Are Electronic Cigarettes Helpful or Harmful?

The journey to quitting smoking has evolved from quitting cold turkey, to smoking patches, nicotine gum and today, electronic cigarettes. Also called, e-cigarettes or electronic nicotine delivery systems these battery-operated devices are designed to deliver flavored nicotine along with other chemicals to users in vapor form instead of smoke. Electronic cigarettes can be manufactured to look like traditional cigarettes, cigars or even everyday items such as pens or USB memory sticks. While e-cigarettes are being promoted as a safer alternative, in reality it’s just a diet cigarette and still potentially harmful as smoking old-fashioned cigarettes.

E-cigarettes are designed for the illusion of tobacco smoking by producing flavored aerosol that looks and feels like tobacco smoke and delivers nicotine, but with less of the toxic chemicals produced by burning tobacco leaves. Since they deliver nicotine without burning tobacco, e-cigarettes appear to be a safer and less toxic alternative to conventional cigarettes. Although they do not produce actual tobacco smoke, e-cigarettes still contain nicotine and other potentially harmful chemicals that still can lead to serious health consequences such as cancer and heart disease.

The liquid nicotine in e-cigarettes is highly concentrated and contains anywhere from six to 36 milligrams of nicotine per unit. In order to smoke an e-cigarette you have to refill the nicotine cartridges which requires direct exposure to liquid nicotine. Swallowing nicotine can cause vomiting, rapid heart rate, seizures and possibly death, depending on the amount and concentration. Nicotine can also be absorbed through the eyes, causing eye irritation.

Electronic cigarettes are still new and studies are still being conducted to determine their helpfulness in eliminating tobacco use among smokers. Some people believe e-cigarette products may help smokers lower nicotine cravings while they are trying to discontinue their tobacco use. However, at this point it is unclear whether e-cigarettes may be effective as smoking-cessation aids. There is also the possibility that they could perpetuate the nicotine addiction and thus interfere with quitting.

Cigarette smoking remains the leading preventable cause of sickness and mortality, responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths in the United States each year. The journey to quit smoking can be difficult, but you do not have to do it alone. Jamaica Hospital’s smoking cessation team wants to help you develop a plan leading to your “quit day”. For more information on resources to quit smoking, please call 718-206-8494.

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All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.