Are e-cigarettes good or bad for consumers?

13 August 2012

cigaretteEveryone knows that smoking is bad for you, and even smokers have to admit that, with all the restrictions on smoking necessitating huddling outside in freezing rain, you have to be committed to be a smoker nowadays.

However, the latest product aimed at helping out the poor put-upon smoker is something called an e-cigarette. Although it sounds like something you might email, or download onto your smart phone, an e-cigarette is made of plastic, holds a battery, and contains nicotine-infused water that can be inhaled as a vapour. As there is no burning, and no actual smoke involved, they can be legally consumed indoors. Some e-cigarettes even boast a red glowing end for those nostalgic for the burning tip of a cigarette, and they are available in various delicious tobacco-like flavours including menthol.

These new-fangled fags retail at about £20 upwards for a “starter kit” which contains several hundred doses. Cheaper than fags too, then.

The Financial Times estimates that “according to figures from some of the multitude of e-cigarette makers, about 2m Britons have a tried the devices and 650,000 have become regular users.” So are they good news or bad news for UK consumers?

The e-cigarette is almost entirely unregulated in the UK, and has no industry-dictated uniform standards. No e-cigarette has yet gained UK approval as a medicinal nicotine replacement therapy, either. But if they are cheaper and, on the face of it, healthier, surely they are a good thing? Some might say so, however, e-cigarettes have been outlawed in several countries including Australia, New Zealand, Brazil and Canada.

So are e-cigarettes here to stay? Well the tobacco companies certainly think so. Last year British American Tobacco (BAT) established Nicoventures, a company division devoted to cigarette alternatives. It plans to launch a nicotine inhaler by the end of 2014. Imperial Tobacco are also reported to have taken an undisclosed stake in an e-cigarette company, and Japan Tobacco International have signed an agreement to commercialise the nicotine vaporisers made by San Francisco firm Ploom outside the US.

But if the tobacco companies are in on this, doesn’t that make e-cigarettes a bad thing? Are these products aimed at helping already addicted smokers wean themselves from the dreaded weed, or is Big Tobacco merely making sure smokers continue to get their nicotine fix where prohibited, so they can gratefully light up at home?

In spite of these concerns, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency wants to regulate their use rather than ban them and push smokers back to tobacco cigarettes.

David O’Reilly, BAT’s group scientific director said “with both increased regulation and increased demonisation of smoking, you need to give smokers safer choices. The vision is for another product which can compete with enjoyment of smoking cigarettes, and e-cigarettes are closest thing on market that meets those needs.”

A product to compete with cigarettes, or one aimed at maintaining the customer base? Perhaps we’ll have to wait and see.

TOPICS:   Health

23 comments

  • Drew
    Just don't use them on a Megabus!
  • Are N.
    [...] Bitterwallet [...]
  • Steve V.
    For the most part, e-cigarette companies in both the UK and the US are avoiding marketing their devices as any sort of cessation therapy (like the patch or gum). The devices are intended more as an alternative to smoking that doesn't contain all the harmful stuff that cigarettes do. But, the point behind e-cigs are necessarily to get people to stop smoking, though many people do just that.
  • Andrew F.
    The article repeats a few common misconceptions about e-cigs. It is often repeated that e-cigs are 'unregulated' - below is a list of the regulations that apply to e-cigs CHIP REGULATIONS PLUGS AND SOCKETS REGULATIONS WEIGHTS AND MEASURES REGULATIONS DISTANCE SELLING REGULATIONS ONLINE PRIVACY REGULATIONS IMPORTING GOODS REGULATIONS WASTE BATTERIES REGULATIONS PLACING BATTERIES ON THE MARKET REGULATIONS WASTE ELECTRICAL AND ELECTRONIC EQUIPMENT REGULATIONS The article also says that no e-cig has gained approval as a nicotine replacement therapy - that is because they are a recreational product, not a therapy. They are not designed to be NRT - it is known as 'tobacco harm reduction' - recreational nicotine use for smokers without many of the harmfull effects of smoke. e-cigs do not contain 'nicotine infused water' - there is no water vapour, the vapour is produced from PG & VG - PG is propylene glycol, a compound used in asthma inhalors and widely tested and considered to be safe - VG is vegeteble glycerin, also available in chemists where is has been used for decades as a traditional sore throat remedy.
  • Angry R.
    These should be banned!!!
  • Bob W.
    E-CIGS SAVE LIVES I switched from tobacco nearly 3 years ago using e-cigs and have not smoked since. I am now far healthier and far richer than I would have been. They are NOT a form of NRT, they are simply a far safer way to get your nicotine fix. The push for regulation does not come from a concern for users health, rather a fear that tax and big pharma revenues will be hit hard.
  • Mr C.
    Angry Daily Mail Reader These should be banned!!! And whats your reasoning behind this? I bought one a few months ago and it's a hell of a lot cheaper than smoking, doesn't leave you smelling like an ashtray and there's no secondary smoke to be inhaled by others. Don't knock them until you've tried them...
  • Meg
    Should they be banned? NO. They are giving a safer alternative to the deadly cigs that have been taxed and a money maker for the government. They make so much money from cigs, why can't they test these properly? Because it is the beginning of an end. Then they will find every way they can to make them "safer" and tax them too. Its a horrible yo yo!
  • eCig M.
    [...] Questions eCig Safety and Motivations Monday, August 13th, 2012 at 12:32 pm   An article recently published in Bitter Wallet raised the question whether or not e-cigarettes are good or [...]
  • Tom
    @Mr Cod I think you fell for somebodies classic prank :) If you are not from the UK maybe you would not understand why :) The daily mail is a hate newspaper in the UK, it prints anything it wants as long as it thinks it will make people angry, upset or otherwise enraged.... normally the nonsense they print revolves around immigrants or the unemployed... According to them there is also an unemployed hoodie wearing muslim teenager around every corner just waiting to rob your car and sodomise your pets. Don't get them started on the death of princess diana , they have only just shut up about it.
  • Electronic N.
    [...] Bitterwallet [...]
  • Rojeans
    If a world wide miracle cure was to be found against Cancer we'd never hear about it. Why? Because the financial cost or rather, loss of income from those with a vested interest in cancer, added to this the cost to Governments and society as a result of whole populations living much much longer, it is simply too great. I suggest folk do a search for electronic cigarette forums and see for themselves. The truth is out there but there are those who don't want you to see it. Follow the money! ( HMIT Pharma' Tobacco etc )
  • Stevethesax
    It's a no-brainer really. As an ex-smoker (30+ years on the roll-ups) I can continue to enjoy my nicotine addiction (shock horror!) - just as many other people enjoy their caffiene addiction. The two drugs (that's what they are) are remarkably similar in terms of what they give the user and their potential for harm...which isn't very much if you're sensible about your habits. Just like an occasional drink really (and there's another drug). I don't really need a man in a white coat to tell me whether or not e-cigs work - I already know they do. I feel much, much fitter, I look healthier, I don't cough and gasp and I don't smell of smoke. I've also saved a few bob too. It's been 8 months now, and it's been the best thing I've done in years. And there's the rub - the money isn't going into the pockets of the chemists/tobacconists and neither is the taxman grabbing a hefty slice of it. No wonder they're all looking studiously concerned. So my message to the powers-that-be is "Leave me alone...or send me someone to do my cleaning/washing for me if you really want to interfere".
  • No M.
    I quit using e-cigs, and have not had a real fag in over a month. Couldn't have done it wihtout them. They are not made from Nicotine water. They are made from Glycerine or Glycol, Liquid noctine suspended in either glycerine or glycol, and food grade flavouring. Both Glycerine and Glycol are on the FDA's Gerenrally Regarded As Safe(GRAS) list. Futhermore, e-cigarettes have been used for 10 years without any ill-health effects being reported. As for Canada banning them; they are perfectly legal in Canada. However, liquid nicotine remains a controlled substance. The Canadian government will only consider deregulating liquid nicontine if an independent body sponsors a study to demonstrate that liquid nicotine does not pose a health risk. Since the cost of such a study is high, and the potential market quite small, it has not been a worthwile investment for manufaturers to pursue.
  • Elaine K.
    The author of this article interviewed a tobacco company executive and left readers with the impression that tobacco companies dreamed up e-cigarettes as some type of dirty plot to retain their customer base. Apparently that was the only "proof" he could think of that e-cigarettes are a bad thing. The only problem with that logic is that E-cigarettes were not invented by tobacco companies. Only recently have the tobacco companies begun to enter into the market--possibly because they see the handwriting on the wall regarding the future of combusted cigarettes. The Chinese pharmacist who invented e-cigarettes was a smoker who could not quit--despite watching his father die of lung cancer. Hon Lik reasoned that if the nicotine that smokers crave could be delivered via a method that eliminates the harmful exposure to smoke, millions of live could be saved. Mine was. I have been smoke-free since March 27, 2009; and without these products, I would still be smoking. By the way, there is industry self-regulation in the UK. The Electronic Cigarette Industry Trade Association (ECITA.org.uk) was formed to help members operate a legally-compliant and ethical business. Hopefully, the author will contact ECITA for information the next time he writes about these products. He is also welcome to contact the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association (CASAA.org) in the US to add the viewpoint of consumers to his story.
  • Pina c.
    [...] Bitterwallet [...]
  • b3ast1e
    There is a glaring flaw in the premise of the article. The author is clearly not aware that electronic cigarettes are not considered a form of NRT, certainly not by advocates or consumers using them. They are a harm reduction alternative for those seeking to the harmful effects of combustion of tobacco. This fundamentally affects the framing of the question. Whether or not Big Tobacco are involved, the consumer must make themselves aware that they are engaged in something that is not classed as an NRT. But in trying to answer the question in a different context, we all know what happens when global giants with their enormous financial appetites get involved in fledgling industries, they dominate the competition to the point that there are few left standing. Less freedom of choice is never good for the consumer. But does their involvement make electronic cigarettes bad by association? Only if they're the only ones making them, and making them badly. Otherwise, no.
  • Tobacco S.
    The tobacco industry has become interested because their 'harm reduction' strategies for combustible tobacco have failed (no brainer really). Should this corrupt, evil industry be allowed to market alternative nicotine products? Haven't they made enough already, killing millions in the process. Surely, these alternative nicotine delivery systems should be prescribed by medical professionals? Making a profit from addiction is peddling of some sort.
  • Tom
    @ Tobacco Scientist I would refer you to stevethesax's post as he explains it perfectly, I will give it another try... You are saying they should be prescribed by doctors? What about tesco selling coffee and alcohol (and for that matter cigarettes)? Tesco are not doing it for the love of it, they are doing it for profit. Nicotine is not the big evil that some believe, in fact it is a pretty damn miraculous drug, as some researchers are slowly discovering....
  • Tom
    oh and travel agents selling hollidays, no-one NEEDS to go on holiday, some people feel the compulsion to do so though, you could say some people are addicted to going on holiday every year, sometimes more than ones a year.... sounds like it is getting out of hand, maybe you should only be allowed a holiday if your doctor says it is ok.
  • Jim
    @Tom Instead of mocking the Tobacco Scientist, you might do well to listen to what they are saying, whether you like it or not. Sometime in the near future a decision will be made on the availability of e-cigarettes. The MHRA decided to delay to see how things panned out, which was probably a sensible thing to do at the time. If the 650,000 figure given in the article is correct, then e-cigarettes have grown to such an extent that their status will have to be decided upon. The entry of the tobacco companies into the e-cigarette market may be a game change. The Tobacco Scientist calls them 'evil', which is very strong language from a scientist. There is a strong possibility that the presence of tobacco companies in the market will encourage many on the medical/pharmaceutical side to press for e-cigarettes being taken into the medical area and treated as a drug. Many will not want to see the people who have caused the harm getting a slice of the harm reduction action. This may include the powerful, influential medical bodies and anti-smoking groups who can feed recommendations directly to lawmakers and the bodies like the MHRA. What will happen is far from certain, but with the tobacco companies circling, some policy makers and advisors may be looking more towards moving them out of Tescos and into the chemist. However, whatever the decision, it is unlikely to have much impact on the enthusiasts and modders, who know where to get their stuff.
  • Are N.
    [...] on smoking necessitating huddling outside in freezing rain, you have to be … Read more on Bitterwallet Here are some other Buy An Electronic Cigarette resources you may find of value and interest:Many [...]
  • j s.
    please don't discriminate against people who have changed to e gigs. After 3 months of not smoking i feel great, relaxed and healthy after trying the e cig. I tried one thinking it would not work and not had a cigarette, IT WORKS ! Now we are told we have to stand outside with smokers. Although i disagreed with some aspects of the smoking ban not all was negative. As a smoker i believed passive smoke was harmful and should be regulated to smokers having somewhere acceptable to smoke, not treated as lepers. Why are these people so against the e cig, We need encouragement and praise when giving up smoking and this device works. I am hoping to stop altogether, all other products have not worked for me but this has. Big business and profit has a lot to do with this argument with fear creeping into the minds of the cigarette profit makers. I look forward to e cigs being an alternative to quiting as are patches and sprays.

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