5 On Your Side

E-cigarettes 'lesser of two evils'

Posted June 5, 2012

Electronic cigarettes are an increasingly popular option for those trying to quit smoking, but they come with their own set of warnings.

Chris Mikovits turned to e-cigarettes after countless failed attempts to stop a 25-year habit of smoking tobacco cigarettes.

"I've tried everything there was out there to quit," he said. "With this, it was more like switching. I didn't have to completely knock out the habits and rituals I had."

E-cigarettes are battery operated and deliver vaporized nicotine without the tar, smoke and tobacco. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration hasn't approved them, so safety is a big concern.

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"E-cigarettes vary widely, and it's unclear exactly which chemicals, other than nicotine, are in these devices," said Jamie Hirsch, with Consumer Reports. "Nicotine itself is extremely addictive and can cause harm, too."

Consumer Reports looked at different studies. Some suggest that e-cigarettes might serve as a last resort for smokers who have tried to quit repeatedly but failed.

Another concern with e-cigarettes is that they could actually lead to smoking the real things.

E-cigarettes are sold online in flavors such as vanilla and pina colada. In North Carolina, they are not regulated under the state's smoking ban.

Mikovits said he believes e-cigarettes are a better option, but he realizes that more research is needed.

"It needs studies to see all the different things behind it," he said.

"More in-depth health studies need to be done, and federal oversight of e-cigarettes is necessary," Hirsch said. "But for smokers who are having trouble quitting, e-cigarettes just may be the lesser of two evils."

11 Comments

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  • ekeller Jun 8, 2012

    For one thing to be the "lesser of two evils," don't both things have to be evil? Let's compare:

    * Smoke coats the lungs with tar and particulates.
    * The process of combustion creates thousands of new chemical compounds.
    * Many of these compounds are toxic and some are carcinogenic.
    * Smoking is credited with over 400,000 annual deaths in the US.

    * Smokers who switched to vapor are reporting their lung health has improved.
    * No combustion is involved in the operation of an e-cigarette, so there are no chemicals in the vapor that were not present in the liquid.
    * Any toxins or potential carcinogens in vapor are at trace levels, no higher than found in FDA-approved nicotine products.
    * The annual mortality rate attributed to e-cigarette use is zero.

    Those who rely on nicotine's beneficial effects on cognition and mood become dysfunctional when they are abstinent from nicotine. Switching to a less hazardous delivery method allows them to continue functioning as productive citizens.

  • djofraleigh Jun 6, 2012

    I don't smoke, never have, and if I did, I would probably not be able to stop. Smoking did kill my first wife via lung cancer that spread. I'm agin it...but I'm against the looking down the nose at smokers that goes on openly today.

  • djofraleigh Jun 6, 2012

    The best studies come from Europe, and can't be used in US courts, but they show the smoker actually costs the government less than non-smokers since they tend to be able to work all their best years, then start dying out near retirement, not living 15 years in a nursing home.

  • djofraleigh Jun 6, 2012

    Smokers are the designated class of people we can look down on while being politically correct. The immoral government, who gets money from every pack sold and Billions more from the addicts, uses the money for mostly NOT helping smokers. It's a shame that nicotine addicts should have to pay for the gum or therapy or anything else as long as that money, THEIR MONEY, is there.

  • johntrayhorn Jun 6, 2012

    There seems to be a total lack of understanding of this product even among many health professionals who are quick to criticise and warn against their use. These people have not taken the time to learn even basic information about electronic cigarettes.

    One doctor however does have an understanding of e-cigs, his name is Michael Siegel.

    Dr. Siegel is a Professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences, Boston University School of Public Health. He has 25 years of experience in the field of tobacco control.

    He previously spent two years working at the Office on Smoking and Health at CDC, where he conducted research on second hand smoke and cigarette advertising.

    He has published nearly 70 papers related to tobacco. He testified in the landmark Engle lawsuit against the tobacco companies.

    Read an interview with Dr Siegel at

    http://halo-electronic-e-cigarettes.co.uk/e-cig-news-reviews/doctor-warns-public-not-to-use-electronic-cigarettes

  • stthomp67 Jun 6, 2012

    "More in-depth health studies need to be done, and federal oversight of e-cigarettes is necessary," Which means the government wants to tax it just like tobacco.

  • Country Girlz Have MORE fun Jun 6, 2012

    I noticed after a short time that I was sleeping better and could run without panting. Much cleaner around my family too. I didn't stink like smoke either. Better than cigarettes anyday BUT as a nicotine dependant, when the elctric cig. died, I ran straight to the closest store. Honestly, I like the electric cig better.

  • beartruth101 Jun 5, 2012

    Message to the Author: Lesser of 2 evils...You must be be joking! Its like comparing drinking gasoline to fruit juice. Its common knowledge that true investigative reporting died years ago. Today reporting is nothing more than quoting others. Maybe someday someone will be interested in just reporting just the truths about electronic cigarettes and won't feel compelled to regurgitate lies and propaganda. If that person is you, Google CASAA

  • TeenDad2electricboogaloo Jun 5, 2012

    It would seem that the chemicals in the actual cigarettes would be worse for you than the "chemicals" in nicotine infused water vapor.

  • ekeller Jun 5, 2012

    If safety is such a concern, why is it that, considering that the products have been sold in the US since 2007, no user has ever reported a serious adverse event from inhaling vapor? Instead, users are reporting improved breathing, less wheezing, and disappearance of the morning cough. If using an e-cigarette leads to smoking the real thing, why is it that smokers who switch to e-cigarettes lose their taste for tobacco and most have no desire to ever smoke again? Research shows that nicotine's only harmful effect is on pregnancy, where it can trigger premature birth. Other than that, the effects are all beneficial, with improvements in concentration, attention, memory, alertness, and mood. After smoking for 45 years and being unable to quit because I require the beneficial effects of nicotine for attention and mood problems, I switched to e-cigarettes on 3/27/2009 and have not smoked at all since then.

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