Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Lesser of Two Evils

Electronic cigarettes - for those who have heard about them, and possibly even use them or have considered using them, you know of the controversy as to whether they are "dangerous" or not, and whether people should use them as an alternative to smoking or not.

First and foremost, I will admit I am not a smoker, never have been, and never had a desire to. With that said, I, and many others who also are not smokers, and never have been smokers, have absolutely no idea what a smoker has to go to in order to quit smoking, whether it be for the smoker's health, or the health of those who have to endure the smoker's habits.

And with that stated, right from the start, I want to point out the purpose of this blog is not to prove that electronic cigarettes are SAFE. From my understanding and my research, there is no conclusive findings on electronic cigarettes - cartridges or liquid nicotine. My point is simply that if electronic cigarettes and standard (analog, as you'll see them called in lots of web/blog sites) are tested side by side, it would be proven HANDS DOWN (thumbs up?) that electronic cigarettes are definitely going to be safer than tobacco cigarettes.

This blog is being started because as of May 2009, my husband, who is now 42 and has smoked since he was 18 years old, picked up an electronic cigarette and and has not smoked a standard one since. For those of you reading this who have tried, or know someone who has tried to quit smoking, you know that the first few hours are usually not too terrible, but as a few hours turn into 3, and then 4, and then 5, things start getting a little tense. The longest my husband has ever gone without a cigarette has been 15 hours, and by then, I was willing to go to the store to purchase cigarettes for him. It's almost as though an evil version of the person you're living with has surfaced!

Everyone knows what a tobacco cigarette is, so I won't bore you with the details. Yet. Electronic cigarettes are comprised of liquid nicotine (addictive, dangers are unknown although it's said to elevate your heart rate and essentially do about the same thing coffee or tea does to you), an atomizer and a battery. When you inhale from an e-cig, the atomizer heats up the liquid nicotine, turning it into a mist, or vapor (you'll see the term "vape" or "vaping" used a lot in regards to electronic cigarettes), which you inhale. It is the same nicotine you're inhaling from a tobacco cigarette. You are smoking, without "smoking"... literally.

On the health issue side of this, and I don't know why it isn't more apparent, but smoking isn't healthy. It just isn't. Smoking electronically, smoking traditionally... you're still putting a chemical into your body that isn't naturally there. I honestly still don't understand why dogs have one aisle at the supermarket in which owners purchase the same bag of dog food over and over for the dog, year after year because it is the most nutritious for them, yet we as humans have been given a vast array of choices of food, a lot of which are definitely NOT healthy. So truthfully, most of us take better care of our pets than we do ourselves. Then again, this is my own mental challenge... hah!

All right, back to reality. The information below comes directly from the FDA's review at

FDA conducted a preliminary analysis on some samples of electronic cigarettes and components from two leading brands. Due to the variability among products, this analysis should not be used to draw conclusions about what substances are or are not present in particular electronic cigarettes or brands of electronic cigarettes.
They've tested, but the analysis is only a good start for the two brands tested - which was Njoy, and I forget the other, which I'm sure will come up in later websites I'm going to link to. What their tests revealed was this: (again, the following black print was taken directly from the FDA site listed above)

  • Diethylene glycol was detected in one cartridge at approximately 1%. Diethylene glycol, an ingredient used in antifreeze, is toxic to humans.
  • Certain tobacco-specific nitrosamines which are human carcinogens were detected in half of the samples tested.
  • Tobacco-specific impurities suspected of being harmful to humans—anabasine, myosmine, and β-nicotyrine—were detected in a majority of the samples tested.
  • The electronic cigarette cartridges that were labeled as containing no nicotine had low levels of nicotine present in all cartridges tested, except one.
  • Three different electronic cigarette cartridges with the same label were tested and each cartridge emitted a markedly different amount of nicotine with each puff. The nicotine levels per puff ranged from 26.8 to 43.2 mcg nicotine/100 mL puff.
  • One high-nicotine cartridge delivered twice as much nicotine to users when the vapor from that electronic cigarette brand was inhaled than was delivered by a sample of the nicotine inhalation product (used as a control) approved by FDA for use as a smoking cessation aid.

Wiki Diethylene Glycol - this looks like some seriously wicked stuff! Then check out this website - which explains diethylene glycol to an extent even I don't want to understand: And remember, it was found in only 1 of the cartridges tested out of 18. No "liquid" or empty cartdridges, such as the method my husband uses, were tested.

Certain "tobacco-specific" nitrosamines, and "tobacco-specific" impurities suspected to be harmful to humans were also found.

So, simple deduction - they detected the big bad chemical in 1 cartridge out of 18. The rest of the "harmful" additives are already in cigarettes. And this was all they found within the pre-filled cartridges in the scope of electronic cigarettes.

I cannot list the additives of tobacco cigarettes here - it's too long. 599 of them, as of one of the lists I've been able to find on the web. You can view the full list here,, and as you go through them, you'll see some that you'll know are NOT harmful! However, for the sake of our argument, try to keep a running tally on how many you know, without having to wiki, are definitely dangerous.

The following list is from, and has a few more "directly the problem" areas of cigarettes. Such as polonium, a radioactive fallout. Radon, a radioactive gas. Then you have DDT, a banned insecticide. There's Toluene, an industrial solvent; Methane, which is swamp gas; Methanol - rocket fuel. You've also got Formaldehyde - do you really need definition on this one? Embalming fluid? Yes... the one and only! Maybe it's to "prepare" you. (Yes, I feel I'm getting a bit cynical at this point, but considering the FDA is honestly considering banning one and pushing people back into the other... I'm getting a little more perturbed just typing this!) You've also got butane, which is lighter fluid in your tobacco cigarettes. There's arsenic - rat poison, as we all know from mystery movies! Ammonia - yuck! Acetone - I don't even use this in my nail polish remover. Nicotine - my heavens, it's here, too?!?! Tar - a lovely amount of road surfacing. Copper, and last but not least, Carbon Monoxide.

This is another site I found that also goes over some of the harmful chemicals in a standard cigarette:

This website,, contains this image (so please note this is image does not belong to me, but to the website recited @, and view the website to learn what the chemicals do and are "typically" used for.)

On the Wikipedia website, @ regarding cigarettes, one can find this article, taken directly from the "TAXATION" heading. This information, in my opinion, is one reason electronic cigarettes may be having a hard time being accepted by the FDA.

Cigarettes are a significant source of tax revenue in many localities. This fact has historically been an impediment for health groups seeking to discourage cigarette smoking, since governments seek to maximize tax revenues. Furthermore, some countries have made cigarettes a state monopoly, which has the same effect on the attitude of government officials outside the health field.[23] In the United States, the states partially determine the rate of cigarette taxes, and states where tobacco is a significant farm product tend to tax cigarettes least.[24] It has been shown that higher prices for cigarettes discourage smoking. Every 10 percent increase in the price of cigarettes reduced youth smoking by about seven percent and overall cigarette consumption by about four percent.[25] Thus increased cigarette taxes are proposed as a means to reduce smoking. Cigarette taxes range from $0.07 per pack in South Carolina to $4.25 per pack in New York City.

This is a pretty important impact, again, in my opinion, simply because if there was to be seen a drastic reduction in tobacco cigarette purchases, there would be a drastic cut in the amount of tax money that goes to each state!

One last argument (today) is that almost every web/blog site I've seen against the electronic cigarette has indicated the manufacturers are directing these to the underage. Just like cigarettes, these manufacturers are insisting the purchase of electronic cigarettes are to be done by persons over the age of 18. And I don't want to get terribly nit-picky with this issue, but the hell of the matter is, tobacco cigarettes are not to be purchased or smoked by anyone under the age of 18. And everyone is aware that no one under the age of 18 smokes tobacco cigarettes, correct? Right??

Electronic cigarettes are delivered by mail, and while you do see people under 18 checking the mail, there's a greater chance deliveries would be intercepted. Not only that, but unless your mall actually does carry the electronic cigarettes in mall kiosks (and ours does not, we checked today!), said persons under 18 years of age will have to have a valid debit or credit card in order to purchase them. Again, not an impossible task these days, but as I've pointed out... tobacco cigarettes are hardly inaccessible to those under 18 years of age as well....

Back to the original - my original argument. If the choice is not to smoke not at all or smoke electronic cigarettes, but to smoke electronic cigarettes or to smoke standard cigarettes, the question isn't "does electronic cigarettes contain harmful chemicals at all?" but "does electronic cigarettes contain more harmful chemicals than standard tobacco cigarettes?"