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Carcinogens and poisons found in electronic cigarettes

July 27, 2009|Thomas H. Maugh II

Here's an item you shouldn't include in your ever-growing arsenal of electronic devices, including cellphones, iPods, PDAs, GPS trackers and laptops: the e-cigarette.

The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday released an analysis of 19 varieties of electronic cigarettes that said half contained nitrosamines (the same carcinogen found in real cigarettes) and many contained diethylene glycol, the poisonous ingredient in antifreeze. Some that claimed to have no nicotine were found to have low levels of the drug.

E-cigarettes are promoted by their manufacturers as safer than traditional cigarettes because they do not burn tobacco. Instead, a lithium battery in the cigarette-shaped device heats a solution of nicotine in propylene glycol, producing a fine mist that can be inhaled to deliver nicotine directly to the lungs. An LED glows red at the tip and they even emit puffs of white smoke similar to that seen in stage shows. The devices are available in more than 4,000 retail outlets nationwide, as well as on many websites, with a starting cost of $40 to $70. Over the last year, sales have grown from about $10 million to $100 million, according to the Electronic Cigarette Assn., the industry's trade group. They also come in a variety of flavors, including chocolate, mint and apple, which make them appealing to children and adolescents.

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thomas.maugh@latimes.com

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