FDA warning: e-cigs contain carcinogens

August 24, 2009 by  
Filed under CANCER

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e-cigFinally, the US FDA spoke up and issued a warning about electronic cigarettes last month. Lab analysis by the Center for Drug Evaluation, Division of Pharmaceutical Analysis (DPA) showed that the so-called “e-cigs” contain carcinogens and other toxic substances.

Electronic cigarettes, also called “e-cigarettes,” are battery-operated devices that generally contain cartridges filled with nicotine, flavor and other chemicals. The electronic cigarette turns nicotine…and other chemicals into a vapor that is inhaled by the user.

Last March, I wrote a post on e-cigs, purported to be healthy alternative to cigarette smoking. Here are some of the e-cig manufacturers’ health claims:

■E-cig has no fire, no tar, no carbon monoxide, no ash, no stub. The CEO of Smoking Everywhere tells CNN that e-cig does not contain any of the substances that cause cancer.

■It lets you enjoy those tactile taste sensations without the risks associated with smoking and tobacco.

■You can smoke e-cig without polluting the environment or passing on second hand smoke, thus circumventing the anti-smoking bans in bars and restaurants.

■”It can help you to quit nicotine without giving up the smoking habits.” It supposedly works just like a nicotine patch does but with the satisfaction of the oral fixation.

■E-cig even comes in different colors and different flavours.

Here are some concerns expressed the the US FDA and health experts regarding the potential dangers of e-cigs:

  • E-cigs tested contain detectatble amounts carcinogenic (e.g. nitrosamines) and toxic substances (e.g. diethylene glycol, an ingredient used in antifreeze). See analysis report here.
  • E-cigs contain high amounts of nicotiine which ius highly addictive.
  • E-cig labels and packaging do not contain any health warnings comparable to FDA-approved nicotine replacement products or conventional cigarettes.
  • E-cigs haven’t been submitted to the FDA for evaluation or approval.
  • FDA analysis suggest that the quality control during the manufacture of these products are either inconsistent or practically non-existent.

Currently, the jurisdiction of the US FDA over e-cigs, a relative new product  is being contested in court. The regulatory body states that e-cigs so far examine “meet the definition of a combination drug-device product under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.”

What the health experts have to say (FDA media transcripts):

Dr. Jonathan Samet, Director for the Institute for Global Health at the University of Southern California:

“…we know very little about these devices and what they deliver to people. Consequently any claims as to possible benefits to health or utility in cessation just cannot be supported … Again it speaks to the needs of the public to understand that in using a product that is poorly characterized, inhaling a vapor, a heated vapor into their body’s that has had very little characterization is assuming potentially some unknown risks.”

Dr. Jonathan Winickoff, a practicing Pediatrician and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and the Chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Tobacco Consortium:

“…electronic cigarettes are available on the market in a variety of flavors such as bubblegum, chocolate and mint. Past experience suggests that these products may be particularly appealing to young people… Flavored regular cigarettes promote youth initiation and help young occasional smokers to become daily smokers. Similarly e-cigarettes might encourage children, teens and young adults to take their first step toward smoking cigarettes. Young people may be attracted to these products due to their novelty, safety claims and the av- availability of the products in a variety of fruit, candy, cola and chocolate flavors. In addition these products are easily accessed online, in stores and at mall kiosks where young people often hang out… Once you’ve smoked the e-cigarette and are nicotine dependent the leap to a regular cigarette may not seem as great. Between 1/3 and 1/2 of all youth who try a regular cigarette will become daily smokers because of the highly addictive nature of nicotine. It is therefore vital to decrease exposure to products that would lead to experimentation with nicotine. It is not a safe drug to try.”

Photo credit: US FDA

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2 Responses to “FDA warning: e-cigs contain carcinogens”
  1. Chris Rush says:

    The FDA is in the pocket of the pharmaceutical companies!
    HOw can they say e-cigs are bad but allow regular tobacco cigs to continue?? The e-cig has 2 known toxins, nicotine and propylene glycol both of which are found in tobacco cigs along with 4000 other poisons. The FDA needs to stop lying at the behest of pharma who fears losing their hold on smoking cessation products. Could it be that these so called “smoking cessation” products are actually just another habit that the pharma companies are pushing? It comes down to a safe alternative and e-cigs have it! I know nicotine may not be a healthy habit but dont take away something that can and most likely will save lives!!!

  2. I believe that Electronic Cigarettes has gained a tremendous amount of popularity around the world. Although the FDA continues to make every effort to stop something that has the potential to save many lives, I don’t feel that they will prevail. Its difficult to decide which brand will actually work for me due to all of the
    numerous electronic cigarette reviews. I have tried Gamucci, which proves to be a very good product, but I am now looking to try something else. I only pray that the Electronic Cigarette is here to stay.

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