The Electronic Cigarette is a relatively recent invention (dating back to 2003) that is essentially a battery operated nicotine dispenser, intended for use as an alternative to cigarettes. The device is made up of a few components, including a heater, a battery, and a cartridge containing a solution of propylene glycol and nicotine. Due to the method of administration, the user gets the same “rush” as he or she would get from a normal cigarette, yet without the toxic chemical byproducts from true tobacco, such as carbon monoxide and tar, as well as physical side-effects such as yellowing teeth and bad breath.
Although the Electronic Cigarette is advertised as a safe alternative, not much is known about the results from their long term use. They are completely unapproved by the government, and virtually unstudied in terms of their chemical composition. Despite these unknown aspects, there are thousands of people who have turned to the “E-Cig”, as they are commonly called, looking to help kick their cigarette habits. Unfortunately, as they still contain nicotine, a person who turns to them in order to stop smoking may end up with a stronger nicotine habit than they had before, and because they produce no real smoke, they can be used virtually anywhere, like at an airport, in a restaurant, and even at work.
In a few studies, the cartridges used in Electronic Cigarettes have been found to contain a number of slightly dangerous ingredients, albeit less so at the present quantities, yet notable nonetheless. One such group of chemicals are nitrosamines, a common chemical found in real tobacco smoke. Nitrosamines are known carcinogens, although a normal user would not be exposed to this chemical unless a faulty cartridge is used.
Another argument used by the government, as well as those fighting the sales of Electronic Cigarettes, is that they are sold in various flavors, including mint, orange chocolate, strawberry, and even caramel. Opponents argue that these flavors may not only promote non-smokers into picking up the habit, but may even appeal to children as well, enticing younger people who see the colorful packaging and appetizing flavors as a reason to start smoking them.
A small handfull users have reported more serious medical effects such as rapid heartbeat, and even heart palpitations. While seemingly severe, these side effects are likely the result of a slight nicotine overdose, brought on by using a cartridge with more nicotine than the body is used to. This can be easily avoided, however, by purchasing cartridges with a lower potency, and slowly raising it to a comfortable level.
Despite these complaints, there are quite a few good aspects to the situation as well. Many proponents argue that the few questionable chemicals included in Electronic Cigarettes are in no way worse than what a tobacco smoker already inhales on a daily basis, and that any alternative, even a slightly unhealthy one, is still much healthier than the real thing. In addition, while the Electronic Cigarette user may be inhaling a few unhealthy ingredients, the people around him or her are not experiencing any negative side-effects, as opposed to the constant worry of secondhand smoke when it comes to real tobacco.
All in all, it is completely up to the user to decide what is best for themselves; does the ability to ingest nicotine in a seemingly safer way make up for the unknown ingredients, or is tobacco smoke the lesser of two evils due to the fact that its ingredients are well-known? The answer is up to the smoker to decide.