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Last updated August 24, 2016 (originally published December
23, 2014)
By L. Carr, Contributing Columnist

While America is stubbing out the cigarettes in record
numbers, a cigarette alternative is rapidly gaining in
popularity. Sales of e-cigarettes, or e-cigs, are set to grow at
over 24 percent through 2018, and are already at a massive
$1.5 billion across the US, according to figures from Research
and Markets.

E-cigarettes are reusable tubes that deliver a vapor
containing nicotine along with flavor and scent, and they
allow you to “smoke” in public places while benefiting from
minimal nicotine and no tar. Major tobacco companies are
even getting in on the act by launching their own brands. But
what exactly are e-cigarettes, what do they contain  and what
do they do to your lungs? Do e-cigarettes cause health
problems? Are e-cigarettes addictive?

What are E-Cigarettes?

Electronic cigarettes were first developed by a Chinese
pharmacist, Hon Lik, in the beginning of the 2000s. The
patent for e-cigarettes describes the product as “an
electronic atomization cigarette that functions as substitutes
[sic] for quitting smoking and cigarette substitutes” (patent
No. 8,490,628 B2).

An e-cigarette works by heating up a solution of propylene
glycol or glycerin, nicotine, and flavoring agents – the user
“puffs” as she would with a regular cigarette but the devices
are designed to deliver less nicotine.  

How Many People Use E-Cigarettes?

In a 2013 study from the Office on Smoking and Health,
National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health
Promotion at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
6.2 percent of the people surveyed had used e-cigarettes in
2011. In a 2013 study of four countries – Canada, the US,
the UK, and Australia -  by Roswell Park Cancer Institute,
Buffalo 7.6 percent had tried e-cigarettes and 2.9 percent
were current users.

What Do E-Cigarettes Promise?

Cigarette manufacturers and tobacco companies have not
been able to advertise their wares since the 1970s but e-
cigarettes are not regulated in the same way, being promoted
through television, radio, print, and the internet. Many
celebrities, such as Katherine Heigl, have raved about the
virtues of e-cigs.

In a 2014 study from the Center for Tobacco Control
Research and Education, University of California San
Francisco, the most popular claims attached to e-cigarettes
were that the e-cigs were healthier, cheaper, cleaner than
cigarettes, could be smoked anywhere, could be used when
there was a ban on smoking in public places, and did not
produce secondhand smoke. A picture of a doctor was
present on around 22 percent of these ads. Most marketing
focused on the e-cigarettes producing only “harmless water

But does this simply mirror what was happening in the 50s
and 60s when cigarettes were marketed as good for our
health and wellbeing? Are there any documented dangers
associated with e-cigarette use?

Nicotine Levels in E-Cigs Vary So You Don't Know What
You Get

According to a 2013 study from the Medical University of
Silesia, Sosnowiec, Poland the nicotine content of the e-liquid
in e-cigarettes varied considerably from brand to brand and
some brands were wrongly labeled in terms of how much
nicotine they contained.

However, the amount of nicotine delivered by an e-cigarette
is markedly less than the nicotine delivered by a conventional
cigarette, according to expert opinion. So, what’s the

Ultrafine Particles in E-Cigarettes Cause Health Problems

Scientists point to the existence of ultrafine particles in e-
cigarettes, which may cause health problems aside from the
issues created by nicotine.

The nicotine is delivered using an aerosol, which is made up
of ultrafine particles that are chemically complex and may be
responsible for toxicity.

A 2007 study from the Office of Environmental Health Hazard
Assessment, Oakland, CA shows that ultrafine particles are
associated with mortality.

Scientists say there is evidence that frequent exposure to
ultrafine particles in tobacco smoke or air pollution
contributes to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and
respiratory disease. But the importance of relative particle
size and composition on health are still unknown.

Secondhand Smoke Danger from E-Cigarettes

Despite the marketing claims that e-cigarettes do not cause
secondhand smoke problems like conventional cigarettes do,
because they do not burn the same way cigarettes do,
bystanders are still exposed to the exhaled aerosol containing

In a 2013 study from the Fraunhofer Wilhelm-Klauditz-
Institut (WKI), Braunschweig, Germany,  researchers say
that passive inhalation of the chemicals in e-cigarettes must
be expected and that “to evaluate the impact of e-cigarettes
on indoor air quality and to estimate the possible effect of
passive vaping, information about the chemical characteristics
of the released vapor is needed.”

A 2014 study from the Bavarian Health and Food Safety
Authority, Munich, Germany shows that e-cigarettes impair
indoor air quality and “should be officially regulated and
labeled with appropriate warnings of potential health effects,
particularly of toxicity risk in children.”

You Absorb More Nicotine Than You Think with E-

Early studies demonstrate that e-cigarettes provide much
lower levels of nicotine than conventional cigarettes.

However, a recent 2011 study by JF Etter and C Bullen  
showed that more experienced users of e-cigarettes can get
themselves a greater level of nicotine exposure – similar to
that found by smokers of conventional cigarettes.

And if you are inhaling nicotine, your risk for smoking-
relating health dangers including erectile dysfunction and
lung cancer are elevated. [Read more about how
raises your risk for erectile dysfunction.]

Propylene Glycol is a Toxic Component

Along with glycerin, propylene glycol is the main base
ingredient in the e-cigarette.

But propylene glycol is known to cause eye and respiratory
irritation,  and long-term exposure may cause problems that
affect the central nervous system, behavior, and the spleen.

Dow Chemical Company says that “inhalation exposure to
[propylene glycol] mists should be avoided,” and when
heated and vaporized, it can produce propylene oxide, a
carcinogenic substance.  That's right, prolonged use of e-
cigarettes can raise your risk for cancer.

E-Cigarettes Have Caused Explosions and Fires

In 2012 an e-cigarette blew up in a Florida man’s face,
causing severe burns and resulting in the loss of his front
teeth and part of his tongue. Fire officials said the problem
was caused by a faulty battery in the e-cig. And in 2013 an
Atlanta woman said that her e-cigarette, which was plugged
into the computer’s USB port to charge, caught on fire and
shot flames across her living room.

E-Cigarettes Are Not Associated with Quitting?

While in a 2013 survey by Roswell Park Cancer Institute,
Buffalo 79.8 percent of the respondents used e-cigarettes
because they believed they were less harmful than regular
cigarettes, and 75.4 percent used them to help reduce their
smoking, there is evidence to the contrary that e-cigarettes
help you quit.

Some studies have shown that e-cigarettes are no better than
a nicotine patch for quitting, and show very modest quit rates
overall. In the Roswell Park Cancer Institute study, 85
percent of e-cigarette users reported they were using the
product to quit smoking at the beginning of the survey but
they were no more likely than non-users to have actually quit
one year later.

E-Cigarettes May Lead Adults and Teens to Try Real

The US Food and Drug Administration issued a bulletin stating
that because e-cigarettes have not been fully studied, “it is
not known whether e-cigarettes may lead young people to
try other tobacco products, including conventional cigarettes,
which are known to cause disease and lead to premature

However, as of March 2014 e-cigarettes remained
unregulated by the federal authorities in the US.

A 2014 study from the Center for Tobacco Control Research
and Education and Department of Medicine and
Cardiovascular Research Institute, University of California
adds that with “high levels of dual use of e-cigarettes and
conventional cigarettes at the same time among adults and
youth… e-cigarette use should be prohibited where tobacco
cigarette use is prohibited, and the products should be
subject to the same marketing restrictions as tobacco


A 2016 study from the University of North Carolina has found
that e-cigarettes alter hundreds of genes, including genes
that fight infections and inflammation in your respiratory

Smoking Raises Your Risk for Erectile Dysfunction

Beer and Prostate Cancer -What Are the Facts?

What to Eat If You Have Prostate Cancer
Foods That Strengthen Erectile Performance
Stop Burning When You Urinate
Normal Penis Size
Bad Bed Habits That Turn Her Off
Eating Soy Reduces Sperm Count
Whey Versus Creatine -Which One Is Better?
Why Asian Men Don't Get As Much Prostate Cancer
E-cigs contain a propylene glycol which increases
cancer risk.
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