Electronic cigarettes are a product said to help smokers quit the habit. Is that really the case?
ELECTRONIC cigarettes, which are also known as electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) and “e-cigs”, are devices that deliver a vaporised mixture of nicotine and other chemicals to the user’s lungs.
Each device has an electronic vaporisation system and controls, rechargeable batteries, and cartridges, which contain varying amounts of liquid nicotine to be vaporised.
Most ENDS also contain propylene glycol, which is an irritant when inhaled.
Some ENDS have flavours that are attractive to the user, and some claim they do not contain nicotine.
Although many ENDS appear like their tobacco counterparts, a match or lighter is not required for its use. All that is needed is for the user to puff on the device, and the ENDS heats up the liquid nicotine, converting it to a vapour, which is inhaled. The user appears to be smoking a cigarette or another tobacco counterpart, but there is no smell because there is no burning.
ENDS have been available in the United States since 2007. It is estimated that there are more than 250 brands available in the US, with different designs and quality, which impact upon the nature and potential danger of the vapour.
As such, it is difficult to put all ENDS in the same basket. There is no information available on the number and types of ENDS available in Malaysia.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Tobacco Survey 2011, the prevalence of ENDS smoking in Malaysian adults was 0.8% – an estimated 164,000 people.
It is estimated that about one in five smokers in developed economies have tried the ENDS.
Since the ENDS do not contain tobacco, they are not subject to laws. This means they can be purchased by anyone and can be used in public places.
Manufacturers claim that the nicotine vapour has advantages over traditional cigarette smoking. Some claim that ENDS is beneficial as an alternative to tobacco. However, most manufacturers of ENDS have not made specific claims about the safety of their products.
Health experts and regulators worldwide are unsure about the safety or otherwise of the ENDS. Questions are being asked about the possible risks of inhaling nicotine vapour to the user and the public.
The jury is still out on the safety of ENDS. There is insufficient information from scientific studies available to make definitive conclusions about its safety.