Safety of e-cigarettes questioned

Results from a small European study released last week show electronic cigarettes may damage lungs, confirming some of the concerns of anti-smoking advocates.

The study was conducted at the University of Athens in Greece. Respiratory tests were done on 32 people who smoked e-cigarettes for 10 minutes. The tests showed the short-term effects included less oxygen being absorbed in the blood.

Electronic or e-cigarettes have been promoted as a cigarette substitute that may help people reduce tobacco use. Recently, their health benefits have been coming into question. While e-cigarettes don’t produce smoke, they do contain nicotine.

"The safety of e-cigarette products is unknown. They have not been tested as a quit-smoking aid," said Jay McCubbrey, Department of Health and Human Services health education specialist and project director for Tobacco Free Humboldt.

McCubbrey says e-cigarettes are becoming more regulated and can be subjected to the same laws as regular cigarettes at the local, state and national level.

McCubbrey says they are battery-powered and designed to look like a cigarette. The nicotine is contained in a cartridge of solution that is inserted into the device. The device emits a vapor when used. For this reason, using e-cigarettes is sometimes called "vaping."

E-cigarettes are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as smoking cessation devices. American Cancer Society officials say many people try using them to help them cut down or quit.

"Smokers who switch to e-cigarettes to help them quit could be disappointed," said Mike Goldsby, DHHS Public Health senior program manager. "These smokers may simply replace one form of nicotine with a more expensive form if they do not get help with changing the behavior patterns that support addiction."

In Humboldt County, smokers can find a variety of free quit smoking programs:

The California Smokers’ Help Line provides materials and free telephone counseling and referrals to local programs. 1-800-NO-BUTTS.

Free local quit classes are offered at the American Cancer Society office on the third Wednesday of the month from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Call (707) 442-1436, option 3, for more information.

Also includes user-friendly tips and tools toward a smoke-free life. The site has tip sheets and calculators and downloadable desktop helpers to assist with planning to quit and succeeding in staying tobacco-free.