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Electronic cigarettes are increasing in popularity but may carry risks

November 02, 2010|By Jeannine Stein, Los Angeles Times

Electronic cigarettes are becoming increasingly popular among people who want to quit smoking, but an opinion piece released Monday in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine highlights the potential hazards of e-cigarettes, suggesting they may not be as benign as they may seem.

E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that allow users to inhale a vapor that contains nicotine and supposedly fewer toxins than real cigarettes. In studies, health-related findings have been mixed, with some reporting less nicotine is absorbed and the desire to smoke is curtailed, while others showing smoking cravings weren't affected that much.

According to the paper, the Food and Drug Administration did a lab analysis of e-cigarettes in 2009 and found small amounts of a dangerous solvent in some, as well as nicotine in an e-cigarette billed as nicotine-free.

In the paper, the authors wrote that the devices pose several health concerns: "First, e-cigarettes may pose a risk as starter products for nonusers of tobacco. Although candy-flavored tobacco products and e-cigarettes were recently banned by the FDA in efforts to hinder marketing toward children, the posturing of e-cigarettes as 'green' and 'healthy' could deceptively lure adolescents. E-cigarettes also may represent a way for adolescents and adults to skirt smoke-free indoor air laws."

More study findings show the risk to children should they get their hands on the things--the concentrated nicotine found in refill bottles could be toxic and even fatal to children.

"Health professionals," the authors write, "need to monitor the biological, social, and addictive effects of e-cigarettes and be aware of their rapid dissemination online."

Last week the California Attorney General's office announced it had settled with e-cigarette seller Smoking Everywhere to stop the company from marketing to minors and asserting its products are a safe smoking substitute.

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