Deconstructing the e-cigarette

There is a great deal of buzz about the electronic cigarette. It may be a tool used to quit smoking, but is it a safer alternative for smokers?

Some health experts say the electronic cigarette is not as safe as it seems. According to experts at Minnesota’s prestigious Mayo Clinic, “Manufacturers claim that electronic cigarettes are a safe alternative to conventional cigarettes. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has questioned the safety of these products. When the FDA analyzed samples of two popular brands, they found variable amounts of nicotine and traces of toxic chemicals, including known cancer-causing substances (carcinogens). This prompted the FDA to issue a warning about potential health risks associated with electronic cigarettes.”

According to the clinic, “E-Cigarettes may contain ingredients that are known to be toxic to humans and may contain other ingredients that may not be safe.”

Do e-cigs pose similar health hazards to traditional cigarettes? UTSA Associate Professor Kim Kline stated “I smoked a pack of cigarettes a day for over 30 years, and haven’t had a regular cigarette since I started smoking e-cigs.”

Kline goes on to say that using an e-cig is not actually smoking, but “vaping,” for users in the know. There are many components to an electronic cigarette, but over time, the cost is less than a traditional cigarette habit. New users can start with buying a starter package, which includes one charger, two batteries, two atomizers, and one pack of cartridges. Flavors can be added in a liquid form to the filter inside the atomizer. The liquid is referred to as e-liquid. These flavors range from pineapple to apple cinnamon and mango. The flavors are an added bonus for people who are concerned about using a nicotine substitute. Nicotine content in e-cigs range from six grams to 35 grams, but users are given the option to remove nicotine.

According to the FDA, “clinical studies about the safety and efficacy of these products have not been submitted… and these products may be attractive to young people and may lead kids to try other tobacco products, including conventional cigarettes.”

Nevertheless, the e-cig seems to have quite the following of enthusiastic fans. Online forums, such as, have sprouted up for users to discuss the e-cig in greater detail.

Although the FDA claims electronic cigarettes are unsafe, many would still argue that the device helped them quit conventional cigarettes. Kline thinks that the electronic cigarette is an excellent tool to quit smoking, and for her, it has worked well.

“I’m an advocate for e-cigs, but I’m not an advocate for smoking. I just think that if you don’t smoke then you shouldn’t start, whether smoking traditional cigarettes or e-cigs. I don’t feel people should start,” Kline said.

The electronic cigarette may offer some benefits as an alternative to smoking, but it doesn’t hurt to do your research and visit forums if you’re going to start using the device.