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E Cigarettes: Healthier But Not Harmless

By Alison Ellis

Known as the next generation of smokeless cigarettes, e cigarettes look, taste, smell and even feel like the same thing. Even real-looking smoke puffs out of them. The difference, however, between the e version of cigarettes and the real thing is that the innovative ones don’t include the 4000 poisonous chemicals, like tar and carbon monoxide, found in real smoke.

From a health standpoint, e cigarettes are clearly a better alternative to smoking real cigarettes. They also don’t produce side effects like teeth or nail discoloration. They even emit odors that closely approximate real cigarette smoke, mimicking the act of smoking as much as possible, of course minus all of the pollutants. They are also tobacco free. Psychologically, smoking these devices can still satisfy emotional addiction, and to a certain extent, a physical addiction and cravings, without producing pollution or harmful second hand smoke.

Why Consider Them

Why would someone even consider smoking an e cigarette when there is a real one available? For one, they are smoking alternatives for people trying to quit the physical smoking addiction but are still battling with the psychological feeling of comfort and relaxation associating with lighting up, puffing and holding a cigarette. Second, e cigarettes are also options available to smokers to “light up” in places where cigarettes are prohibited. Smokers may also choose to use these odorless and smokeless devices in situations where cigarette smoke would irritate or offend non-smokers.

How Do They Work?

As they are innovative versions of classic cigarettes, they do contain nicotine, distributed in varying amounts. Smoking an e cigarette requires electronic charging of the device prior to smoking. First, the smoker selects a desired nicotine cartridge which will provide nicotine in low, medium or high amounts. Nicotine-free cartridges are also available. Some nicotine packages come flavored as well, in mint, apple or chocolate flavors. High nicotine packages contain about the regular content as a regular-strength cigarette.

The e cig, as it is commonly called, contains an LED light at its tip which lights up when the smoker inhales. When puffed, the device emits vapor which resembles real smoke, but is odor free and non-lingering. The vapor emitted is composed of tiny nicotine amounts, as well as an additive used in food coloring, called propylene glycol. There is no second hand smoke at all. When finished, the smoker turns off the device. Since there is no real burn, the risk of fires or burns is reduced and e cigarettes do not activate smoke detectors.

A typical kit includes the device, a battery operated smoking tube, cartridges, a battery recharger and an atomizer. Using innovative cigarettes does require careful preparation before hand and smoking them cannot be an entirely spontaneous activity.


In the long term, e cigarettes are far more economical than regular cigarettes since they can be reused and recharged. E cigs are estimated to last 20 times longer than traditional cigarettes. Their durability makes them a cheaper smoking option in the long run. A single cartridge can last as long as two packs of cigarettes.

Potential Risks

The jury is still out on the safety of the devices. Certainly safer than cigarette smoking since the poisonous chemicals in cigarette smoke are absent, a common health concern is the product’s marketing. Smokers themselves may find it difficult to wean themselves off e cigs because they are so similar to the real thing, and do not make quitting any easier. The FDA has also not yet approved the electronic cigarettes as “smoking cessation devices.”

While obviously safer alternatives, they are not completely harmless or safe. Electronic cigarettes still contain nicotine, a dangerous and addictive substance. E cigs can be good interim solutions for people wanting to quit smoking especially in the initial stages, but they should absolutely not be understood as the “next generation of healthy cigarettes.

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Article Citation
MLA Style Citation:
Ellis, Alison "E Cigarettes: Healthier But Not Harmless." E Cigarettes: Healthier But Not Harmless. 12 Jul. 2010. 15 Dec 2014 <>.

APA Style Citation:
Ellis, A (2010, July 12). E Cigarettes: Healthier But Not Harmless. Retrieved December 15, 2014, from

Chicago Style Citation:
Ellis, Alison "E Cigarettes: Healthier But Not Harmless"

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