In a short opinion piece for Barbados Today, Dr Kelly, a practicing Naturopath at the Natural Medical Centre in Barbados, weighs in on e-cigarettes.
It’s been many years since the hazards of smoking tobacco have been discovered and publicized.
National committees have been set up to help smokers realize these dangers and quit smoking forever. The goal of the participants has been to stamp out smoking altogether and make the world a healthier place for those of us that choose not to smoke. That’s a commendable goal, but a difficult task.
However, nowadays smoking doesn’t actually have to be dangerous or unhealthy. The electronic cigarette, commonly known as the “e-cig” was developed by Hon Lik in 2003 to satisfy the need of smokers to inhale something into the lungs and get a similar relaxing feeling without the dangers of the 4,000 chemicals in traditional tobacco cigarette smoke.
Electronic Cigarettes are devices which produce a customized flavoured vapour with the option to contain naturally derived nicotine. Traditional smokers can inhale this vapour to fix their addiction to nicotine. This new past time has been termed “Vaping”. With several different nicotine strengths available on the market, vapers can reduce their nicotine intake over time and eventually get weaned off it altogether.
Early primitive models of E-Cigs have been around for a few years but were not allowing the hardened smokers to feel like they were really smoking. Now that the technology has advanced, modern vapers are saying they feel the same effects as smoking. E-Cigs have been clinically proven to be a safer alternative to smoking than the tobacco cigarette, as they only contain food grade certified ingredients, flavours and, in some cases, naturally derived nicotine. Nicotine is a controlled addictive drug but in fact has very little negative health effects. One study with rats proved that the only side effect of nicotine use was weight loss!
However it seems there is a lot of confusion with regards to these health effects and lately E-cigs have had a bad rap. This confusion has been brought about after a few studies were released trying to say that they may be just as harmful as tobacco.
One such study was the one conducted by Prof. Kunugita and his team at the Japanese National Institute of Public Health. It was later discovered, by Dr Farsalinos of Athens, Greece, that the data from the Japanese study was not gleaned solely through the researchers’ product tests. Rather, they combined their data with the results of other studies to reach their negative conclusions. Furthermore, they tested the cigarettes under unrealistic conditions: heating the liquid to a much higher temperature than any e-cigarette on the market and producing something which is very unpleasant, therefore avoided, called a “dry hit”.
More recent news reports claimed that electronic cigarettes contained 10 times the amount of formaldehyde than traditional cigarettes, when in fact a single product from a single test provided that data, proving that study useless. Numerous other scientific studies over the years, including the 2008 Canadian Researcher’s study, show that even the worst quality e-cigarettes contain six times LESS formaldehyde than tobacco! In fact, on average, the levels of formaldehyde found in e-cigarettes are up to 50 times lower compared to tobacco cigarette smoke, making them a much healthier choice. Even if there was a trace of formaldehyde present, it would be incorrect and unethical to claim that e-cigarettes are just as harmful as tobacco cigarettes after finding only one of the 4,000 chemicals present in traditional cigarettes.
The evidence actually points to electronic cigarettes being the safer choice. Could this mean the world is on the verge of being smoke free? Sadly not. Despite the evidence of their safety, the same committees advocating the banning of tobacco cigarette smoking have been arduously working towards the same ban on E-Cigs. But this makes no logical sense. Clearly those involved have not bothered to educate themselves on the facts concerning E-cigs. If they took the time to do so they would be campaigning to get every tobacco smoker to use E-cigs instead.
Dr Kelly is a practicing Naturopath at the Natural Medical Centre in Barbados. He gave up smoking tobacco based cigarettes 22 years ago and is now an advocate for the advancement of freedom of use of Electronic cigarettes in the Caribbean.