Launched in 2003, e-cigarettes are on track to outsell traditional cigarettes within this decade. Yes, with new entrants joining in every year, the popularity of e-cigarettes has manifested into a multi-billion dollar industry. In a recently concluded deal, British American Tobacco has agreed to purchase CHIC Group-Polish E-cigarette makers with a 60% market share in the nation’s e-cigarette market.

Deals such as these will become more common as the market for e-cigarettes ramps up. According to a report by Wells Fargo, traditional cigarette sales volume had declined by 3.2% in 2014. Now, the global market for e-cigarettes is going up and is expected to exceed US $7 billion by the end of 2015.

Read on for a closer look at this ‘healthy’ (?) alternative for smokers.

E-cigarettes – Why are they so Popular?

So, what exactly is an e-cigarette? How does it differ from the traditional cigarette? Is it safer to use? Unfortunately, as of this moment, research into the product is directly proportional to its popularity. Since, e-cigarettes are positioned neither as tobacco based products, nor as a device with therapeutic purposes, they are not regulated by the FDA. Given the short time factor since the launch of e-cigarettes, there is insufficient data–both in terms of quantitative and qualitative–to substantiate their use, effect, and long term implications.

e-Cigarettes are not regulated by the FDA.

Not all e-Cigarettes contain nicotine.


e-Cigarettes Safer than Smoking

How does an e-Cigarette work?

Although some variants of these products look like traditional cigarettes (right up to their glowing tips) the biggest difference is in what you inhale. In a traditional cigarette, you inhale the smoke released by the burning of tobacco and paper; whereas, in an e-cigarette, you inhale an aerosol that is released by heating a liquid solution. This solution may or may not contain nicotine. It usually contains propylene glycol, glycerin, water, nicotine and flavorings. But then, the composition of these e-liquids, as they are called, may differ from one manufacturer to the other.

Today, this is the biggest cause of worry with regards to the safety and health issues related to e-cigarettes. In the absence of any regulatory body to monitor the contents and composition of the used e-liquids, there is no guarantee on their purity or safety. Although, inhaling aerosol vapor might be safer than tobacco smoke, testing of some e-cigarette products have shown that the vapor does contain known carcinogens and other toxic chemicals.

Are they Safe, or Harmful?

Chemicals released while burning a tobacco cigarette

Nicotine related deaths in the US

Limited evidences collated so far indicate that e-cigarettes are less harmful than traditional cigarettes. Specific health problems associated with the use of traditional cigarettes are mostly connected to the burning of tobacco. It’s a well known fact that tobacco combustion produces tar, along with around 7,000 different chemicals. The inhalations of these harmful substances, along with the addictive properties of nicotine, are the main culprits that cause nearly 4,00,000 deaths every year, and in the Unites States alone.

E-cigarettes stimulate the act of smoking, but with a difference. There is no burning of tobacco involved in their use. This single feature makes them less harmful than their traditional counterparts.

The Debate Continues….

There is a growing belief that e-cigarettes may help regular traditional cigarette smokers to kick the habit. However, there is no data or findings to substantiate this belief. On the contrary, there is fear that they might bring in more people into the habit of smoking, and eventually lead them to traditional tobacco products.

One cause of worry is the popularity of e-cigarettes amongst adolescents. Not classified as a tobacco product, the lack of regulations regarding their sales, and the wide range of flavors such as coffee, mint, fruits etc, make this product very popular within this age group. The debate on whether or not e-cigarettes are safer than traditional cigarettes will continue to rage for a long time. Till then, the marketing blitzkrieg and huge budgets of companies manufacturing the product will only make e-cigarettes more popular.

Way Forward

As a consumer who may or may not try this product, one needs to know a few basic facts. If you don’t smoke, don’t start with e-cigarettes – there are risks involved with absolutely no health benefits. For those planning to quit – there is no data to prove that they are an effective method. In case you plan to keep smoking but would like to switch over to e-cigarettes because they are safer – maybe; do know that their long term effects are still not evident. And so, the element of risk remains.

Parents need to know that although e-cigarettes are considered safer, still, there is the element of health problems associated with the inhaling of vapor. The biggest problem for parents is monitoring their kids. Unlike traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes do not smell of tobacco; thus it is difficult to make out if they are vaping.

It definitely would be best if smokers could quit completely – it’s never too late to quit! But, if that’s not possible, e-cigarettes are definitely a safer alternative.

References :
  1. Chaudhuri, S. (2015, September 22). BAT Beefs Up E-Cigarette Business. Retrieved September 30, 2015, from The Wall Street Journal:Link
  2. (2015, July 7). Electronic Cigarettes (e-Cigarettes). Retrieved September 30, 2015, from U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Link
  3. Nancy A. Rigotti, M. (2015). e-Cigarette Use and Subsequent Tobacco Use by Adolescents. JAMA, 314(7), 673-674.
  4. National Institute on Drug Abuse; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2015, August). DrugFacts: Electronic Cigarettes (e-Cigarettes). Retrieved September 29, 2015, from National Institute of Drug Absuse: Link
  5. Yahoo Health
  6. Washington Post