Escaping the smoke


As more smokers turn to electronic cigarettes to curb their nicotine cravings, the devices are coming under scrutiny from health professionals and public agencies.

The Food and Drug Administration has not yet comprehensively reviewed the use of e-cigarettes since they are not recognized as tobacco products. However, the FDA hopes to propose a rule by April that will bring e-cigarettes under their jurisdiction.

Jenny Haliski, public affairs officer for the FDA Center for Tobacco Products, said in an email that the agency only regulates e-cigarettes that are used for therapeutic purposes.

“Further research is needed to assess the potential public health benefits and risks of electronic cigarettes and other novel tobacco products,” she said.

Pam Nock, clinical coordinator of the Humility of Mary Health Partners Regional Tobacco Treatment Center, said one issue of concern is the varied amount of nicotine the devices deliver to the respiratory system.

“The level of nicotine is not regulated, and people are sometimes getting more than they should,” she said.

She advises alternative methods for smokers motivated to quit using real cigarettes.

“I always tell people, ‘Don’t turn it on. Use it as a prop or use a drinking straw instead,’” Nock said. “A lot of people miss that sensation of the hand-to-mouth motion, but, really, the only safe regulated nicotine is a patch or gum.”

Cindy Ramsey, customer care specialist at Green Smoke, said Green Smoke e-cigarettes are an alternative to smoking.

“There is no more smoker’s breath, no ash, and no fire or flame,” Ramsey said. “It provides an authentic smoking experience.”

Yet, Ramsey said she could not make any health claims, adding that she always suggests that people consult with their doctor before using the product.

Youngstown State University student Michelle Otero said she smokes regularly and thinks e-cigarettes are much different than smoking a standard cigarette.

“It’s just not the same,” she said. “A regular cigarette is heavier, and you don’t get the same feeling [from an e-cigarette].”

Otero said the various e-cigarette flavors are appealing, but she would rather continue to use regular cigarettes.

Mary Yacovone, director of the YSU Clinical Education Respiratory Care Program, said she has begun researching more about the devices. She said she is worried that people are using them as a way to quit using cigarettes.

“It seems like a portable hookah to me,” Yacovone said. “Their claim to fame is using pure nicotine without the carcinogens in tobacco. My concern is that it could be a lot more nicotine depending on how often they inhale. The amount of delivered is variable.”

Freshman Anthony Berberich said he thinks e-cigarette devices will just get people more addicted to nicotine.

“I think they don’t truly get you to stop smoking cigarettes,” he said. “People will just end up spending more money because they will use them more often indoors.”

Didactics student Heidi Buck said a co-worker uses an e-cigarette in the break room at her workplace.

“It’s weird,” Buck said. “Eat a piece of candy or something better.”

Joe West, another food and nutrition student, said he is indifferent about the devices.

“It was just OK,” West said. “It hits lighter than a normal cigarette, but I am not a daily smoker.”

1 comments Anonymous Thu Feb 7 2013 11:35 Personally, I own a Blu e-cig and if you research the product at all before you buy it, its website tells you the exact amount of nicotine in each cartridge depending on which level you purchase as there are cartridges with high, medium, low and even no nicotine content. Also, the device has safe-guards built in to keep you from being over-exposed to nicotine, if you take too many puffs in a certain amount of time, the battery will cease to work and the end will blink letting you know you’re ingesting too much nicotine. Furthermore, anyone who doesn’t think that these are easier on your lungs, try smoking regular cigarettes all day and then an e-cig all day, I know after a day of regulars I’d hack up some nasty stuff whereas with the electronics; nothing the next morning. It actually balances out to cost less than regular cigarettes do, especially if you order online; through blu my average cost is equivalent to about 2 bucks a pack instead of the 5 bucks or more I would pay for regular cigarettes. They may not be for everyone as they are definitely not the same as smoking a real cigarette, but for me, the blu is more enjoyable than the real thing and it leaves the air smelling like chocolate instead of death. If the FDA does manage to bring these devices under their control I earnestly hope they do not regulate them to the point where it drives up the cost like with regular cigarettes because this would likely push me into just switching back to normal if the cost effectiveness goes out the window. If you really care to look at the issue, look at England, they have some of the most strict smoking policies of anywhere in the world and one of the highest percentages of electronic smokers as they can then smoke these devices where they can’t smoke regular cigarettes. The bottom line is nicotine is never going to be safe and as a consumer you need to realize that the safest form of nicotine you use can still cause dependency and health issues. I smoke the highest level nicotine the cartridges come in and that’s my choice; I’ll deal with the consequences when and if they come, but at least let’s do some studies to prove there needs to be regulations before we just start slapping restrictions on them, what do you say FDA?