Remember those candy cigarettes we could buy as kids (now long ago done to death by the nannies)? I see there has been some fuss in the Herald about the adult equivalent, the so-called e-cigarette. The e-cigarette is an electronic device made to look like a cigarette that nebulises a dose of nicotine from a cartridge and delivers it to the lungs in the same way a cigarette does, without the burning tobacco and smoke. At least, that’s the theory.
The trouble is, nicotine is registered as a drug in this country (in most first-world countries actually) and, as such, any delivery system needs to go through the normal registration process. This may seem silly, since you can buy a nicotine hit in the form of a cigarette quite legally, but then tobacco does not purport to have health benefits or to be a way of quitting smoking.
In order for a nicotine delivery system to be approved, the company would need to provide evidence of health benefits (less cancer, less lung disease) or that it does help people to quit smoking. Neither of these things have been demonstrated for the e-cigarette. In addition, the company would have to show that their system delivered the same amount of nicotine each time, within reasonable limits. They would also need to show reasonable clinical safety standards in their manufacturing processes.
The company that manufactures e-cigarettes has declined to do any of this. We therefore don’t know if their product is either safe or useful. Certainly, it is not legal in this country, and rightly so.
Even if the vendor, Full Life, actually did research in this area, I suspect that they would find their product does not help anyone to quit smoking. By no means all of the addictive properties of smoking is to do with nicotine addiction. There is also a strong element of psychological addiction associated with it. The e-cigarette merely acts as an alternative to smoking rather than a way of giving up smoking. Worse, it does not remove the oral habit, meaning that relapse rates will almost certainly be very high. In the very few limited trials on these products I have seen, precisely this effect was noted. This may explain why the manufacturer is not interested in legalising his product.
As a healthier alternative to smoking, the e-cigarette may have a place. Unfortunately, it’s main market will almost certainly be to those who could potentially give up smoking altogether, if offered a more suitable product. Instead, they may wind up hooked on psuedo-smoking. The relapse rate into proper smoking is likely to be horrendous. These people would be far better served with a proper, registered product that we know has demonstrable results.
Some researchers have suggested that “e-cigarettes could produce an alternative route for teenagers to nicotine addiction”. I suspect this is nonsense. Teenagers get hooked on tobacco through peer pressure. the e-cigarette would almost certainly be viewed as suitable only for pansies. No self-respecting teenager would be seen smoking anything less than a cigarette. The “soft drugs lead to hard drugs” has always been a highly suspect argument. Doubly so in this context.
MacDoctor’s advice to those wanting to stop smoking: avoid this product like the plague.