Monday, February 11, 2013

E-cigarettes a healthier choice for smokers who can't quit

AZ Central
Elaine Keller
Opinion Article
February 11, 2013

Bill Pfeifer is president of the American Lung Association of the Southwest, not the director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse. Therefore, his concerns would be more properly focused on lung health than on addiction ("Electronic-cigarette ads on television should end," Saturday).

Nobody has ever been arrested for driving under the influence of nicotine or become physically abusive due to nicotine in their system. In fact, nicotine from a non-smoked source has about the same level of harmful physical effects as caffeine.

But it's nicotine's beneficial health effects that make it so attractive.

Nicotine subdues aggression, eases anxiety, improves memory recall, concentration, and the ability to pay attention, and helps to ward off depression. It is also being studied as a preventive measure against dementia. With an aging society prone to develop Alzheimer's or Parkinson's Disease, you should begin to understand why so many smokers in their 50s, 60s and 70s have such difficulty becoming abstinent from nicotine.

In Sweden, where tobacco use is higher, the lung-cancer mortality rate is among the lowest in the European Union because so many smokers have switched to smokeless tobacco products.

The world-recognized expert on nicotine safety and toxicity, Dr. Neal Benowitz, testified at the FDA's hearing on long-term use of NRTs that we can extrapolate from the population-level studies of smokeless tobacco users to conclude that long-term nicotine-replacement therapy use would be low-risk because smokeless-tobacco users have nearly the same rate of smoking-related diseases as non-tobacco users.

Numerous toxicology tests have confirmed that e-cigarette vapor more closely resembles the output of a Nicotrol inhaler than it does smoke. With 3.5 million adult users, don't you think that if vapor contained any seriously harmful chemicals, we would have heard about it by now? But instead of getting sick, e-cigarette consumers are getting healthy, experiencing reduced coughing and wheezing, less need for a rescue inhaler, and better peak-flow meter numbers.

Think about this: An FDA-approved nicotine patch contains about the same quantity of carcinogens (8 ng) as the FDA found in a few of the e-cigarette cartridges they tested. Many health practitioners have heard good things about e-cigarettes from their patients who finally stopped smoking and have now begun recommending e-cigarettes to those who can't quit.

Those of us who used the methods Pfeifer recommended, including FDA-approved over-the-counter and prescribed medications, found it nearly impossible to quit despite numerous attempts, until we switched to an e-cigarette.

Thanks, but I would much rather be a nicotine addict than a lung-cancer or COPD patient.

If some people are addicted, then isn't it better than they use a product with very low risk instead of smoking? Smoking for just a couple more months creates more health risk, on average, than a lifetime of using a smoke-free alternative.

Elaine Keller is president of The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association.

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