E-Cigarettes: What You Need to Know

You may have seen electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) in stores, in advertisements, or being used. But e-cigarettes, while increasingly popular, are not harmless. Created as an alternative to tobacco cigarettes, e-cigarettes are sophisticated mechanical devices designed to deliver the same highly addictive nicotine that is in tobacco cigarettes, without the other harmful effects of tobacco smoke.

What’s Happening
In the past decade, e-cigarettes have become a more than $1 billion industry in the United States, with over 460 brands on the market. Many adults who use e-cigarettes are current or former smokers looking to stop nicotine cravings, quit smoking, or cut down on tobacco cigarettes. However, e-cigarettes may have a limited effect on helping people quit since at least 75 percent of adults who use e-cigarettes also use tobacco cigarettes.1

And although most states prohibit the sale of e-cigarettes to people under the age of 18, more and more teens are using them. In fact, recent surveys2 show dramatic increases each year in the number of teens who have tried an e-cigarette in their lifetime, as well as in the number who have used them in the past month. This is at a time when smoking tobacco cigarettes is at an all-time low among middle and high school students.

What’s Ahead
With e-cigarette use on the rise, the federal government is considering regulation of how e-cigarettes are made and sold. If this happens, e-cigarettes may be subject to rules on safety, advertising, and warning labels similar to those that govern the sale of tobacco cigarettes. For now, however, consumers should not assume that the products are guaranteed to be safe or that claims made in advertising are accurate.

As for the science on the risk of e-cigarettes and the possible benefits for current smokers, research is just beginning. But there is already a growing body of evidence showing that teens would be smart never to start using e-cigarettes.

E-cigarettes: Where do we stand?

(CNN)E-cigarettes are increasingly being used as a nicotine alternative as smokers seek ways to kick their habit. They work by heating a pure liquid called e-juice — composed of flavorings, propylene glycol, glycerin and often nicotine — until it vaporizes. The resulting vapor is much less offensive to many, both smokers and non-smokers.

But their use has been surrounded by debate, focusing on the lack of evidence regarding the harms associated with their long-term use, as well as their potential to act as a gateway into smoking among teens.
The latest salvo: A study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics found five cancer-causing toxins in the urine of 16-year-olds who inhaled e-cigarette vapor, and a second study found, yet again, that e-cigarettes encourage teens to begin smoking traditional cigarettes.
Last week, a study of nearly 70,000 people found that daily e-cigarette use can double the risk for heart attack. If the user continues to smoke regular cigarettes each day along with e-cigarettes, the combined risk goes up five times.
“E-cigarettes are widely promoted as a smoking cessation aid, but for most people, they actually make it harder to quit smoking, so most people end up as so-called ‘dual users’ who keep smoking while using e-cigarettes,” said Stanton Glantz, lead author of the latter study, in a statement.
Science and public policy have bounced back and forth for over a decade, as different studies produce different — and sometimes contradictory — results. Let’s take a look at the debate over the years:

2003 headline: Invention of e-cigarettes

The inventor of the electronic cigarette, Hon Lik, smoking his invention in Beiijng on May 25, 2009.

Three pack-a-day smoker Hon Lik, a 52-year-old Beijing pharmacist, created the first successful electronic cigarette after his father, another heavy smoker, died of lung cancer. By 2007, e-cigarettes were marketed in Europe and the United States by manufacturer Ruyan as a way to safely stop smoking tobacco.
Hon was not the first person on record to have the idea for an electronic non-tobacco option. Herbert A. Gilbert filed for a patent in 1963, in an era when tobacco smoking was widely accepted and the health risks were less apparent.