Thursday, August 19, 2010

Central Michigan University: Just Keep Smoking, Kids

A Central Michigan University (CMU) official recommends that students stick with smoking real cigarettes. Shaun Holtgreive, associate director of Residence Life at CMU, announced that electronic cigarettes are banned for indoor use anywhere on campus. Holtgreive claims to have studied e-cigarettes and says, “research has shown they give off noxious chemicals in the vapor expelled when smoked.”

If the pronoun “they” refers to e-cigarettes, Mr. Holtgreive has a credibility problem. No such research exists.

Smoke contains tar, carbon monoxide, particles of ash, and thousands of chemicals created by the process of combustion. Many of these are present in exhaled tobacco smoke. The vapor from an e-cigarette does not contain any of these constituents because nothing is burned.

Research has shown that, in an e-cigarette cartridge containing nicotine extracted from tobacco, the liquid has trace amounts of tobacco specific nitrosamines. The FDA pointed this out when they announced the results of their testing. However, the agency neglected to mention that the same “carcinogens” are present in FDA-approved nicotine products, in roughly equivalent amounts. [1,2] A trace amount of a tobacco humectant, diethylene glycol was found in the liquid from one cartridge. The FDA did not find any harmful chemicals in the vapor. Numerous other laboratories have found no harmful chemicals in the vapor. [3]

Surveys of e-cigarette consumers have shown that a sizeable majority—up to 79%--of e-cigarette users become former smokers. [4] Holtgreive wants these former smokers to go the designated smoking area and be exposed to second-hand smoke when they use the device that is keeping them smoke-free. He said these regulations are to keep a safe environment for students and those around them.

These same surveys show that over 90% of users are reporting health improvements. “Positive effects reported with ecigarettes included their usefulness to quit smoking, and the benefits of abstinence from smoking (less coughing, improved breathing, better physical fitness),” stated researcher Jean-Fran├žois Etter. [5]

In the August 2010 issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University reported on a clinical trial comparing health effects of subjects’ own brand of cigarettes to two brands of electronic cigarettes and to sham smoking. Own brand and both brands of electronic cigarette significantly decreased tobacco abstinence symptom ratings. Like sham smoking, the two brands of electronic cigarettes had no significant impact on plasma nicotine levels, heart rate, or exhaled carbon monoxide. [6]

There have been numerous reports of people who had no intention of quitting smoking spontaneously losing their urges to smoke tobacco soon after they began using an e-cigarette. Allowing indoor use of e-cigarettes provides an incentive for continuing smokers to give the products a try. Treating e-cigarette users as though they were exhaling smoke sends a message: Just keep smoking, kids.

[1] Westenberger BJ. Evaluation of e-cigarettes. U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

[2] Laugesen M. Safety Report on the Ruyan® e-cigarette Cartridge and Inhaled Aerosol. Health New Zealand. (See “Comment 1” on page 7.)

[3] The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association, Resources, Lab Reports.

[4] Heavner K, Dunworth J, Bergen P, Nissen C, Phillips CV. Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) as potential tobacco harm reduction products: Results of an online survey of e-cigarette users. Tobacco Harm Reduction Yearbook 2010.

[5] Etter J. Electronic cigarettes: a survey of users. BMC Public Health 2010, 10:231.

[6] Vansickel AR, Cobb CO, Weaver MF, Eissenberg TE. A clinical laboratory model for evaluating the acute effects of electronic "cigarettes": nicotine delivery profile and cardiovascular and subjective effects. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2010 Aug;19(8):1945-53. Epub 2010 Jul 20.


  1. Wow, great information. I've been looking for a more unbiased view on E Cigarette use online for some time. Thanks.

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