E-cigarette Manufacturers Blowing Smoke?

Researchers at UC-Riverside look at safety of e-cigarettes as tobacco alternative

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) E-cigarettes (electronic cigarettes), touted as a safer alternative to smoking, pose health risks, too, according to University of California-Riverside researchers.

These so-called "electronic nicotine delivery systems" are used throughout the world increasingly to combat the urge to smoke. Readily available on the Internet and in shopping malls throughout the country, e-cigarettes are potentially harmful, according to the UC researchers. The study found design flaws, lack of adequate labeling, and several concerns about quality control and health issues. As a result, researchers have asked federal regulators to consider removing e-cigarettes from the market until their safety is adequately evaluated.

"Some people believe that e-cigarettes are a safe substitute for conventional cigarettes," said Prue Talbot, the director of UC Riverside's Stem Cell Center. "Our study ... shows that this product has many flaws, which could cause serious public health problems in the future if the flaws go uncorrected."

Whereas conventional cigarettes burn tobacco, e-cigarettes vaporize nicotine, along with other compounds, in the form of an aerosol created by heating. They do not create the chemicals and toxicants produced by smoking tobacco. Nothing is known about the chemicals present in the aerosolized vapors emitted from e-cigarettes, however.

The UC researchers evaluated six brands of e-cigarettes: NJOY, Liberty Stix, Crown Seven (Hydro), Smoking Everywhere (Gold and Platinum) and VapCigs. They looked at the design, accuracy and clarity of labeling; nicotine content; leakiness; defective parts; disposal; errors in filling orders; instruction-manual quality and advertising. Among their findings:

• Batteries, atomizers, cartridges, cartridge wrappers, packs and instruction manuals lack important information regarding e-cigarette content, use and essential warnings.

• E-cigarette cartridges leak, which could expose nicotine, an addictive and dangerous chemical, to children, adults, pets and the environment.

• There are no methods for proper disposal of e-cigarette products and accessories, including cartridges, which could result in nicotine contamination from discarded cartridges entering water sources and soil, and adversely impacting the environment.

• The manufacturing, quality control, sales, and advertisement of e-cigarettes are unregulated.
"Contrary to the claims of the manufacturers and marketers of e-cigarettes being 'safe,' in fact, virtually nothing is known about the toxicity of the vapors generated by these e-cigarettes," said Kamlesh Asotra, a research administrator at UC. "Until we know any thing about the potential health risks of the toxins generated upon heating the nicotine-containing content of the e-cigarette cartridges, the 'safety' claims of the manufactureres are dubious at best."

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 6, 2010
Last Updated:
December 6, 2010