Excellent summary of the science and marketing of e-cigs from German Cancer Research Center, Heidelberg

Here is the summary of the report, Electronic Cigarettes – An Overview, issued a couple months ago:

Electronic cigarettes are novel products emerging on the market just  a couple of years ago. Consequently, there are only few scientific studies on the health implications of using electronic cigarettes.

Based on current data, the following statements can be made:

Product characteristics

■ E-cigarettes cannot be rated as safe at the present time.
■ Consumers do not have reliable information on product quality.
■ Electronic cigarettes have various technical flaws (leaking cartridges, accidental intake of nicotine when replacing cartridges, possibility of unintended overdose).
■ Some manufacturers provide insufficient and partly wrong information about their liquids.

Health effects

■ The liquids contain ingredients that on short-term use irritate airways and may lead to allergic reactions and which may be harmful to health when inhaled repeatedly over a prolonged period of time.
■ The aerosol of some liquids contains harmful substances (formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, acrolein, diethylene glycol, nickel, chromium, lead).
■ The functionality of electronic cigarettes can vary considerably (aerosol production, nicotine delivery into aerosols).
■ Adverse health effects for third parties exposed cannot be excluded because the use of electronic cigarettes leads to emission of fine and ultrafine inhalable liquid particles, nicotine and cancer-causing substances into indoor air.

Users of electronic cigarettes

■ Electronic cigarettes are used predominantly by smokers and smokers considering cessation as well as former smokers.
■ Even though only few non-smokers use electronic cigarettes, the products may bring them closer to smoking conventional cigarettes.
■ Electronic cigarettes are used as an alternative to cigarette smoking and as smoking cessation aids primarily because they are believed to be less harmful than regular cigarettes.

Efficacy as cessation device

■ Electronic cigarettes – regardless of their nicotine content – can reduce the desire to smoke (craving) and withdrawal symptoms.
■ Some smokers cut down smoking or quit smoking as a result of using e-cigarettes.
■ The efficacy of e-cigarettes as an aid for sustained smoking cessation has not yet been proven.

Product regulation

■ We desperately need to know more on product quality, ingredients, possible health effects of e-cigarette use, and efficacy of e-cigarettes as cessation aid. Carefully planned studies by qualified and objective scientists are necessary.
■ Electronic cigarettes should be regulated as medicinal products, regardless of their nicotine content.
■ E-cigarettes should not be dispensed to children and youth.
■ Non-smoker protection legislation should apply to e-cigarettes.