Are e-Cigarettes Safer than I thought?
A couple of night ago I listened to a podcast featuring Jason Healy, CEO of Blu Cigs and often regarded around these offices as the “Steve Jobs of the eCig industry” *. Although the host of the show only managed to ask a handful of questions in the one-hour interview I gleaned some tasty bits of information from it. Some of them I found surprising. This opinion piece is based on one of his answers. - ed
The Blu Cigs Disposable, in Classic Tobacco and Menthol, are 24mg nicotine eCigs that deliver in excess of 400 puffs of pleasure. I’d vape them daily if I could, but at $10 a pop that would amount to $300-$310 a month, much more than I can afford. Anyway, these disposables are great sellers in places like Walgreens Pharmacies because they serve as an introduction to the whole eCig experience and they are great for eCig users on the go that happen to not have access to their usual eCig.
The 24MG level disposable packs a heck of a throat hit, which is why I like them so much. But, until I heard Mr Healy’s remark about nicotine absorption I used to worry that I was taking in too much nicotine because I vaped the disposable constantly. The disposable would last me a single day, sometimes less.
During the interview Healy told the audience that if you vaped an entire disposable in one sitting that you would absorb less nicotine then you would with a single standard tobacco cigarette.
Think about that.
Less than one tobacco cigarette.
This is not some factoid picked out of thin air. Blu Cigs has science and their own testing behind it. It is true.
I don’t know about you, but I find that to be good news.
Nicotine is an alkaloid. An Alkaloid found in certain types of plants, tobacco, tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant and green peppers, to name a few. When it is absorbed in small amounts, the nicotine can cause stimulation, which can sometimes produce a feeling of relaxation, or calmness and/or alertness. For me its all three. I like what nicotine does to me, just as I like what that first cup of coffee does to me in the morning.
Current literature on the subject of nicotine states that nicotine by itself has not been proven to promote the development of cancer in healthy tissue. Nicotine also has no mutagenic properties, but, to many people, nicotine is addictive. Not everyone gets addicted to nicotine though, and I am living proof of that. As a smoker for 25 years I would often go days or weeks without smoking just because I wanted to, or was simply too busy to go out and buy a pack of smokes, or dating a girl who didn’t like the smell. Whatever. But I never felt the withdrawal of nicotine. However, I will accept that nicotine is an addictive drug to most people. As is caffeine. And porn. And Coca-cola (especially Diet Coke), and a bunch of other things.
eCigarettes create a lot of media buzz among smokers and smoking cessation experts because of the potential to wean people off tobacco. There is no doubt in my mind that eCigs do in fact wean people off tobacco. I’ve seen it, many times.
A couple of years ago a Professor Thomas Eissenberg of Virginia Commonwealth University published a study demonstrating that eCigarettes, despite claims on the packaging and in the advertising, deliver almost no nicotine to the end-user. This is news to me. I had never heard about this, and only became aware of it after hearing Mr Healy’s remarks. Why is that?
The study was published in the journal “Tobacco Control”. As the article indicates, Professor Eissenberg had 16 smokers abstain overnight, then come to the lab on different days and (1) smoke two of their usual cigarettes (2)puff on two unlit cigarettes or (3) “smoke” 2 leading brands of E-cigarette using their “high nicotine” cartridge (16mg), each brand on separate occasions. He would then measure the blood nicotine levels before, during and up to 45 minutes after using the products.
The result? The smokers started off with very low nicotine blood levels (around 2 ng/ml) and went up to around 17 and 20 ng/ml after smoking their usual cigarettes. However, when the smokers used 2 eCigarettes their blood nicotine levels hardly moved, peaking at barely 3.5 ng/ml. Unlike smoking real tobacco cigarettes the eCigarettes did not affect heart rate and had a relatively small, but observable, effect of reducing cravings for a cigarette.
Regardless of how much nicotine is supposed to be contained in the eCigarette cartomizer almost none of it is transferred via the vapor or absorbed in the human body. Yet, despite this lack of nicotine absorption people did reduce their cravings for tobacco cigarettes. Why?
Seeing as how eCigs deliver almost no nicotine, it would seem that eCigarette are an unlikely product to be useful in reducing nicotine withdrawal symptoms or helping smokers quit. Yet it happens every day. Perhaps the reason it helps so many people ditch the dangerous tobacco cigarette is because it mimics the act of smoking, and at the same time delivers “some” nicotine, just enough to curb the cravings.
I would imagine that nicotine patches or nicotine gum, if used in very low levels would not be nearly as effective in getting people to quit as an eCigarette. Plus, its clear that eCigs deliver into the human body less nicotine than the patch or gum. Which, logic follows, the eCigarette method is a “safer” delivery system than patches or gum for the simple reason that the user takes in less nicotine but winds up feeling more satisfied because they are inhaling a smoke-like vapor that tastes a whole lot better.
Now, while this appears to be perfectly logical to me, and perhaps a good argument to use to set out changing minds about the safety and effectiveness of eCigarettes as a Tobacco Reduction Method, I don’t know if the eCig companies would want to do that. Perhaps it’s better to be thought of a product that does not help people to quit. In the words of my wife; “I have no clue”.
In the end, this tells me that for all those times that I thought I might be overdoing it, and taking in way too much nicotine, the truth is that I wasn’t. I feel liberated. I feel that I can now vape as often as I like without having to worry about nicotine. How could that be a bad thing?
*not because Healy is sometimes an assclown, because he’s not. Then again, unlike most people I’ve met the late Mr Jobs and I found him to be passionate, a workaholic, and a visionary. Healy is the “visionary” of the eCig industry, making decisions for Blu that seem prophetic in hindsight.