What Will They Think Of Next?

Gee, Martha, whaddayaknow? Electronic cigarettes! Who ever heard of such a thing? Indeed, who has heard of electronic cigarettes, or electric cigarette or ecigarette as they are interchangeably called?

It's The Latest, Greatest Thing!

Ecigarettes are the latest innovation in a bid to make smoking healthier-if such a thing can actually happen. Marketed as an alternative to tobacco smoking, manufacturers claim them to be healthier by virtue of the absence of harmful material produced by the combustion of tobacco in traditional cigarettes. They have also been marketed as a way to address a nicotine addiction, either by helping to keep it, or curtail it.

The ecigarette is a battery-powered device that creates a vapor of nicotine and propylene glycol liquid in doses that are inhaled. The mist, or vapour, acts much like tobacco smoke providing flavor, and the physical sensation similar to that of inhaled tobacco smoke without tobacco, smoke or the combustion of tobacco that is involved in cigarette smoking.

What Comprises An Ecigarette?

The first design for an electronic cigarette was developed in China and the use of ultrasonic technology was specified. This technology is still patent pending worldwide. Most electronic cigarettes on the market today use the same basic components: a mouthpiece, a heating element, battery and various electronic circuits. The mouthpiece is a small disposable plastic cup that fits on the end of a tube. It contains a disposable cartridge that is filled with a flavored propylene glycol/nicotine liquid. The atomizer or heating element causes the liquid to vaporize in the mouthpiece in order for it to be inhaled. All of this is serviced by a battery, which is used to power the atomizer. Various circuits are employed to avoid overheating of the tube and to activate the device. Add an orange-colored light to the front end of the ecigarette to simulate burning tobacco and you're good to go.

But, Are They Really Any Better Than Traditional Cigarettes?

The big question is, are electronic cigarettes really less harmful than traditional tobacco cigarettes? In September 2008, The World Health Organization (WHO) issued a release proclaiming that it does not consider the electronic cigarette to be a legitimate smoking cessations aid, stating that to its knowledge, "no rigorous, peer-reviewed studies have been conducted showing that the electronic cigarette is a safe and effective nicotine replacement therapy."

On March 27, 2009, Health Canada issued an advisory against electronic cigarettes which stated, "Although these electronic smoking products may be marketed as a safer alternative to conventional tobacco products and, in some cases, as an aid to quitting smoking, electronic smoking products may pose risks such as nicotine poisoning and addiction."

In the UK, electronic cigarette use is currently unrestricted and in the US, the FDA considers electronic cigarettes to be a nicotine delivery system, subject to its approval. Electronic smoking devices are currently under investigation in the US at this time.