The Spanish Society of Pneumology and Thoracic Surgery (Separ) supports the Government’s intention to regulate the use of the electronic cigarette and proposes to consider them as drug products. Pilar Lucas, president of the Society, explains the risks in terms of “toxicity” caused by lack of control of the components of liquids or inappropriate use of the various parts of the cigarette.

Separ considers that, given the doubts raised by the development of electronic cigarettes as drugs, there should be some changes made in order to assure the safety and effectiveness of electronic cigarettes. The most common compounds are propylene glycol, glycerine and nicotine. According to Segismundo Solano, Smoking Area Coordinator of Separ, if the consumption (where and how) to be controlled, it would be easier to ensure the quality standards and more scientific and medical research can be done on this device.

The doctor says that it can certainly offer advantages over the traditional consumption of snuff and has positive aspects that may be in the process of addiction. Pulmonologists report that there are still significant gaps in knowledge about the electronic cigarette, for example, in terms of impact in the medium and long-term of its ingredients. It contains various chemicals that are vaporized and go directly into the lungs, containing liquids and other that occur as a result of its heating and appear in as steam. The most common of these fluids are propylene glycol, glycerine and nicotine.

“It should be noted that some brands do not contain nicotine and others contain a smaller percentage than in the usual cigarettes,” said the expert. Propylene glycol and glycerine are harmless when used orally. However, when inhaled “its safety has not been clearly guaranteed,” said Carlos Jimenez, director of the Program of Tobacco Research. As vapour was detected also formaldehyde, acetaldehyde and acroleínas, which are present in smoke of manufactured cigarettes, but in greater numbers than in the e-cigarettes. Metals such as chromium, lead and nickel were also detected, in this case higher levels than those detected in cigarette smoke, and these are classified as carcinogenic.

Help with giving-up smoking

Some studies have found that electronic cigarettes, both containing and not nicotine, can help you quit smoking and relieve symptoms of withdrawal and even have role as a treatment for reducing the detrimental effects of snuff. As Jiménez explains, these studies have important methodological “gaps” that preclude any reliable conclusions as a treatment for smoking cessation. “We also have to avoid the possibility that the use of such devices increases the motivation to quit smoking,” says the spokesman of Separ.

Another problem with electronic cigarettes is that although they are mainly used by smokers who want to quit, want to reduce or former smokers, electronic cigarettes are also consumed by a small number of non-smokers. Among this group are a minor part (3-5 % of young smokers that have never smoked) and non-smokers start consummating snuff because of e-cigarettes.

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