E-Cigarettes Under Fire
No-Smoke Electronic Cigarettes Draw Criticism From FDA, Medical Groups
Edelman says nicotine addiction is bad and that people with the habit need
help quitting, not help continuing their habit in more socially acceptable
And there's no proof that e-cigarettes don't cause long-term harm. That's
what bothers all the health experts who discussed e-cigarettes with WebMD.
"We cannot say they are good or bad because we don't have any scientific
proof," says Eliana Mendes, MD, a pulmonology researcher at the University of
"What happens to someone who stops inhaling the tars of cigarettes and just
inhales nicotine? We don't know," Edelman says. "We are talking about use that
might be three years, five years, 10 years, we just don't know. Once you have
the nicotine habit, you are not likely to quit."
Rather than quit, e-cigarettes might worsen users' nicotine habits, says
Michael Eriksen, ScD, director of the institute of public health at Atlanta's
Georgia State University and former director of CDC's office of smoking and
"I have seen no evidence that people switch from tobacco cigarettes to
e-cigarettes or other smokeless tobacco products," Eriksen tells WebMD. "If you
look at how smokeless products are marketed, they are sold as something to use
at times you can't smoke. The implication is you will increase nicotine
exposure, not reduce smoking. We'll just be encouraging people to use more
Youngblood says his e-cigarette products are being marketed only to people
who already smoke and already have a nicotine addiction. But Eriksen says the
unregulated sale of these products might get new users hooked -- users who
might then start smoking.
"Will e-cigarettes get fewer people smoking? Or will people start with
e-cigarettes and graduate to tobacco cigarettes? It is unknown whether these
things are good, bad, or indifferent," he says. "If for every person who used
e-cigarettes there was one fewer person smoking tobacco cigarettes, that would
be good. But there is no evidence that will occur."
And there's one more issue that troubles doctors. University of Miami
pediatrician and lung specialist Michael Light, PhD, says underage users will
get their hands on e-cigarettes -- even if marketers like Youngblood refuse to
sell them to minors.
"It will be easy for kids to get the product," Light tells WebMD. "It could
be a way to get kids into the nicotine habit to get them to smoke. It is a