9 terribly disturbing things about electronic cigarettes

By now, you’ve probably seen them being smoked on the subway or in a bar those shiny, futuristic, battery operated nicotine inhalers better know as electronic cigarettes that are apparently all the rage these days. Big Tobacco companies have taken notice, too, and are determined to cash in on the industry, which is expected to bring in $1.7 billion in U.S. sales this year alone, according to The New York Times.

While much is still unknown about the health risks of e cigarettes, here s what we do know E cigarettes are addicting. And while they may not be as harmful as tobacco cigarettes, critics like the British Medical Association and the World Health Organisation are wary of the trend and warn of the dangers that may be associated with the smoking devices.

Here’s what we do know about e cigarettes

1. E cigarettes contain toxic chemicals.

A 2009 FDA analysis of e cigarettes from two leading brands found that the samples contained carcinogens and other hazardous chemicals, including diethylene glycol, which is found in antifreeze. Last year, a report from Greek researchers found that using e cigarettes increased breathing difficulty in both smokers and non smokers, according to Medical News Today. A more recent study funded by a smoking cessation advocacy group concluded that

«There is no evidence that vaping produces inhalable exposures to contaminants of the aerosol that would warrant health concerns by the standards that are used to ensure safety of workplaces. However, the aerosol generated during vaping as a whole (contaminants plus declared ingredients), if it were an emission from industrial process, creates personal exposures that would justify surveillance of health among exposed persons.»

2. Kids and teens can buy them.

Unlike other tobacco products, e cigarettes can be sold to minors in many places throughout the country. The smoking devices can also be bought legally online, according to the Wall Street Journal.

3. While cigarette companies say they don’t market to kids, e cigarettes come in flavors like cherry, strawberry, vanilla and cookies and cream milkshake.

4. Laws regulating cigarette ads don’t yet apply to e cigarettes.

TV commercials for cigarettes may be banned, but ones for e cigarettes sure aren’t, Adage points out. (The above ad for Blu eCigs features Jenny McCarthy.)

5. And e cigarette companies are spending a TON on advertising.

Industry advertising spending increased to $20.8 million in 2012 from just $2.7 million in 2010, according to The New York Times.

6. E cigarettes can be used in many places where smoking is banned.

Even though some studies suggest that secondhand vapor poses health risks, many lawmakers have yet to determine whether smoking rules apply to e cigarettes, according to USA Today.

7. People think e cigarettes can help them quit smoking.

Research published in the American Journal of Public Health indicates that 53 percent of young adults in the U.S. who have heard of e cigarettes believe they are healthier than traditional cigarettes and 45 percent believe they could help them quit smoking though there is little evidence to support either of these claims.

8. E cigarettes aren’t taxed like traditional tobacco products.

Even though cigarette consumption fell significantly as taxes went up.

9. Despite unknown health consequences, e cigarettes are poised to make inroads with a new generation of young people.

Half of young adults say they would try e cigarettes if a friend offered them one, according a study cited by USA Today.

This post has been updated with additional information from recent studies on the subject.

Also on HuffPost

Loading Slideshow

  • 1. Smoking related health conditions are a leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for nearly one of every five deaths annually. Source The Centers For Disease Control

  • 2. Every year, tobacco use kills more Americans than HIV, drug and alcohol abuse, suicides, murders and car accidents combined. Source The Centers For Disease Control

  • 3. Secondhand smoke accounts for approximately 50,000 deaths in the United States every year. Source The American Lung Association

  • 4. Cigarette smoke emits nearly 8 billion kilograms of greenhouse gases annually. Source

  • 5. Tobacco farming also contributes to deforestation, destroying more than 500,000 acres of forest a year. Source

  • 6. If tobacco farmers around the globe were to grow food instead, they could feed more than 70 percent of the world’s 28 million malnourished people. Source

  • 7. In 2012, cigarette companies spent nearly $27 million lobbying government agencies and members of Congress. Source

  • 8. Big Tobacco companies market covertly to teens, despite publicly stating that youth should not smoke. Source U.S. News & World Report

  • 9. Each year, the industry spends more than $400 per customer on special promotions, coupons, mailers and other direct marketing efforts to make sure current smokers don’t kick their addictions. Source Stanford University

  • 10. Now, companies are pushing expensive and unregulated e cigarettes. A «starter kit» which includes an e cigarette device, batteries, nicotine cartridges and other accessories can cost upwards of $100. Source

  • 11. What’s more, e cigarettes are offered in a variety of flavors that young children and teens could find especially appealing, like cherry, grape, vanilla and strawberry. Source Fox 5 News

  • 12. The health effects of e cigarettes are still unknown. Medical associations and regulatory bodies are concerned that e cigarettes are nothing more than a «gateway» to a nicotine addiction. Source The Huffington Post

Editorial: the buzz about e-cigarettes — chicago tribune

There’s debate, but scant evidence, that e cigarettes pose a health risk. The main benefit of e cigarettes is to give smokers an alternative, a way to kick the tobacco habit. Users can vary the levels of nicotine and gradually wean themselves off their addiction.

A 2009 Food and Drug Administration study tested two popular brands of e cigarettes and did find carcinogens and other toxic chemicals in more than half of the samples. One sample had traces of diethylene glycol, an ingredient in antifreeze.

Another study conducted by the Drexel University School of Public Health and funded by the Consumer Advocates for Smoke Free Alternatives Association, a group that advocates for e cigarettes and smokeless tobacco found e cigarettes pose no health threat for users or bystanders under generally accepted exposure limits. No study has provided a definitive answer, but all point to e cigs as safer than regular cigs.

The FDA is still trying to figure out how to classify e cigarettes. In September, attorneys general from about 40 states signed on to a letter urging the FDA to regulate e cigarettes as a tobacco product. That would allow the agency to restrict advertising, ingredients and sales to minors. The FDA has drafted a proposed rule and sent it to the Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs for review, but has not publicly released it.

Health effects aside, a major concern about e cigarettes is their appeal to young people. Smoking an e cigarette looks no different than smoking a regular cigarette. That «cool» factor is still there. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of middle school and high school students who use e cigarettes doubled between 2011 and 2012. An Illinois law banning the sale of e cigarettes to minors took effect on Jan. 1.

Chicago’s proposed ordinance, introduced by Ald. Will Burns, 4th, and Ald. Edward Burke, 14th, is promoted as an initiative to protect children, but it would have a much wider impact. E cigarettes would be banned from all smoke free environments, and stores would be required to sell them behind the counter. That ordinance has been stalled, but an ordinance that would prohibit the sale of menthol flavored tobacco products within 500 feet of Chicago schools has been approved by two council committees.

The new state law and the city ordinance that won favor in committee focus on restricting this nicotine delivery device to kids. And that, for now, seems like the right approach. Illinois and other states had good cause to ban tobacco smoking in public places second hand smoke poses a known health risk. E cigs may be a nuisance to people who see others using them, but we’re not talking about second hand smoke.

The absence of a broad government ban doesn’t mean that people puffing e cigs will start to show up everywhere. Many businesses and agencies have set their own bans. You can’t smoke e cigarettes at the United Center, on CTA buses or trains or in Starbucks stores. Nearly all major U.S. airlines prohibit e cigarettes on their planes. It’s our sense that most e cig users think twice about where they puff away because of public repulsion toward smoking.