Health Beat: the facts about e-cigarettes

shutterstock_140876200By Angela Hunter
USAG Stuttgart Health Promotion Officer

With the rapidly growing popularity of e-cigarettes, research into the subject is still lacking, though what there is so far indicates these are not a safe alternative to smoking.

Electronic cigarettes, more commonly known as e-cigarettes, and also known as personal vaporizers or Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems, are battery operated devices that deliver nicotine, flavor and other chemicals into the body.

Through the activation of a heating element, known as an atomizer, they turn chemicals, including highly addictive nicotine, into an aerosol that is inhaled into the body. Most electronic cigarettes look like regular cigarettes, cigars, and pipes; however others resemble writing pens, and USB sticks, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

Electronic cigarettes have been on the market for approximately 10 years, and thus studies regarding the harmful impacts and benefits are inconclusive at this point. A report by the World Health Organization found insufficient evidence to determine the effects of electronic cigarettes on the ability to quit smoking.

People turn to e-cigarettes for two main reasons. First they seem to help reduce tobacco cravings and withdrawal symptoms, and also they reduce the amount smoked and are used as a tobacco cessation aid.

Data on the impact of secondhand aerosol emitted from electronic cigarettes is growing, and does indicate significant health risks. Secondhand electronic cigarette aerosol contains nicotine, ultrafine particles, and low levels of toxins that are known to cause cancer. Propylene glycol is used as a base in e-cigarettes and short term exposure causes eye, throat, and airway irritation; long term inhalation exposure can result in children developing asthma.

Electronic cigarettes have not been approved for smoking cessation by the FDA, and thus current smokers should be encouraged to use approved methods for smoking cessation. The military offers a number of resources for those who wish to quit smoking.  For more information on how to quit smoking and/or smokeless tobacco products, contact: The Stuttgart Health Clinic, Public Health and/Community Health Nurse at 590-1602 or 590-1659 or Civ. 06371-94641713.