DAVAO CITY, May 6 — If looks can kill, then the thousands of smoke-belching humans out there would have been dead by now. And if you can no longer bear the taunts and the insults hurled by non-smokers, then the electronic cigarettes might be a better option. Or are they?
Electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes, look and work just like real cigarettes except that they do not emit the same odor and smoke produced by real cigarettes.
“But we still discourage smokers, in this case vapers (since e-cigarettes emit vapors and not smoke) from smoking in non-smoking areas as they will still be apprehended,” Davao City Anti-Smoking Task Force Dr. Domilyn Villareiz said.
She warns vapers “not to try us by smoking in non-smoking areas because they are still included in the prohibition.”
The eight-year old anti-smoking ordinance of Davao City (which celebrates its 8th year anniversary on May 31) may have discouraged some smokers from puffing their cigarettes in public places with the implementation of the ordinance, but this is set to change with the popularity of the e-cigarettes in the world market.
“This is plainly a circumvention of the Anti-Smoking law because it still promotes the habit of smoking — with the same arm and hand movement and the use of nicotine,” she said.
The e-cigarette is a battery-operated device with a cartridge that contains a nicotine solution and other chemicals that is then converted into vapour when the cigarette is used. Some e-cigarettes even come in different flavors to satisfy the craving of the regular smoker.
“We call these e-cigarettes guinea pigs because there is no clinical study that concludes it is safer to use than the ordinary cigarette,” Villareiz said.
She added the regular cigarette contains more than 600 additives, aside from nicotine leaves, but, the moment it is inhaled, the cigarette can release up to 4,000 chemicals.
Villareiz said if the e-cigarettes still contain nicotine, then they can still affect the cardiovascular system and can constrict the blood vessels once the nicotine is inhaled.
“Until there is medical evidence that these e-cigarettes are totally safe, then, we do not recommend it,” she added.
The e-cigarette comes with a nicotine solution, often called e-juice or e-liquid, which consist of glycerine and propylene glycol which are known food additives. The solutions are offered in different concentrations of nicotine, thus allowing the vaper to regulate his nicotine intake and gradually reduce it. There are also solutions that do not come with nicotine, but with flavors like regular or menthol tobacco, coffee, caramel, vanilla or fruits.
Research shows that e-cigarette solutions can contain the following ingredients: nicotine, gkycerol, propylene glycol, tobacco essence, organic acid, butyl valerate, benzyl benzoate, hexyl hexanoate, and anti-oxidation agent among others.
The e-cigarette is becoming a popular commodity among those looking for an alternative to the real cigarettes but without the foul smoke odor it emits. Manufacturers of e-cigarettes even market it as a smart choice for those who want to stop smoking.
The e-cigarette is apparently a Chinese innovation, with the first e-cigar patented by a company based in Beijing sometime in 2003. It was first sold in China a year after being patented, and has enjoyed a steady increase in sales from 1.7 million dollars in 2004 to 37 million dollars in 2006.
E-cigarettes were brought to Europe in 2006 and then known as the “Electro fag”. As of October 2009, the Electronic Cigarette Association pinned e-cigarette users to over 300,000. There are however fears that the e-cigarettes might become a fad among young people and that it might promote the habit of smoking all the more.
Villareiz admitted the e-cigarette can be more cost effective than the real deal since you can buy the device at one time and then just replace the cartridge when consumed. Most e-cigarettes have parts that are refillable and replaceable.
The e-cigarette provides almost the same physical sensation and flavor provided by the regular cigarette but it does not involve combustion so no smoke is produced, giving other people the perception that this can be more acceptable to countries that ban smoking in public places.
E-cigarettes are available worldwide in manual and automatic models. The manual model comes with a button which must be pressed by the user to activate the vapor-producing heating element of the cigarette. The automatic models come with sensors that automatically activate the heating element that produces the vapor once the cigarette is inhaled upon.
The other end of the e-cigarette comes with an optional light-emitting diode (LED) which looks like the burning red color of the real cigarette when lighted. While the e-cigarette comes in various forms, it generally consists of a heating element to produce the vapor, a mouthpiece and a rechargeable battery.
While companies selling e-cigarettes claim that the e-cigars do not contain harmful materials since they do not undergo the process of combustion, it does contain nicotine which is a proven cause of mouth cancer.
Villareiz said nicotine is also known as highly carcinogenic, pointing out that e-cigarettes also contain nicotine which is then inhaled by the user. As a vasoconstrictor, nicotine can make the heart work harder. Nicotine in e-cigarette is thus still considered dangerous.
She said the United States Food and Drugs Authority has already banned the importation of e-cigarettes. It has also been banned in Australia and Canada since it poses risks arising from addiction and nicotine poisoning. Other countries that have banned e-cigarettes are Brazil, Panama and Singapore. It has been highly restricted in Denmark and New Zealand, but is unrestricted in the United Kingdom.
As of now, there is no clear-cut legislative policy banning or restricting the sale of e-cigarettes in the Philippines. (PNA)