Ever since e-cigarettes came on the scene, offering smokers a tobacco-free alternative to smoking, health advocates have raised questions.
Earlier this month Greek researchers suggested using the device, which delivers nicotine in water vapor, could still be harming the lungs. Now, an anti-smoking group says e-cigarettes are just as obnoxious to non-smokers as real cigarettes.
Americans for Non-Smokers Rights is slamming the marketers of e-cigarettes, claiming they are using press releases and social media to tout the benefits of their product, despite a lack of independent peer-reviewed scientific evidence demonstrating the safety or effectiveness.
E-cigarettes don't just produce harmless water vapor, the group claims. Instead, they say they pollute indoor air with detectable levels of carcinogens and other toxic chemicals.
"What I find most egregious are the direct advertisements with false and misleading claims, including that e-cigarettes are effective smoking cessation devices, that e-cigarette use is permissible in all indoor environments, including venues that are smoke-free, and targeting pregnant women claiming that e-cigarettes are safer and healthier than other tobacco products," said Cynthia Hallett, executive director of Americans for Non-Smokers Rights.
In a press release of its own, the group disputes e-cigarette manufacturers' claims that e-cigarettes are "safer than commercial tobacco products." It says the contents of the e-cigarette liquid and the "vapor mist" that is exhaled by the user remain undisclosed. E-cigarettes are currently an unregulated product, which leaves a great deal of unknowns not only about the health risks, but also about product manufacturing quality and safety.
The group points to a study recently published in Indoor Air, which measured the contents of exhaled e-cigarette vapor and found that exhaling the vapor releases measurable amounts of carcinogens and toxins into the air, including nicotine, formaldehyde and acetaldehyde.
New source of chemical exposure
The authors concluded that e-cigarettes are a new source of chemical and aerosol exposure and their potential health impact is a concern that should be investigated further. Other researchers have found inconsistent labeling of nicotine content on e-cigarette cartridges -- that cartridges labeled as not having nicotine did in fact contain nicotine, and vice versa -- as well as other signs of poor quality control, including leaky cartridges and defective parts.
A number of states, including California, have sued the marketers of some brands of e-cigarettes for making what officials described as "misleading and irresponsible" claims that electronic cigarettes are a safe alternative to smoking.
E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices with nicotine cartridges designed to look and feel like conventional cigarettes. Instead of actual smoke, e-cigarettes produce a vapor from the nicotine cartridge that is inhaled by the user. Smoking Everywhere, one of the largest e-cigarette retailers in the United States, claims in its ads that the e-cigarettes have no carcinogens, no tar, no second-hand smoke, and are therefore safe and healthy.