E-Cigarettes Under Fire
No-Smoke Electronic Cigarettes Draw Criticism From FDA, Medical Groups
So what's an e-cigarette good for?
Different e-cigarette marketers stress different points:
- For smokers who don't plan to quit tobacco, some firms point to
e-cigarettes as a way to "smoke" in smoke-free environments such as airplane
lounges, restaurants, and workplaces.
- For smokers who don't want to give up their nicotine addiction, some firms
suggest that switching to e-cigarettes will reduce the harm of their
- For smokers who want to quit, some firms suggest that e-cigarettes may help
people transition from smokers to nonsmokers (the World Health Organization has
asked marketers not to make this claim).
Craig Youngblood, president of the InLife e-cigarette company, says that
since regular tobacco is very bad for you, something that assuages your
nicotine habit without smoke must be less bad.
"In our product you have nicotine or no nicotine, PEG, and some flavoring.
In cigarettes you have nicotine, PEG, and 4,000 chemicals and 43 carcinogens,"
Youngblood tells WebMD. "There are 45 to 50 million people already addicted to
nicotine. Should they have the choice to satisfy their addiction by other
means? ... I am a proponent of harm reduction. People have rights and choices
and should be allowed to make them."
Youngblood says his company makes no health claims. He rejects the idea that
his product is a smoking cessation device and says his company does not
make that claim. He also says his product is not sold to minors.
Youngblood does make this claim: E-cigarettes are green.
"There is no pollution of the environment with this product," he says. "The
vapor is not the same as smoke. And for every odor-free e-cigarette cartridge
people throw in the trash, smokers throw 20 smelly cigarette butts out their
Some firms do suggest that e-cigarettes are safer than tobacco cigarettes.
Most point to a Ruyan-funded study by tobacco researcher Murray Laugesen,
MBChB, of Health New Zealand, a private research firm.
Laugesen analyzed Ruyan e-cigarettes and found nothing inherently bad in
them -- that is, they contained what they said they contained and posed little
threat of immediate harm.
But this was not a clinical study, notes Norman Edelman, MD, chief medical
officer of the American Lung Association, one of the organizations that has
called for an FDA ban on e-cigarettes.
"Laugesen is trying to project what the effects of e-cigarettes might be,
but he doesn't really know," Edelman tells WebMD. "There are no clinical
studies of long-term use of these products."
And some firms do claim that e-cigarettes help people quit smoking. After
all, there's an FDA-approved nicotine inhaler already in drug stores --
Pfizer's Nicotrol. It doesn't look much
like a cigarette, but it doesn't look much different than some e-cigarette
What's the difference?
"The Nicotrol inhaler is an approved smoking cessation device," says the
FDA's Chapelle. "Because these e-cigarette products haven't been reviewed by
the agency, their labeling has to be reviewed, their intended use has to be
reviewed, and all of their ingredients and components have to be reviewed."