tocacco plant Native American Tobaccoo flower, leaves, and buds

tocacco Tobacco is an annual or bi-annual growing 1-3 meters tall with large sticky leaves that contain nicotine. Native to the Americas, tobacco has a long history of use as a shamanic inebriant and stimulant. It is extremely popular and well-known for its addictive potential.

tocacco nicotina Nicotiana tabacum

tocacco Nicotiana rustica leaves. Nicotiana rustica leaves have a nicotine content as high as 9%, whereas Nicotiana tabacum (common tobacco) leaves contain about 1 to 3%

tocacco cigar A cigar is a tightly rolled bundle of dried and fermented tobacco which is ignited so that its smoke may be drawn into the mouth. Cigar tobacco is grown in significant quantities in Brazil, Cameroon, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Indonesia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Sumatra, Philippines, and the Eastern United States.

tocacco Tobacco is an agricultural product processed from the fresh leaves of plants in the genus Nicotiana. It can be consumed, used as an organic pesticide, and in the form of nicotine tartrate it is used in some medicines. In consumption it may be in the form of cigarettes smoking, snuffing, chewing, dipping tobacco, or snus.

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More research needed into safety of electronic cigarettes

The need for more research into the long-term health effects of electronic cigarettes has been highlighted by scientists in the British Medical Journal.

Andreas Flouris and Dimitris Oikonomou, from the Institute of Human Performance and Rehabilitation in Greece, are concerned that not enough research has been carried out into the safety - or otherwise - of so-called ‘e-cigarettes’.

Their position has been endorsed by Cancer Research UK, which is also concerned by the current lack of information.

E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that simulate cigarettes by allowing the user to inhale a nicotine vapour.

Sales of the devices are thought to be increasing and a number of celebrities - including Kate Moss and Leonardo DiCaprio - have been spotted using them.

However, few studies have been conducted into the health effects of smoking e-cigarettes and those that have been published have reached differing conclusions.

One, carried out by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), found that the amount of nicotine provided with each puff often varies from the amount stated on the label, prompting the agency to express concern about e-cigarettes.

In contrast, a private enterprise called Health New Zealand (HNZ) found that the labelling on e-cigarettes reflected their actual nicotine content.

The FDA’s research also detected the presence of diethylene glycol - a highly toxic liquid - in one of the cartridges it investigated, while both the FDA and HNZ found cancer-causing chemicals called tobacco specific N-nitrosamines.

In its report, the FDA suggested that e-cigarettes may therefore be harmful, but HNZ recommended their use as they are likely to be less dangerous than tobacco products.

Meanwhile, a Greek organisation called Demokritos has maintained a neutral stance on the subject after conducting its own research.

Drs Flouris and Oikonomou note that this “represents all the knowledge we currently have about e-cigarettes” and that the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control is yet to publish any research on the subject.

“Alternative smoking strategies aimed at reducing the threat to public health caused by the tobacco epidemic are always welcome,” the researchers conceded.

However, they observed: “To date, our knowledge about the acute and long-term effects of e-cigarette use is, at best, very limited.

“The scarce evidence indicates the existence of various toxic and carcinogenic compounds, albeit in possibly much smaller concentrations than in traditional cigarettes.”

Jean King, Cancer Research UK’s director of tobacco control, said: “There has been little research into how safe e-cigarettes are. And there’s also very little regulation to control these products or their marketing. The only way to be sure of any risks or benefits is through rigorous testing.

“Anyone trying to quit smoking should use medicinal nicotine products such as patches, gum or inhalators, because these have been tested and found to be safe and effective. We believe that e-cigarettes should undergo the same rigorous tests and meet the same standards as all other medicinal products containing nicotine.”

Reference: Flouris, A., & Oikonomou, D. (2010). Electronic cigarettes: miracle or menace? BMJ, 340
21 January 2010

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2 comments to More research needed into safety of electronic cigarettes

  • There’s more than enough evidence to show that vaping is much less dangerous than smoking. Ecigs have been widely commercially available for over three years now with not one known major health problem.

    There are lots of studies here - http://vapersnetwork.org/node/8

  • “Anyone trying to quit smoking should use medicinal nicotine products such as patches, gum or inhalators, because these have been tested and found to be safe and effective.” This mantra must be posted somewhere for convenient copy-and-paste by tobacco control people and public health experts. I’ll agree they are safe, but how effective are they? Answer: They double your chances of quitting cold turkey. Question: Oh, really? What are my chances of quitting cold turkey? Answer: 5%.

    Smokers who switched to electronic cigarettes have already tried all the “medicinal nicotine” products. They were in the unlucky 90% for whom those products were ineffective. Question: How effective is the electronic cigarette? Answer: Surveys and polls show that >80% of regular users have completely replaced all their tobacco cigarettes.

    Question: But aren’t they dangerous? Answer: What’s dangerous is continuing to smoke. Every day some irreversable damage is done to cells, the lungs, and to the heart and circulatory system. The FDA asked consumers to report adverse events to MedWatch last June. However the agency was unable to produce any evidence to the U.S. District court that anyone has been harmed by the electronic cigarettes.

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