Electronic Cigarettes: Are They Safe?

Early Show - Electric Cigarettes - Feb. 27, 2008 CBS

Electronic cigarettes are popping up in shopping malls, kiosks and online.
You might not be lighting up tobacco, but are they a safer alternative to regular cigarettes?

Doctor Jonathan Whiteson from New York University's Cardiac and Pulmonary Wellness and Rehabilitation Program talked to Early Show co-anchors Julie Chen and Harry Smith about the product.

"Are they safe?" Chen asked.

"We don't know, but we don't think so," Whiteson said.

"It's not tobacco that you're smoking, then what is it?" Chen asked.

"It's not smoking. What you're actually inhaling is a vapor. These electronic cigarettes are battery powered and they vaporize nicotine, so you're inhaling the nicotine vapor. So, you're getting the nicotine hit, but without the toxic smoke and contents of the cigarette and the tar. However, there's no proof that these cigarettes are safe. No proof whatsoever. They are made in China. They're unregulated. Certainly not approved by the FDA," Whiteson said.

Smith, who smoked in his 20's and said that the best thing he'd ever done was quit, was curious to see what the sensation was like and tried the product.

Though very distasteful to Smith now, he said that the electronic cigarettes reminded him a lot of smoking.

"We don't know if it's safe at all, period. Again, this is unregulated. We don't know how much nicotine is exactly there. We don't know how much is being delivered. We don't know the contents of the vapor. This has not been studied," Whiteson said.

"So does this mean it could be worse for you than cigarettes?" Chen asked.

"It could be. The manufacturers think it's safer, but it could be worse. We just don't know at this time," Whiteson said. "We have no analysis of the vapor."

"So why does it exist? It sounds like a gimmick. They make you think you can get off cigarettes by smoking this," Chen said.

"That's right. It's a smoking cessation product, but it isn't. Again, it's not FDA approved, it's not been tried and tested," Whiteson said.

"Does that mean you could get addicted to this, which could be worse?" Chen asked.

"Absolutely. My biggest concern is these things are marketed to younger people, to adolescents. And my biggest concern is that adolescents are going to start smoking these cigarettes thinking they're not getting any dangerous products. But the first hit of nicotine can make you addicted, and that is so concerning. We already have more adolescents than adults smoking, and the last thing we want to do is encourage them to smoke more," Whiteson said.

"What is the best way to quit smoking cigarettes?" Chen asked.

"The best way to quit is through discussions with your physician in a program that's recognized as smoking cessation, to use nicotine replacement that's approved by the FDA, either a patch, gum or lozenge and also to work on the behavioral changes, so that emotionally you can be ready to quit and you can be prepared if there are any triggers to start you smoking," Whiteson said.
  • CBSNews

Comments

CBSN Live

pop-out
Live Video

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.