Much to the disappointment of the tobacco industry, e-cigarettes are currently everywhere. The battery charged devices that deliver nicotine through vaporized liquid has changed the face of smoking and many are predicting that they will actually ‘out-sell’ cigarettes in 10 years time.

While the average person has probably heard that an e-cigarette is either perfectly harmless or the worst thing alive, what can’t be argued with is the exponential growth within our industry. Manufacturers claim that electronic cigarettes are a healthier alternative to conventional cigarettes. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has questioned the safety of these products.

As opinion is still divided, NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) recommended the use of medicinally licenced nicotine containing products, as an alternative to smoking and this is one of the reasons why many people are choosing to make the switch. After all, the best evidence to date shows that using an e-cigarette is dramatically less dangerous than cigarette smoking.

As a result of not burning tobacco, the whole e-cigarette package is deemed safer. A 2012 study entitled Comparison of the effects of e-cigarette vapor and cigarette smoke on indoor air quality states, "For all byproducts measured, electronic cigarettes produce very small exposures relative to tobacco cigarettes. The study indicates no apparent risk to human health from e-cigarette emissions based on the compounds analyzed."

So they look like the real thing but instead of the puff of smoke you breath out containing many toxins, it is in fact water vapour. The biggest danger from tobacco is the smoke, and e-cigarettes don't burn. Tests show the levels of dangerous chemicals they give off are a fraction of what you'd get from a real cigarette.

Vaping has hundreds of flavoured options so it is seen as the better tasting alternative to cigarettes, which is appealing to many. While the first e-cigarettes were not produced by cigarette companies, cigarette companies have now gotten into the business because of the sheer demand.

Of course, the product itself has triggered a fierce debate among health experts and those within the industry. Some say that the device is a ‘gateway drug’ and that with big advertising budgets and celebrity endorsements they could make smoking popular again.

But others look at possible benefits for smokers. "Obviously, it would be best if smokers could quit completely," says Michael Siegel, MD, MPH, a professor at Boston University's School of Public Health. "But if that's not possible, I think they'd be a lot better off with e-cigarettes. They're a safer alternative."

Chris Polenski
Chris Polenski