The Electronic Cigarette: A New Product that Should be Closely Monitored

March 13, 2013, 2:55 pm
modified March 14, 2013, 10:26 am

The electronic cigarette is already widely available in stores throughout Quebec. But what do we really know about this product? Is it as harmless as we would be led to believe?

The electronic cigarette is a device that mimics the look of a conventional cigarette and simulates the act of smoking. The product was invented by a Japanese man, then perfected and marketed by the Chinese in the early 2000s. To this day, all electronic cigarettes are manufactured in China.

How does it work?
Almost every model functions the same way: A rechargeable battery and an atomizer made up of a heated element are used to transform into vapour the “e-liquid” contained in a cartridge, which also acts as the mouthpiece for purposes of inhaling. The act of inhaling and the resulting pressure applied to a small switch sends the current from the battery to the atomizer, which vaporizes (to more than 60 Celsius) the liquid contained in the cartridge. This process ensures that no combustion occurs and no smoke is produced: all that is released is vapour.

The “e-liquid” or vaporized product is generally constituted of water and an aromatic compound (e.g. strawberry flavour). This mixture is then combined with a base of propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin or polyethylene glycol 400, which may or may not contain nicotine.

Effective or dangerous?
Many smokers report that they succeeded in quitting smoking thanks to electronic cigarettes, yet the debate rages on as to their true effectiveness for quitting smoking. What’s more, the use of this gadget among young people raises concerns. Because it is perceived as low-risk, is the electronic cigarette trivializing the act of smoking? For young people, can it become a gateway to tobacco products, which are consumed using the same gesture? It must be made absolutely clear that the act of smoking is in no way cool.

In addition, there are no production standards and very few regulations governing the market for electronic cigarettes. The necessary clinical trials have not yet been carried out, and the product’s harmfulness or lack thereof has not been clearly established. Furthermore, the fact that cartridges with nicotine are available, in spite of being illegal, poses a problem. Is the electronic cigarette a means of smoking without generating smoke? Can it be used anywhere, if that’s the case?

This product’s continued development bears watching.
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