Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Initial Characterization of E-Cigarette Liquid and Vapor Reveals that It Contains...

...Nicotine, Glycerin, and Propylene Glycol

A laboratory analysis of the chemical composition of the electronic cigarette liquid and vapor produced by one brand of electronic cigarette (Johnson Creek Enterprises) has revealed that the ingredients in this product are: nicotine, propylene glycol, and glycerin.

In contrast to the claims of anti-smoking groups, who are telling the public that "we have no idea what is in this product," laboratory analysis has made it very clear that we do know what is in the product: nicotine, glycerin, and propylene glycol. The results of this testing are in line with those of several other laboratory analyses of other e-cigarette brands, which have also confirmed that these are the main ingredients in the product. In previous studies, only trace levels of tobacco by-products (tobacco-specific nitrosamines) were detected. While the present analysis probably does not rule out the presence of trace levels of carcinogens, it certainly suggests that there is no major contamination of these products with carcinogens, indicating that these products are much safer than conventional cigarettes.

Since glycerin and propylene glycol are generally believed to be safe, the only real remaining issue in terms of the safety of the product ingredients is the diethylene glycol which was detected by the FDA in one brand of electronic cigarette. This is most likely a result of the use of non-pharmaceutical-grade diethylene glycol so it can most likely be easily corrected.

The Rest of the Story

The rest of the story is that there simply is nothing behind the unwarranted claims of anti-smoking groups that "we have no idea what is in this product." In fact, we know a lot more about what is in electronic cigarettes than we do about what is in conventional cigarettes. While we know the main ingredients of electronic cigarettes are nicotine and propylene glycol, and that with the exception of one brand of e-cigarette, there are only trace levels of other chemicals present, we do not know the overwhelming majority of the chemicals present in tobacco smoke.

So the next time an anti-smoking group tells you that we need to ban e-cigarettes because we don't know what is in them, you tell them: "Sorry. Good try, but we do know what is in them, and it's a heck of a lot safer than what's in conventional cigarettes. Plus, if you really want to talk about a product for which we have no idea what the ingredients are, try conventional cigarettes. Which reminds me, why did you just lobby to have the FDA approve these products? And what's the logic behind asking the FDA to approve the conventional cigarettes but ban the non-tobacco ones, which contain, we happen to know, nicotine, glycerin, and propylene glycol?"

While further testing of electronic cigarettes is certainly warranted, and while restrictions on the sales of these products to minors and the types of marketing claims that can be made are reasonable, it would be criminal to take these products off the market. Smokers who have found these products to be a life-saver, allowing them to stay off regular cigarettes, should be permitted to have the choice of continuing to use the product while more definitive studies are conducted.

Anti-smoking groups which want electronic cigarettes yanked off the market are going to have to do a much better job of providing a rationale for why they think these products pose serious harm to users, especially in light of the fact that the users of the product are doing so to stay off of conventional cigarettes. If the major ingredients of the product are nicotine, glycerin, and propylene glycol, then how exactly do anti-smoking groups hypothesize that these products cause serious harm to users, and what exactly is the evidence to support those claims? And most importantly, why is it better for the public's health to have these hundreds of thousands of ex-smokers return to cigarette smoking rather than to remain quit through the use of a product that delivers the nicotine without the 10,000+ other chemicals and which has been shown to have carcinogen levels that are up to 1400 times lower?

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