive and dangerous chemical.” I've had only limited experience with the e-cig; Health Canada confiscated the additional cartridges I ordered, so I said to hell with it and went back to buying the real thing from the local First nations reserve. Much to the chagrin of my cardiologist, I might add.

But, in my brief experience, I've never had a cartridge leak. I suspect that some could leak, especially those designed to be refilled manually by the user. But the study seems to suggest that all cartridges leak which I firmly believe may be a misrepresentation of the facts.

At any rate, even the most innocuous of drugs, such as common aspirin, can be hazardous to children. And, responsible parents should not leave any hazardous material within reach of inquisitive youngsters. And that includes prescription and over the counter medications, household cleaning supplies, e-cigs and accessories and, yes, tobacco products, including matches and lighters.

The claim that “there are no methods for proper disposal of e-cigarettes products and accessories, including cartridges”, seems equally silly. How do you dispose of any other battery? How do people dispose of prescription medications when they're of no more use? What about pharmaceutical nicotine products, like gum or the patch? Do e-cigs really represent a unique challenge when it comes to putting them in the garbage?

Should quality control and safety standards be developed? Yes, by all means. Should further studies be done to consider the long term health effects? Yes, unequivocally. But, regulation should be based on science, not the fear-mongering propaganda which this “scientific study” represents.

The simple fact is that the anti-smoker brigade, led by the WHO (World Health Organization), has entered a partnership with the pharmaceutical industry. The drug companies provide financial support for anti-smoker initiatives and the fanatics protect the profits of the drug companies by ensuring they're the only available resource for smokers who want to cut back or quit.

“The strength of the Partnership Project lies in the fact that it has brought together three major pharmaceutical companies, Glaxo Wellcome, Novartis Consumer Health and Pharmacia & Upjohn, all manufacturers of treatment products for tobacco dependence, to support a common goal that will have a significant impact on public health.”

Clearly, it's in the best financial interests of the anti-smoker lobby (and big pharma) to ensure the drug companies maintain their monopoly on the NRT (Nicotine Replacement Therapy) market. And, one way to do that is to discredit, and demand prohibition of, products which offer competition to their partners in the pharmaceutical industry.

Some prominent physicians and researchers, including many who are vehemently opposed to smoking, believe e-cigs have the potential to save lives, by helping smokers cut back, or perhaps quit entirely. Anti-smoking activists, like Dr. Michael Siegel, consider e-cigs safer and more healthy than conventional cigarettes.

As Siegel noted in a recent article: “I truly believe that the WHO is blinded by an ideology that views the very act of doing something that looks like smoking as evil, regardless of its actual safety. Electronic cigarettes could potentially save millions of lives throughout the world, since they appear to be much safer than cigarettes and to be an effective tool for smoking cessation .”

Yet anti-smoker zealots, including the WHO, are doing everything in their power to dissuade use of a product which might be of great benefit to smokers looking to give up the habit.

Of course, it's not about the money

For more information on electronic cigarettes visit the Tobacco Harm Reduction website operated by Carl V. Phillips and his research group.


Anonymous said...

There is an "Outstanding" discussion on the Examiner page regarding this study with many posts and replies. Excellent open discussion

Here is the link

electronic cigarettes said...

Electronic cigarettes does not contain harmful chemicals, it has only water vapor. It doesn't give off actual smoke so its safe to used.

Anonymous said...

The real issue here is why real cigarettes are still allowed to be manufactured.

Cheap Cigarettes said...

cheap cigarettes are safer

karl said...

Personally, I think the effect of electronic cigarettes depends on the people who use them. There are others who would take advantage and somehow there are also others who are responsible enough to use these types of cigarettes. But then again ecigarettes are much safer as compared to the regular nicotine-filled cigarettes out there. I do hope people would start taking responsibility for their bas habits or actions.

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