What's the straight dope on e-cigs?

I quit smoking years ago, except for an occasional cigar (maybe 3-6 a month at this point). A friend of mine gave me one of these Blu starter kits as a present because she said she loves the things and remembered I used to smoke. At any rate, I un-boxed it fired it up and I have to admit, it’s fairly enjoyable. It tastes pretty good, and doesn’t leave either me or the house/office all smelly. I guess the recharge cartridges are a bit expensive (she gave me 3 recharge boxes so won’t be a problem for a while, since I haven’t even gone through a single cartridge yet, and I think they are 5 to a box), but that’s the only down side I see so far. Apparently there is no prohibition from using these things in public places…certainly no one has objected to me using them in my office, despite prohibitions against smoking in the building.

So, what are the health downsides to these things? What other downsides are there, besides the cost?

Well, as I’m sure you’re well aware, nicotine is highly addictive. I would consider that to be enough of a downside as a fellow former smoker.

Sure, addiction is certainly a downside. I’m less worried about that then serious medical issues, though. Caffeine is pretty addictive stuff, yet I’m a serious soda/coffee/tea drinker. Maybe the addiction of this will build up over time, but so far I’ve had this thing for over a week and haven’t managed to smoke through one cartridge, yet (not even sure how I’ll tell when it’s done, except maybe no more vapor smoke will come out).

It seems like an odd gift to give an ex smoker. My understanding of them (strictly second hand) is that they don’t deliver the same level of nicotine as cigarettes and that they rarely end up replacing them. Smokers generally just use them when they can’t smoke and need an interim fix.
I suspect their main downside is that they are a gateway to cigarettes. Perhaps you can give us the straight dope on that aspect. Let us know (give it a couple of months) if you can use them without eventually taking up cigarettes again.

You can avoid the nicotine addiction by getting the no nicotine cartridges (blu is one of the brands that has them)- but I think it’s a strange gift for an ex-smoker ,too

I just passed 3 years using an ecig. Quit smoking regular cigs the day I got it. It took 3 days before the cravings for a regular cig went away. But I’m the only person out of 4 others I know who tried them that quit. The last time I calculated, it was about half the cost.

I’m not sure if much is known about the long-term benefits/drawbacks of ecigs yet because they’re still a relatively new invention.

I can think of two issues other than the ones mentioned:

  1. Nicotine may be carcinogenic on it’s own.
  2. The liquid cartridges are unregulated and are probably manufactured in third-world countries. You don’t know what other chemicals are in them.

But I would agree with others that the most immediate risk is that they will lead you to start smoking cigarettes again.

Yeah, but that’s the thing. Saccharine, Red Dye, over-cooked hamburgers, too much time in the Sun, all these things *may *give you cancer too. The truly dangerous part of cigarette smoking is not the nicotine, it’s the plethora of extremely toxic VOCs that get created (and *only *get created) at the high combustion temperature of a burning cigarette ember.

I started an ecig craze in my social circle. I was the first - after 6 months quit of tobacco, I was hanging out, camping, around a bonfire, drinking mead, with a dozen smoking friends. Can you say “triggers”?! I bummed two smokes from my husband, and thought I was going to die the next morning from the chest pain. Went into town, bought a disposable e-cig, and that was the end of tobacco.

Of the 14 of us who have tried ecigs:
1 has gone back to tobacco exclusively.
1 uses tobacco about 95% of the time, but will use the ecig in in hospital rooms.
1 uses tobacco 30% of the time, and the ecig about 75% (in the car, in waiting rooms, at restaurants, in the house, etc. She’ll still bum smokes occasionally, though.)

The rest of us are exclusive ecig users now. Tomorrow will be 1 year for me, tobacco free, and I still live with a smoker (my husband is the 95% tobacco guy. :frowning: ) Most of the others picked up their ecigs between June and July of 2012, so they’re coming close to a year.

Far better quit rates than other smoking cessation techniques in this small, unscientific not-a-study.

Yes, I have to agree that the answer to the long term health consequences is just “we don’t know.” OTOH, we do know an awful lot about the long term health consequences of tobacco use, and there’s nothing good there.

But yeah, seems an odd gift for an ex-smoker. Much more appropriate for a trying-to-quit smoker.


Oh, and you can get USA made and sourced eliquid. Just have to shop around.

The Hoosier ecigs website sells some very tasty USA-made liquid (I like the chocolate and coffee). They make it in their store, in Indianapolis.

But yes, if you’ve been off tobacco for a long time, you shouldn’t vape anything but 0% nicotine cartridges/liquid. Really, you shouldn’t use it at all, because you might end up hooked on analogs again. I’ve successfully used ecigs to quit smoking twice (most recently quit in January, still going strong almost 4 months later). But I can’t fathom why anyone would suddenly start smoking an ecig for fun. The psychological and mechanical components of cigarette addiction have proven to be even *stronger *than the physical nicotine addiction (for me).

Not a smoker. Kid of smokers hate being around tobacco smokers with a passion.

Re the e-cig it’s a bizarre gift to give an ex smoker. Almost malicious IMO.

RE e-cigs vs regular, if it’s a choice between the tar bombs and just nicotine you should take nicotine every time.

I’m a smoker, and I smoke both real cig and e-cig.

Apparently, they’re a bit worried that some of the chemicals they contain might have detrimental consequences on health on the long term. But given that the alternative are substances that we know have very detrimental long term consequences…

Apart from that, they indeed taste and smell good. And contrarily to the USA (apparently), over here, cartridges are very cheap when compared to real cigs (less than the cost of one pack for a phial with enough liquid to replace, I would guess, about 10 packs). So, the saving is very subsantial.

That said, I wouldn’t advise a former smoker to use them.

Cost saving is substantial here, too. Even the prefilled cartomizers are about $2 each, instead of $9-11 for an equivalent pack of cigarettes around here (Chicago, which is high, but not the highest in the country).

Liquid for refillables you can get for less than $1 per mL; 1mL is about a pack equivalent.

Thanks for all the great responses! Just to clarify something, my friend is an old girl friend (in the sense she is a friend who is a girl, nothing sexual) who lives on the East Coast. We just keep up electronically. When she knew me I was a heavy smoker and drinker. She didn’t know I had quit both things, so thought this gift was something that would help me quit smoking or at least curtail it. I actually do still smoke occasional cigars, so I’m not an ex-smoker…just don’t smoke cigarettes.

So far I haven’t had even the twitch of a craving to start smoking cigarettes again. No idea if the cartridges I have contain nicotine, though I assume they do. With me, it was always the drinking that brought on the craving for smoking. These days, I can have a fine cigar this weekend, and then go weeks before having another one. I don’t think I have that particular monkey, though we shall see. The main threat with me is if I drink anything alcoholic then I’m off the wagon.

A question for those of you who are e-smokers. Several have mentioned flavors. How do you get those? All I’ve seen are these little cartridges in a box where you buy them pre-mixed. There only seems to be 4 flavors, at least at the local Walgreens. Traditional, Cherry, Vanilla and Mint/Menthol. They say not to re-use the cartridges or attempt to refill them on the box.

I have been a Bloog customer for the past two years; they have a fairly wide assortment of flavored cartomizers. A 5-pack runs $10.99 and there is currently free domestic shipping for orders over $50. So I generally order five 5-packs at a time, which last me close to 3 months.

These things are pretty good as an aid for quitting smoking. I don’t know if I’d give them to somebody who has already quit by other means, however.

There does seem to be a bit of a weird resistance in large segments of the public health community to e-cigarettes. This is a group that happily endorses nicotine replacement therapy (the patches/gum/etc.), but seem to get their knickers in a twist over something that seems to much like smoking. Doctors are not generally known for suffering non-compliance, or even the appearance of non-compliance, lightly, so I wonder if that has anything to do with it. The FDA doesn’t like them, because they were denied the authority to regulate them; bureaucrats don’t like rivals.

That’s too bad, because it would be nice to know if the scientific findings made with respect to nicotine-only intake are of a magnitude that urges caution. But because there seems to be a bit of a moralistic resistance to harm reduction (for instance, one journal article was “There’s no such thing a free lunch … or puff,” suggesting a rather schoolmarmish tone toward the question), which clouds the issue. Are these significant health downsides, or just DARE-esque scaremongering?

Anyway, the three major adverse health effects associated with cigarette smoking are:

[li]Cancer[/li][li]Cardiovascular disease (hypertension and atherosclerosis, leading to coronay disease, peripheral vascular disease, and most significantly, to heart attacks, congestive heart failure, and/or strokes)[/li][li] Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)[/li][/ol]

So it would be interesting to evaluate inhaled vaporized nicotine on each of the these fronts.

Someone said above that nicotine is possibly carcinogenic, but the source cited was somewhat more equivocal:

As to CV function, nicotine alone increases blood pressure. Some recent research suggests that nicotine alone may also accelerate atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). (Cite.) It is not clear to me what the size of this effect is, while the articles says “as effective as cigarette smoking,” it doesn’t appear that they have the longitudinal data (tobacco smoking vs. nicotine-only intake) to say that yet.

Finally, as to pulmonary function, I am aware of no pulmonary or respiratory concerns regarding transdermal nicotine, so if there are any health downsides to inhaling nicotine vapor, it is because of that mode of intake. Again, some evidence suggests significant short-term effects (Cite), but it is not clear whether these are particularly severe effects (I’m not a pulmonologist) or persistent in nature.

So there are some health effects, but it is unclear whether they represent the looming perils of a smoking habit (serious enough the one should devote significant time, money, and effort to quit) or something rather less sinister (say like a daily, solitary soda with lunch — nobody’s idea of a healthful habit, to be sure, but by and large fairly benign).

As Kimmy says, the long-term health effects are, as yet, unknown. However, I feel better with my ecig. I had only been smoking cigarettes at a pack or less a day for 6ish years, and I coughed rather a lot. My lung capacity (particularly in terms of singing) was noticeably–although not yet significantly–reduced. I and all my clothes smelled like a chimney. I had a persistent phlegm-ball in my throat. Since I switched to an ecig, I have *none *of those problems. Things smell great, my lung capacity is back to normal, I don’t cough at ALL (well, I had a bad cough for a few weeks as my cilia regrew, but nothing since then). I’ve been able to retain the nicotine intake and the mechanical habit, though, which greatly reduces the chances of backsliding to analogs.

In terms of harm reduction, I don’t believe anybody can rationally argue that ecigs aren’t better than cigarettes (although neither would be best of all).

Nicotine is VERY addictive, and a deadly poison. But as an aid to stop smoking, this seems as safe as many.

FWIW I quit smoking 2 years ago. This month has been very stressful for me so 2 weekends ago and this past weekend I got an NJoy from the gas station (pre-filled, disposable). They are supposedly the equivalent of 2 packs.

They are clearly addictive and have me jonesin something fierce for more. I would not recommend them as a fun hobby for someone who has quit - they are very real.