Understanding E-Cigarettes

Thursday, November 21, 2013

E-cigarettes—small devices which deliver vaporized nicotine to users—are a $2 billion industry. The three large tobacco companies have also made forays into the market. While regulators study the health impacts and safety of e-cigarettes, the demand for the product continues to grow. E-cigarettes are not subject to New York City bans on smoking in public parks or beaches, and it’s not uncommon to see users “vaping” in restaurants, subways and theaters. Dr. Richard Hurt, director of the Nicotine Dependence Center at the Mayo Clinic, and Dr. Deepak Saxena, assistant professor of basic science and craniofacial biology at the NYU College of Dentistry, talk about how e-cigarettes work and their growing popularity.


Dr. Richard Hurt and Dr. Deepak Saxena

Comments [13]

Elaine Keller from Virginia

Mr. Lopate: If you really want to help your audience understand e-cigarettes, then stop inviting guests who don't know what they are talking about. Dr. Saxena believes that the terms light, mild, and bold indicate how many puffs you can get from a cartridge. Actually, those designations refer to the nicotine concentration in the liquid. This varies from one company to another, and could be as low as 0.3% nicotine. Most pre-filled cartridge don't contain more than 1.8% nicotine (18 mg/ml)and eCigs are also available in 0% nicotine.

How many puffs are produced from a cartridge depends on two things: The volume of liquid in the cartridge, and the proportion of propylene glycol (PG) to vegetable glycerin (VG). VG produces more vapor. A typical 0.5 ml cartridge only replaces about half a pack of smokes in terms of nicotine, but might produce 150 to 200 puffs.

Dr. Hurt talked about the study that was published in the Lancet, and left out the fact that there was a third arm of the study that used the nicotine patch. The actual quit rates were 7.3% for eCigs with nicotine, 5.8% for the patch, and 4.1% for eCigs without nicotine (placebo). So the study showed that when you use eCigs like an NRT, they are at least as effective as the patch. The differences among the 3 arms were not statistically significant.

Neither doctor showed any understanding of the purpose of flavors. Switching to a non-tobacco flavor helps to extinguish all appreciation for the taste of smoke. Most former smokers who switched to eCigs now find that real cigarettes taste nasty. Think about it. This phenomenon might reduce the relapse rates among switchers.

And we can't say that flavors attract kids, because no survey to date has asked kids what flavor they use. If they are getting their eCigarettes where real cigarettes are sold, the odds are that their flavor is either "menthol" or "tobacco".

By the way, the past participle of the verb "to vape" does not rhyme with "rapping." It is pronounced "vaping" with the same Long-a sound as in the root word "vape."

Dec. 14 2013 10:41 AM
gino from fl

nicotine, nicotine, when people talk about e cigs, bad nicotine is in there all the time. but people please remember "e juice does come without nicotine. after 53 years of smoking, i stopped, with the help of e cigs and without nicotine this is the way i like it now..

Nov. 21 2013 05:00 PM
Tim from WPB, FL

I am the statistic, quit smoking 08/31/13 and haven't had a cig since. Attribute it directly and solely to Vaping.

Nov. 21 2013 02:51 PM
Nyles from Man

Within my small circle of friends, at least four ex-smokers attribute their finally quitting to e-cigs. Most were smokers for over 50 years. Some use the nicotine juice, but others have quit and use the eCig only to supply the mouth-feel that cigarettes give. They use the flavored, nicotine-free juice.
By making these eCigs a tobacco product, the municipalities will be able to collect the exorbitant taxes which are levied on tobacco products.
Next time, try to get someone from the "other side" of the issue. Every mention of eCigs on NPR has never had a balanced debate...

Nov. 21 2013 02:33 PM

Thanks for an interesting top. Issues of addictions and "promotion/glamorization" of smoking are truly concerning.

Nov. 21 2013 02:15 PM

I have found that the majority of regular smokers who have never been able to quit have easily transferred to use of a high quality vaping device. While I understand the need to try to limit new non-smokers from adopting this new "habit", it should be done in a reasonable balance to allow smokers to make their own decision to switch to this safer method of exercising their choice. A sensible balance in my opinion is, limit advertising to that similar to cigarettes, limit sales to age limits similar to cigs, add warnings as appropriate, require ingredient disclosure, but allow sales of the product including flavorings, because that is what will facilitate smokers using this safer product, and respects their individual right to choose.

Nov. 21 2013 02:07 PM
Laura from New Jersey

I had not smoked for many years - about 19 years, but last april picked up an e-cigarette. By September I was not getting in a car, or sitting at home, or walking from my desk at work without vaping - I owned three e-cigarettes, and was buying the juice to fill my own cartridges.

I found this to be very addictive - finally dropped it a month ago as I was beginning to have problems breathing (I at first was glad to have the c-cig as it didn't bother my breathing). I think especially as I filled my own cartridges I was breathing in a lot of oil or whatever. I was getting nicotine oil all over my fingers.

For myself this was a very addictive revived habit. Glad I could put it down. But I still think it has to be better than smoking if you don't have some compromised lung condition.

Nov. 21 2013 01:53 PM

Daniel, they already smoke flavored cigars that have no other reasonable justification. Alcohol is not addictive in the same way nicotine is, and is not a health threat on the face of it.

Nov. 21 2013 01:46 PM
A listener

The main reason to NOT smoke an "e-cigarette" has nothing to do with health. You should avoid "e-cigarettes" because you'll look like an IDIOT while smoking one.

Nov. 21 2013 01:46 PM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

I am of two minds about e-cigarettes: As a nonsmoker who has a serious reaction to cigarette smoke, I approve of a method of smoking that does not force me to breathe smoke-filled air (which can happen even out of doors). I also think that they have the advantage to smokers of not having the tar of cigarettes, so that even though they are getting their nicotine hit, their lungs are clearer.

On the other hand, this trend could be adapted for other types of drugs (heroine, cocaine, meth) and I don't really want to think about people walking around looking like they're smoking an e-cigarette and actually getting high and becoming a walking liability.

I am in accord with your guest: these are definitely drug delivery systems. No ifs, ands, or butts (pi).


Nov. 21 2013 01:44 PM
Nick Messitte from brooklyn

Can you ask your guests about the risk of ecigs to the mouth and throat? I'm an ecig smoker, and i worry i might be agitating the possibility of mouth, tongue, and throat cancer.

Nov. 21 2013 01:44 PM

On no Richard you are right, so let's take all the flavored liquor off the market as well while we are at it. Or anything else that adults do that children might emulate.

Solid logic!

Nov. 21 2013 01:39 PM

Children emulate adult behavior. Children will use e-cigarettes and become addicted to nicotine, unlike non-smoking adults who are not interested in this gimmick. Children will transition to conventional cigarettes when the electronic version is not available. E-cigarettes must be regulated as nicotine-injection systems and sold through channels licensed by the FDA purely as a tool to assist people wishing to stop smoking.

I have spoken to the management of a major warehouse store in Manhattan that is known to be socially responsible and pays its employees a living wage, and most of them agree they are embarrassed to be stocking this insidious product. Keep up the pressure.

Nov. 21 2013 01:33 PM

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