Electronic puff - A healthier alternative to smoking?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

I had gone to NIT Calicut in 2004-05, during my final year engineering, to attend a cultural fest (Ragam) there. Calicut was just an over night journey away from my college. I had a rare privilege of being in a group of experienced as well as novice smokers. They used to offer me a fag, but I religiously refused all the time. "Grow up man!", was their routine response to my refusal. Few of them used to say, "Dude, just try once and see yourself how it feels like...." I knew, that was the first step towards becoming a professional smoker. Nevertheless, after a prolonged contemplation, I finally decided to "Grow up!", as they said. There was definitely no dearth of people who could help me "grow up". One little puff was enough to take my breath away for a while. I coughed and coughed for five to ten minutes and finally came to the conclusion that, I will not "grow up (smoke)" for the rest of my life!

Later, I did learn quite a bit about smoking and it's consequences. Almost 3-4 years after 'NIT Calicut episode', I read something interesting about smoking and cigarette, to be precise, e-cigarette or say, e-smoking. E-cigarette is an alternative to traditional cigarette. "It is a battery-powered device that provides inhaled doses of nicotine by delivering a vaporized propylene glycol/nicotine solution. When a user inhales through the device, air flow is detected by a sensor, which activates a heating element that vaporizes a nicotine solution stored in the mouthpiece. It is this vapor that is inhaled by the user. An LED on the opposite end of the device is also activated during inhalation, which serves as an indicator of use, and also to simulate the glow of actual burning tobacco [wiki]." Take a look.

Companies who produce e-cigarette claim that,
  • Is is a healthiest alternative smoking products you will ever get!
  • There is no fire, no tar, no carbon monoxide, no ash, no stub.
  • It lets you enjoy and satisfy those tactile taste sensations without any risk on smoking and on tobacco.
  • Actually, you can smoke healthily without environmental pollution.
  • It can help you to quit nicotine without giving up the smoking habits.
But, World Health Organization (WHO) does not consider it to be a legitimate therapy for smokers trying to quit. "The electronic cigarette is not a proven nicotine replacement therapy," said Dr Ala Alwan, Assistant Director-General of WHO's Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health Cluster. "WHO has no scientific evidence to confirm the product's safety and efficacy. Its marketers should immediately remove from their web sites and other informational materials any suggestion that WHO considers it to be a safe and effective smoking cessation aid [Read More]."

Due to the relative newness of the technology and the possible relationship to tobacco laws, electronic cigarette legislation and public health investigations are currently pending in many countries [wiki]. Though e-cigarette is gaining ground around the world, there is an urgent need to conduct clinical studies and toxicity analysis in order to prove the claims made by e-cigarette companies. Only after such studies and experimentations, e-cigarette can be brought under proper legal framework, if proved positive.

Whether e-cigarette becomes "healthier alternative" or not, quiting the smoking will definitely obviate the need for e-cigarette!

Read More:
  1. E-Cigarette on Wikipedia.
  2. Now for that electronic puff - The Hindu report.
  3. WHO statement on e-cigarette, issued in September 2008.
  4. More info on e-cigarette company sites: click here or here or check out Ruyan (which means "like smoking") site.
  5. E-smoking in India - a report.

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This work by Manjunath Singe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License. The views and opinions expressed in this work are strictly those of the author and do not represent his employer's views in anyway.