A report published by The Royal College of Physicians [PDF] stated that “Nicotine itself is not especially hazardous,” but many doctors, including those at the Center for Disease Control and the American Medical Association, disagree. Dr. Constantine Vardavas, a senior research scientist at Harvard’s School of Public Health, tells us, “Nicotine is a toxic substance that is seriously harmful to one’s heath, especially due to its effect on the nervous system and this heartbeat and arterial tone, too.”
There is also the matter of what else you are inhaling when you take a drag from an e-cigarette. Manufacturers are not yet required to list their ingredients to consumers, but Thomas Kiklas of the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association,rattled them off as being “Nicotine, water, propylene glycol, glycerol, nicotine flavorings, and that’s it.” Kiklas notes that propylene glycol “has been in the U.S. food supply for generations, they use it for sinus medications.” Dr. Vardavas called it an “irritant,” and noted that while the ingredients themselves may not be harmful, “the synergistic effect of them altogether may be harmful.”
Dr. Vardavas was the lead researcher on a study published last year in Chest medical journal that showed changes in lung function to e-cigarette users in the first five minutes of use. “The Chest study is a small pilot study of limited scope, a fact we acknowledge,” he wrote in an email. “However the significance of this research is that it indicates that e-cigarettes may not be has ‘harmless’ as they are promoted and may indeed impact the pulmonary system, at least in the short term that we assessed.”
Michael Murphy, a 28-year-old who has used e-cigarettes for a year, admits he “can’t really focus without nicotine. For me, I need it to pay attention to what I’m doing. It’s just how I start my day—coffee, and a cigarette.” Murphy, a 28-year-old former smoker who runs an after-school program for students in Queens, said he saves $90 a week on EonSmoke e-cigs compared to buying his former brand, Camels, and has had a mostly positive experience with e-cigarettes: “Before I go to bed, I take the biggest hit I possibly can, and sometimes you just feel a little ill, and your chest hurts, but that goes away in like, a minute.”
In the case of NJOYs, that pain is a selling point: “The kick is out of this world!” one user writes, “Tons of flavor, vapor AND throat hit!!!!!!” another adds. User “mick,” who states that he normally smokes Parliaments, wrote, “I didn’t have great expectations but the hit to the back of the throat was almost too much…this is the real deal. Haha I am hooked.”
Andrew Beaver, NJOY’s spokesman, explains, “That’s the nicotine,” and points out that the effect also happens when you take a sip of a soda after eating spicy food. “That’s just a type of irritation on the back of your throat that can be caused by anything caustic being there.” Asked to comment on the irony of a customer gushing that they are “hooked” on an intrinsically addictive product, Beaver says, “We’re not here to tell you that nicotine is not addictive, we are marketing this product to people who are already addicted to nicotine.”
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