Electronic cigarettes have been gaining ground in recent years. In fact, in 2012 the European sales had exceeded 500 million euros and by the end of 2013 have been suggested worldwide figures of around 2,000 million. However, the truth is that there is still some ignorance about this product. Is it healthy? Do the electronic cigarette is really effective to quit smoking?
What contains an electronic cigarette?
First, it must be clarified that there are different brands of electronic cigarettes and each contains various substances, so it is difficult to generalize when referring to components. However, generically, electronic cigarettes contain distilled water, nicotine, propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, flavoring agents, nitrosamines and other products which are often toxic to the organism.
In fact, the scientific community is concerned about the increase in their use since some electronic cigarettes release significant amounts of nitrosamides, a listed carcinogenic compound, which can also be found in smoke of traditional cigarettes. Some brands also release diethylene glycol, a dangerous substance which is rapidly absorbed through the respiratory and digestive tracts.
As electronic cigarettes are a relatively recent invention, yet there are many ongoing studies on its long-term effects, but recently, specialists at the Samaritan Medical Center in Portland, released a case of lipoid pneumonia, a rare disease that involves the accumulation of lipids inside lungs, as a result of the continuous use of electronic cigarette.
Does it help you quit smoking?
It is estimated that 10% of smokers have shifted to electronic cigarette. Some did it just to be allowed to smoke in enclosed spaces, but many have opted for the electronic cigarette to stop smoking. However, is it a good alternative to quit smoking?
That same question was raised by researchers in New Zealand, which recruited 657 people who wanted to quit smoking. A few electronic cigarettes were given to them while others used nicotine patches and a third group were given electronic cigarettes with a placebo (not containing nicotine).
After 6 months they observed that electronic cigarettes were slightly better than the patches but its effectiveness was not very high: 7.3% versus 5.8% of success using nicotine patches, and 4.1% with placebo cigarettes.
Roughly, we can say that electronic cigarettes are less harmful than traditional cigarettes because they contain less dangerous chemicals, but that does not mean they are healthy nor that we should replace a bad habit with another.
It’s true that this product reduces the consumption of tobacco, but it doesn’t mean that electronic cigarettes are the best strategy to quit smoking, because the issue is not to substitute one dependency for another but to quit forever this habit. Regarding this, I believe that the best strategy is to undergo psychological treatment and that using nicotine patches or electronic cigarettes constitutes only a supplementary aid but it’s not the main weapon.
Bullen, C. et. Al. (2013) Electronic cigarettes for smoking cessation: a randomised controlled trial.The Lancet;382 (9905): 1629-1637.
McCauley, L. et. Al. (2012) An Unexpected Consequence of Electronic Cigarette.Chest; 141(4): 1110-1113.