E-cigarettes safer than tobacco and help smokers quit?
From –Tobacco News
Quitting smoking ranks as one of the nation’s top New Year’s resolutions, among 12 self-improvement goals that are popular year after year.
In a quest to quit tobacco, some smokers are replacing cartons of cigarettes with cartridges of nicotine, used in electronic cigarettes. E-cigarettes are odorless, cigarette-sized, battery-powered tubes that release liquid nicotine as a vapor.
Cary Lee, a longtime smoker and owner of The Electronic Cigarette Store, with kiosks in the Fashion Square and Bay City malls, sells the product to people who are trying to quit smoking.
“We’re going to get rid of tobacco with these,” he said. “They are getting more accepted.”
Lee said e-cigarettes from The Clean Cigarette taste and feel like a tobacco cigarette. He helps match his customers to a nicotine level they are used to, and gradually helps many of them lower their levels.
For smokers, the habit is as addictive as the drug, he said. The end of the e-cigarettes light up when someone takes a puff. The user breathes in a the nicotine vapor and releases water vapor with less than 1 percent nicotine.
At St. Mary’s of Michigan hospital, Respiratory Care Department Manager Pam Hair said a few patients have used e-cigarettes and successfully quit the tobacco version. The patients also reported a decrease in coughing and wheezing after making the switch.
“The way we look at it is, if it helps people quit smoking, if it is a safe alternative, we are all for it,” Hair said.
Whether the electronic cigarettes are safe isn’t assured, as the federal Food and Drug Administration has not had approved the product, Hair said. Without additives, tar and smoke, e-cigarettes appear to be healthier than tobacco cigarettes, she said, but there are not many studies on the health effects of the vapor.
The product comes in various flavors and sizes and requires refills and recharging. One cartridge can equal 10 to 30 tobacco cigarettes, depending on its size. The cartridges come in varying nicotine levels, similar to the various nicotine levels found in traditional cigarettes. Cartridges are available with no nicotine. Starter kits cost $50 to upwards of $150.
Lee said some people who used chewing tobacco switched to e-cigarettes. The company also sells electronic cigars, comparable to Black & Milds.
Sam Connon, a respiratory therapist at the Michigan Cardiovascular Institute, agreed that e-cigarettes are safer than tobacco cigarettes but still raise concerns. The FDA has not approved the new product because the organization cannot identify all the ingredients, he said. Several companies make e-cigarettes, and all have different levels of nicotine. Studies have identified carcinogens that are found in antifreeze in the e-cigarettes, he said.
“Safety is still a big question mark,” he said.
Hair also expressed concern that flavors may encourage younger people to try the e-cigarettes. Because many of the products are sold online, Connon said, it may be easier for teens to purchase the product that way.
To quit smoking, Connon said he recommends people use an FDA-approved product, such as a nicotine inhaler. If a smoker has no other option, a physician could help monitor a patient using e-cigarettes to quit smoking, he said.