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Is That Right? E-cigarettes are "the healthier alternative to smoking"?

The other day an ad for the SmartSmoker electronic cigarette landed in my inbox. Its text, which surrounded an image of a glamorous woman savoring a smoke, called the e-cigarette "a smart New Year's resolution" and declared the product "the healthier alternative to smoking."

My first thought was that just about anything would be healthier (or, as I prefer, "more healthful") than smoking. And this e-cigarette, a battery-powered, plastic cigarette replica that allows you to inhale a nicotine vapor, sans tar and burnt matter, sounds like kind of a good idea.

But being safer than a traditional cigarette, if in fact this e-smoke is, doesn't equal being safe.

Made mostly in China and available freely to people of all ages via the Internet, e-cigarettes appear to be gaining in popularity. Some health experts worry that we don't know the consequences of inhaling lots of vaporized nicotine (a process known as "vaping"). And that e-cigs may entice young people to try real cigarettes. And that using them might not help smokers cease smoking, but might just help see them through rough moments at restaurants and on airplanes, tiding them over until they can get back to their Camels. For those and other reasons, the American Cancer Society does not support their use.

The FDA doesn't yet regulate e-cigarettes (though it's given its blessing to nicotine gum and patches to help smokers quit), but has begun to look into them. A federal judge is expected to rule any day now as to whether the agency in fact has jurisdiction over the products.

In the meantime, I think a smarter New Year's resolution would be to hold off the e-cigs until we know more.

What's your opinion of e-cigarettes? Have you tried them? Do they seem safe to you?

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  December 4, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Cancer , Smoking  
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E cigarettes have been around almost three years without any known negative reports. The contents ARE known as at least two independent labs have tested them and given them a green light. You have only to follow the money trail to determine what major companies drive the opposition to the e-cigarette.

One organization that shows no particular allegiance to special interest money is Action on Smoking and Health (ASH). In their October 2009 briefing, ASH in the United Kingdom released a favorable position on electronic cigarettes which is the exact opposite position taken by a few of the control groups in the United States. Do your own research on the internet. The ASH position can be found at the link below.

Posted by: armor11acr | December 4, 2009 7:45 AM | Report abuse

I have 2 510 ecigs and I was going to point you to the same site as armor did above. Look around the site and see how many people quit analogs with their digital devices. Not only can you moderate the amount of nicotine in your vapor (different juices with different nic levels) but it makes it easier to make the transition to quitting all together as the "habits" or "motions" of smoking (hand to mouth, inhale, exhale, etc).

Posted by: jonesin1969 | December 4, 2009 9:38 AM | Report abuse

there are obvious negatives to electronic smoking:

the commenter above says ecigs have been around 3 years, that is really not long at all... 3 years?? come on..

when I first got the smokestik I loved it:

but now i dont know.. some research saying there's cancer associated? it helped me quit smoking tobacco but i dont want another disease!

Posted by: vffquestions | December 4, 2009 11:27 AM | Report abuse

I agree it is a poor choice of words to call the e-cigarette healthy or safe. But every smoker should compare vaporization and combustion before they decide to burn tobacco or vaporize "e-liquid". There are many good articles and posts on the subject, including:

I use an e-cigarette and I feel better for it. The e-cig may not be safe or healthy, but compare it to a product that kills 440,000 Americans every year.

Posted by: Luv-My-Ecigarette | December 4, 2009 11:46 AM | Report abuse

What's the benefit?

You can get nicotine from gum and patches. Inhale air into your lungs. Nothing else.

My father died from complications of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). He couldn't even get enough oxygen lying flat on his back. His brother, born 10 years before my dad, is still alive.

My general rule-of-thumb, learned the hard way, is simple: If it's not good for a kid--you would tell a kid it's not good for him or her--then it's not good for an adult: tobacco, alcohol, caffeine, other drugs, sugary food, fried food, you-name-it.

If it's not good for you at 17 years 364 days, 23 hours, 59 minutes and 59 seconds it's not good for you the next second, or any other second of your life.

Posted by: cmckeonjr | December 4, 2009 12:11 PM | Report abuse

Ask anyone who's been vaping for any length of time if vaping is more healthful than smoking. I almost immediately noticed my cough disappeared, my sinuses weren't congested every morning, and I didn't get winded as fast. That was 7 months ago; I stopped smoking on my 3rd day of vaping and could not smoke a cigarette now without feeling nauseated. Also, I don't reek of smoke anymore, and there's no fire hazard.

The main ingredients of e-liquid are propylene glycol-- Generally Recognized As Safe by the FDA and used in asthma inhalers and fog machines; nicotine (for vapers still using nicotine, I no longer need it); and common food flavorings. A very small number of the samples the FDA tested contained trace amounts of tobacco-specific nitrosamines (the tobacco-flavored samples) and one sample had a trace of DEG... not a good chemical, but used as a humectant in tobacco processing and likely present in far higher concentrations in cigarettes. Not to mention about 4000 other chemicals.

The argument about children is silly. "Children" will find it far easier to purchase a pack of smokes than to order an e-cig kit, minimum cost about $50 on the internet, plus continue charging batteries and buying liquids & replacement batteries/atomizers. They'd never be able to hide vaping paraphernalia from parents either; you're constantly charging batteries with these. Also, adults like flavor, too, and we're not banning flavored alcohol in order to Think Of The Children.

The FDA should compare the chemicals in their APPROVED smoking-cessation drugs/patches/inhalers to the chemicals in e-liquid, and issue an honest report about that. Big Pharma does not like e-cigs because they will cut into Chantix/Zyban/Nicotrol-Nicorette sales, and I believe Big Pharma has the FDA's ear on this.

Posted by: victordelta | December 4, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

You're right: Being safer than traditional cigarettes doesn't equal being safe, but drinking tap water doesn't equal being safe, either. In fact, almost nothing we do, eat, drink, or inhale can be said to be safe. So really, "safer" is a step in the right direction, and according to many who should know, e-cigarettes equal an enormous step in the right direction.

Dr. Joel Nitzkin, Chair of the Tobacco Control Task Force, the American Association of Public Health Physicians, says, "We have every reason to believe the hazard posed by electronic cigarettes would be much lower than 1% of that posed by (tobacco) cigarettes."

Dr. Michael Siegel, professor at Boston University School of Public Health (with 20 years of experience in tobacco control research), says: "I can't say how safe the electronic cigarette is, but what I can say is that it is substantially safer than the conventional cigarette. Inhaling nicotine cannot be nearly as dangerous as inhaling nicotine plus thousands of other chemicals, including more than 40 carcinogens. It doesn't take long-term studies to make that determination." (from an interview with

Dr. David Baron, former Chief of Staff of UCLA Medical Center, says he's never seen a product that stands to save as many lives.

As for enticing young people to smoke, this is a common argument from anti-smoking groups, but there's not a shred of evidence that it's true. Electronic cigarettes are marketed to current smokers, and one statistically valid survey (done by Njoy), showed the average age of e-cigarette users to be 44. At around $50.00 for a starter kit and requiring a credit card for online purchase, it's unlikely that teenagers are going to choose an e-cigarette over the far more accessible traditional kind. That's not to say that strong measures shouldn't be taken to ensure that young people don't start vaping (or smoking), but it's hardly a reason to remove a healthier choice for millions of adult smokers.

It's time for all of the anti-smoking groups in this country to accept the fact that, despite their best efforts, 48 million Americans continue to light up--and more than 400,000 of them will die this year alone as a result of tobacco-related illness. The choice that smokers have been given until now--to quit or die--is resulting in a lot of ... death.

Posted by: Treece1 | December 4, 2009 12:23 PM | Report abuse

I have been using ecigs for more than 6 month and I love them. I think that they are a much better alternative.

Are electronic cigarettes totally safe? Until more studies are done it's probably a good idea to err on the side of caution and assume that they are not 100% safe.

But when you compare it to "real" smoking there really is no comparison. One thing we know for sure is that tobacco smoking is incredibly dangerous, expensive and inconvenient. E-cigarettes give smokers an alternative that appears to be much safer and will probably save countless lives. Given a choice between the two? It's a no brainer...

Posted by: KenZag | December 4, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

cmckeonjr: Let me try to explain the benefits of vaping. It is HARD to quit smoking. The habit has two parts -- nicotine addiction, and behavioral habits that are very hard to break.

Vaping allows you to keep some of the behavioral habits without the myriad risks of cigarettes. It also allows you to slowly titrate your nicotine intake down, at your own comfort level, all the way to nothing if you wish.

The main health risks of smoking are the carcinogens and other trash ("tar") you inhale from burning tobacco. You're getting far less of that when you vape. Nicotine itself is not much of a health risk -- not much more than caffeine, unless you have high BP, need to stop using nicotine prior to certain surgeries, etc.

Vaping gives smokers another choice besides "quit or die" -- another choice that doesn't involve taking drugs with black-box warnings about suicide and other undesirable side effects, or using patches, inhalers, or gums that have a pretty bad rate of success in terms of smoking cessation. I personally know a lot of people who have quit smoking via vaping. Not so many, using FDA-approved aids. Heck, I didn't even INTEND to quit smoking when I started vaping, just thought it would save me some money -- I basically quit accidentally.

Posted by: victordelta | December 4, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

I've been using an e-cig since this summer. I don't enjoy it as much as smoking but I feel a thousand times better than when I did smoke. I don't smell like smoke and my "smoking" desire is satisfied. Plus I can use my e-cigarette in my office while I am working, while smokers have to go outside.

Posted by: logan9 | December 4, 2009 1:36 PM | Report abuse

I began smoking when I was 10 years old, and I am 26 now.
A month ago I purchased an Ecig starter kit, and the day it arrived was the day I smoked my last analog cigarette.

In a months time, my quality of life has improved tremendously. I can breathe better, I can smell things again, I can taste foods.

I do not know if Ecigs are 100% safe, nor do I care. I do know analog cigarettes will kill me, and for the last 10 years of my smoking habit I have been spending hundreds upon hundreds of dollars trying to quit.

In one day with my Ecig I managed to stop smoking cigarettes.
One day.

Compared to the 10 years using the patch, gum, drugs, and cold turkey will power. All of which ended in me lighting up again and again.

Are Electronic Cigarettes 100% safe?
I have no idea.

But I'm willing to bet my life on my Ecig being not nearly as bad and deadly for me as an analog cigarette.

Posted by: Thelvyn | December 4, 2009 1:38 PM | Report abuse

I have been "vaping" for just over 6 months now, and have never felt better. I have tried several quit-smoking methods - cold turkey, perscription and over-the-counter drugs, hypnosis - nothing worked until I started with this (for me) smoking replacement device. The psychosomatic effect of being able to continue with my "smoking" routine without actually "smoking" has made all the difference. I can still reward myself, calm myself, and satisfy myself via the physical act, without slowly killing myself at the same time.

I doubt I will ever reduce my nicotine intake to zero, but it's nice that I have that option with the 'e-liquid' should I choose to.

Posted by: Dacoopah | December 4, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

All of the above comments, I couldn't agree with more... except for one: "You can get nicotine from gum and patches. Inhale air into your lungs. Nothing else."

It should be brought to the attention of the public that nicotine gum and nicotine patches DO CONTAIN carcinogens, yet the makers of these products are able to not have to declare such on their warnings as they are "protected and approved products" by the FDA.

The fact is, is that a majority of what we come into contact with in our daily lives contain carcinogens. The FDA clearly proved in recent tests of two electronic cigarette brands, that the liquid intended to be vaporized in the electronic cigarette may or may not contain carcinogens, but those levels are carcinogens are at a MUCH lower rate (and we are talking thousands of times lower) than traditional tobacco cigarettes.

Call GlaxoSmithKline or look at their website information. Ask them if their products contain carcinogens. They will tell you flat out they do not and this is in fact false according to several studies carried out by different health organizations proving that these FDA approved products do in fact contain carcinogens. Albeit at much lower levels than traditional, combustionable cigarettes. So it is ok for FDA approved products to contain carcinogens, but nothing else?

Nothing we do in our lives is guaranteed to be 100% safe. But what we can do is reduce our harm by finding products that satisfy our needs in a less harmful way than tobacco cigarettes.

As a pack a day smoker for over 15 years, I am happy to say that due to the electronic cigarette, I now smoke less than 3 tobacco cigarettes on any given day, and sometimes, I go for months without tobacco cigarettes at all. I have been using my ecig for over a year now and have not had any ill effects what so ever. This was my decision, as an adult, to choose what I feel is best for me.

Posted by: laceyunderall | December 4, 2009 2:57 PM | Report abuse

I have been using the e-cigarette for over 1 1/2 years now and while it may not be perfectly safe it is better than smoking. E-cigarettes should be classed as a Harm Reduction Product. Tobacco Cigarette have 4000 chemical in them.

E-cigarettes contain Propylene Glycol,( PG, MPG) used in toothpaste, prescription inhalers and other products YOU use everyday.

Flavorants used in cakes, perfumes, soft drinks and other products we use everyday.

E-cigarettes use the same nicotine that is used in gum, patches, nicotine inhaler, nicotine nose spray and lozenges made by the Pharmaceutical Companies.

I smoked for a number of years and was a heavy smoker, my breathing has greatly improved since I switched to e-cigarettes. My general health is much better according to my doctor.

Posted by: taz3cat | December 4, 2009 4:50 PM | Report abuse

"It should be brought to the attention of the public that nicotine gum and nicotine patches DO CONTAIN carcinogens, yet the makers of these products are able to not have to declare such on their warnings as they are "protected and approved products" by the FDA."

that statement is dangerous unless there is facts and research.. where was your source for this?

Also i only use smokestik right now, has anybody tried the luci brands? they look much sleeker:

Posted by: vffquestions | December 4, 2009 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Just the fact that e-smokes are sold over the internet doesn't make them any more accessable to underage smokers than real smokes. Any valid cc allows minors to order REAL smokes over the internet as it would allow them to order e-smokes.

I was a 2 pack a day menthol smoker for 40 years before trying an e-cigar which tasted pretty gross for awhile. Now I'm used to it and am completely off regular smokes and my "wind" has improved greatly and my family is ecstatic over not having me smell of smoke and have to stop every hour when in the car or pausing movies so I can have a "heater". I think these e-smokes are great and can not understand one bit why the anti-smoking groups would be against them.

Posted by: triceps | December 4, 2009 6:59 PM | Report abuse

mister "I use an e-cigarette and I feel better for it. The e-cig may not be safe or healthy, but compare it to a product that kills 440,000 Americans every year", you're filled with hype.

if you wanna see the negatives just see this:

Posted by: vffquestions | December 5, 2009 2:05 AM | Report abuse

vffquestions: Please stop shilling that site. You've linked to it 3 or 4 times now, including your last link, which is "playing devil's advocate" as it clearly states. The site SELLS Smokestiks and Luci cigarettes, both of which you've conveniently mentioned as well. Comment spam from distributors, etc. appended to articles about vaping is common and annoying. Even though you couch your comments in skepticism about e-cigs, what you're doing is transparent and your posts ought to be removed.

Posted by: victordelta1 | December 5, 2009 12:14 PM | Report abuse

I smoked a pack of Marlboros a day for 40 years, and managed to quit - twice - for a few months.

I ENJOY smoking, as do millions of others, but I hated what the smoke (and the ingredients of the smoke) were doing to my lungs and heart. I was tired of being short of breath at the top of a flight of stairs, tired of being unable to walk at a fast pace for more than a minute or two. I was tired of wheezing myself to sleep.

Along came a product that mirrors the smoking experience WITHOUT the myriad of dangerous chemicals associated with tobacco. Who WOULDN'T give "vaping" a try?

I did, and I haven't LOOKED at a cigarette in weeks. I have absolutely no desire to smoke an "analog" cigarette.

My clothing no longer smells like an ashtray. I climb stairs quickly, and walk at a much faster pace for longer periods. My lungs seem clearer than they have in years, and I no longer wheeze.

Additionally, I am saving a great deal of money. A pack of Marlboros costs $7.00+ where I live. I find that I can "vape" for about a quarter of what I used to spend on tobacco.

Of course, the FDA will stick their bureaucratic noses into all this and will, no doubt, place restrictions on these life-saving products, if they don't ban them altogether.

If that happens I will, no doubt, return to using tobacco. I'll spend more money than I'd like to, my breathing will deteriorate, stairs will become a burden again, etc., etc.

Oh, how I love government intervention....

Posted by: teachseek | December 6, 2009 6:36 AM | Report abuse

My husband and mother-in-law quit smoking reglular cigarettes and it has improved their health and quality of life ten fold. The FDA wants to scare people into not buying e-cigs because they will stop buying the real ones and they will be healthier. Healthier people means less money for the government! These cigarettes are safe and they have no harmful chemicals, tobacco or odors. They cost less and you can even smoke them in Non-Smoking areas. E-Cigarettes are the Cigarette of the future. The natural and best E-Cig out there is found at

Posted by: bcrawfordkc | December 6, 2009 1:07 PM | Report abuse

I would have to agree with you on this. I do smoke e-cigarettes, but I don't like the fact that they come from China. With that said I prefer Chinese made e-cigarettes vs US made cancer sticks. has a lot more information about e-cigarettes and all the different brands.

Posted by: hsirounian | December 7, 2009 6:10 AM | Report abuse

I first bought my Crown7 Electronic Cigarette when I first heard of them which was 3 years ago. I do believe Crown7 was the 1st electronic cigarette company in the USA. Everyone else FOLLOWED just like they always do. So if you want the best and most experienced company in the industry with the BEST customer service with PROVEN track records choose CROWN7.

Posted by: hitandquit | December 7, 2009 1:52 PM | Report abuse

What people don't understand about smoking is that it is much more than a nicotine addiction, it is a process. Which explains (to me at least) why nicotine gum and patches are so ineffective. The process involves an addictive chemical (nicotine), a "throat hit", and the least important is using the hands.

Other posters have commented on the nicotine and most people understand fiddling with something in their hands. But the "throat hit", the sensation of smoke passing through the throat, is a major part of the addiction. In fact for some people such as myself, it is the most important part and until two months ago when I started ecigarettes, I wouldn't have believed it and I've been smoking for 40 years! Ecigs supply this whereas the gum and patches don't.

Senate bill s1147 threatens this, without an exception for ecigarette products it may soon be illegal to purchase these products over the internet and deserves a column or several. Trust me when I tell you that for smokers, the ecigarette is the greatest invention since the wheel!!

Posted by: 3dragz | December 7, 2009 10:22 PM | Report abuse


Go to these forums and you can research the brands that are out there. I believe the Joye510 is the most popular right now in the lower cost models.

Posted by: 3dragz | December 7, 2009 10:33 PM | Report abuse

Been vaping a year with NO cigarettes after smoking 20+ years. These devices are a miracle.

Posted by: Spikey47 | December 8, 2009 12:45 AM | Report abuse

Safe? What IS 100% safe these days. Car fumes, crispy bacon, burnt BBQ food, cosmetics... viturally everything we use in our everyday lives can harm or will harm our bodies in years to come. Welcome to the developed world.

The certain fact is a 15 a day smoker has a 1 in 5 chance of developing lung cancer and 90% of lung cancer cases are due to tobacco smoking.

I no longer smoke tobacco thanks to using an e-cig kit from which I have been using for just over 4 months.

As someone else said above, the nasty cough and wheeziness in the morning is gone. I feel healthier and more alert. I wish these electronic cigarettes had been invented years ago. Just think how many lives they could have saved!

Posted by: Re-search | December 8, 2009 5:02 AM | Report abuse

I have to agree with everyone out there that used to be smokers. I smoked anywhere from 2-4 packs a day everyday for 18 years. I tried everything to quit nothing took none of the meds, gums, or patches all of which had some wierd side effects of there own. I started using mynicfix e-cigarette and within three monthes cut my anolog cigarette smoking down to 2 packs total. I believe that it works and I beleive that it is much safer than a traditional tobacco cigarette.

Posted by: MYNICFIXCOM | December 8, 2009 1:31 PM | Report abuse

I purchased my e-cig last week and the vendor who sold me the e-cig said to switch back-n-forth between the real cigarette and the e-cig to make the transition. Well I am (was a pack and a half day smoker) that one pack of real cigarettes I had is still half the above posters have said I started to feel better breathing better. I even go hours without smoking and dont fill all figity in between. If I had to guess I maybe done smoking withen two weeks. Well worth it to me and especially my family.

Also within this week I will have more money back in my pocket.

Posted by: washingtoncapitals | December 9, 2009 12:51 PM | Report abuse

vffquestions, i read the post above:

and i do agree with some of them but there's still a lot of information that needs to be found out before we declare them safe.. i do disagree with new jerseys ruling that ecigs should be banned everywhere just like regular smokes.

There's also been a study that says nicotine gum causes cancer.. anybody hear about the same study? although the producers of the cigs battled back quickly with a response saying that it wasn't done on human... still causes some concern

Posted by: jasonchang | December 9, 2009 3:14 PM | Report abuse

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