Electronic Cigarettes: A Healthier Alternative

Electronic cigarettes are a much healthier, safer and more convenient way for smokers to get their nicotine fix. E-cigarettes use drops of liquid nicotine and heat it up with a battery, and then release vapor. No smoke or combustion is involved in this process, so the carcinogenic component of traditional smoking methods is eliminated.

E-cigarettes come in many different forms. Most common are ones that are shaped like a long tube, just like real cigarettes. They also come in shapes of large pipes and cigars.

According to a study by Paul Courson for CNN (02 09 2010), the device is made up of three components: the mouthpiece, or “cartridge;” the heating element, or “atomizer;” and the battery and electronics. Liquid nicotine and flavor drops are stored in the cartridge, and the atomizer vaporizes this liquid and usually has a life span of about a month. Finally, there is a lithium-ion powered battery that powers the atomizer. The battery is the largest part of the device.

Eliminate Unpleasant Smoke Smell

E-cigarettes have the benefit of not smelling or tasting like real cigarettes. One of the main issues a smoker faces (outside of the obvious health risks) is the unpleasant smokey smell that lingers on clothes, hair and hands long after the cigarette has been smoked, and the unappealing “ashtray breath” which renders kissing anyone who does not smoke nearly impossible.

Electronic cigarettes use drops of flavor to make the smell and the taste of the vapor more palatable. There is a wide array of flavors; anything from standard tobacco flavor (which tastes like a real cigarette) to chocolate caramel, and even rose and jasmine. E-cigarettes can come pre-made or the user can create their own mixture of different types of flavors.

There is also the option of adding more or less nicotine. The user can put in a high concentration of nicotine, or none at all. Even if there is no nicotine in the e-cigarette, one still gets the sensation of smoking – putting the device up to the mouth, sucking, blowing out smoke – and many say that this habit alone is part of what makes smoking so addictive. In fact, the product is not only being marketed as a much safer way to smoke, but also as a potential method of quitting, since the user can gradually step down the level of nicotine they are consuming.

Regulations and Legality

In the United States, electronic cigarettes can technically be regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.

In a court decision, the FDA upheld its right to regulate electronic cigarettes because they previously had the ability to regulate other nicotine replacement therapies, like nicotine patches and gum (Duff Wilson 2010-01-14. “Judge Orders F.D.A. to Stop Blocking Imports of E-Cigarettes From China”. However, people can still purchase these products online, often importing e-cigarettes from China. They are also sold occasionally in mall kiosks.

Using an electronic cigarette is still unhealthy, because it contains nicotine, which restricts arteries and blood vessels and may lead to serious complications like accelerated coronary artery disease and hypertension (Wollscheid, Kristine. “Electronic Cigarettes: Safety Concerns and Regulatory Issues”. Retrieved 07 15 2010.

Studies are still being conducted examining the safety of electronic cigarettes (McLean, Mike. “A New Potential Market Lights Up”), retrieved 07 15 2010.

However, if someone is already a smoker, these devices may prove an excellent alternative to the harsher, more dangerous, and more carcinogenic traditional cigarette.