Anyone who has made a serious and concerted effort to give up smoking will tell you that it’s anything but easy. Cigarettes are effectively a legal drug, and once you’re hooked you’re in trouble. Cigarette smokers are addicted not only to nicotine, but also to the routine of lighting up and inhaling smoke into their lungs. It becomes a necessary part of their everyday lives. So the majority of smokers will need some form of help if they are to overcome their addiction. Some prescribed therapies like nicotine replacement therapy can be of help. Nicotine patches and gums release small quantities of nicotine into the blood stream and therefore help to reduce the cravings. Sadly these products don’t work for everyone, particularly those who are equally addicted to the routine of smoking.
That’s why the electronic cigarette has become increasingly popular. Not only do these products release small quantities of nicotine into the blood stream, but unlike patches, they also look and feel like traditional cigarettes. However, concerns have been expressed about electronic cigarettes. They are only regulated by trading standards, and are not medically approved. Critics claim that these products are unsafe and should therefore not be sold in the UK until further tests have been carried out to determine whether they are safe to use. But, how true are these claims? Are electronic cigarettes really unsafe?
Electronic cigarettes contain only nicotine, propylene glycol and water vapour. Nicotine is an addictive substance: that’s an accepted fact. It’s this addictive quality that draws people to smoke tobacco cigarettes in the first place. However, tobacco cigarettes don’t just contain nicotine, they also contain lots of other harmful chemicals too, around 4,000 in fact; 44 of which are known to be toxic. It’s these chemicals that principally cause the damage, not the nicotine. The worst of these is tar which is produced by tobacco cigarettes. This toxic substance is linked to numerous cancers, such as stomach cancer, and cancer of the bladder, lungs, throat and mouth. Those people who give up smoking tobacco cigarettes are less likely to suffer a heart attack than those who continue with the habit.
Although nicotine is addictive, it isn’t necessarily harmful to the body, unlike tobacco. Electronic cigarettes satisfy the nicotine cravings by releasing nicotine vapour, but because they do not contain tobacco or combust, they do not produce harmful and toxic smoke. A two year controlled study has shown that nicotine alone does not have any deleterious effects on health. In the study, rats were subjected to an amount of nicotine equal to twice the amount found in the bloodstreams of heavy smokers. The research demonstrated that there was no evidence of increased mortality, the formation of tumors, or atherosclerosis during the trials. The only thing it did show was that the weight of the rats did decrease as a result of the exposure to nicotine. Moreover the Royal College of Surgeons has gone on record saying that nicotine is itself no more harmful than caffeine.