e-cigaretteE-cigarettes aren’t just for hipsters — they’re a breath of not-quite-fresh air to smokers tired of being exiled outdoors when they need a puff. Since an e-cigarette user exhales water vapor instead of smoke, it’s easier to allow them back into bars and workplaces.

The e-cigarette seems like a safer option: Instead of burning a tobacco mixture, the devices uses a heating element to warm up a liquid solution containing nicotine. Instead of exhaling a cloud of smoke, the e-cig smoker exhales mostly water vapor. But do e-cigarettes pose any secondhand dangers to bystanders? One of the first studies to look at the issue of secondhand e-cigarette vapor finds you might get a whiff of nicotine from being close to someone puffing on an e-cig, and nothing much more.

The study, published in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research, looked at three different kinds of e-cigarettes popular in Poland. The scientists found both e-cigarette vapor and regular cigarette smoke contained nicotine, but the average concentration in e-cigarette vapor was about 10 times lower, on average, than the amount found in the tobacco smoke. But the e-cigarette vapor did not contain some of the other toxic products found in cigarette smoke.

“The key finding of this study is that e-cigarettes emit significant amounts of nicotine but do not emit significant amounts of [carbon monoxide] and [volatile organic compounds],” the authors wrote.

Source: Roxanne Palmer of the International Business Times , December 12 2013

Scientists say, “Make the switch”

Scientists say that if all smokers in the world switched from cigarettes to electronic cigarettes, it could save millions of lives.

In the UK there are currently about 100,000 deaths per year attributable to smoking, worldwide it is estimated to be more than five million.

Now researchers are hopeful that an increasing use of e-cigarettes could prevent some of these deaths.

But some groups warn that e-cigarettes could normalize smoking.

An estimated 700,000 users smoke e-cigarettes in the UK, according to Action on Smoking and Health. Some users combine “vaping”, as it is often called, with traditional cigarettes while others substitute it for smoking completely.

E-cigarettes have also recently been found to be just as effective as nicotine patches in helping smokers quit.

Rather than inhaling the toxic substances found in tobacco, e-cigarette users inhale vaporised liquid nicotine.

One researcher argues thatbecause the harmful effects of its main comparator, tobacco, e-cigarette use should not be over-regulated. Indeed, there is concern over the lack of regulation of e-cigarettes.

“Every adolescent tries something new, many try smoking. I would prefer they try e-cigarettes to regular cigarettes,” said one scientist.

An EU proposal to regulate e-cigarettes as a medicine was recently rejected, but in the UK e-cigarettes will be licensed as a medicine from 2016.

Concern remains about the increased use of e-cigarettes

The World Health Organization advised that consumers should not use e-cigarettes until they are deemed safe. They said the potential risks “remain undetermined” and that the contents of the vapour emissions had not been thoroughly studied.

The British Medical Association has called for a ban on public vaping in the same way that public smoking was banned.

A strong regulatory framework is needed to “restrict their marketing, sale and promotion so that it is only targeted at smokers as a way of cutting down and quitting, and does not appeal to non-smokers, in particular children and young people,” according to the association.

There is worry that the use of e-cigs normalizes smoking behavior, and health officials don’t want that behavior to be considered normal again.

Source: Melissa Hogenboom, Science reporter, BBC News