Green Smoke

An electronic cigarette or e-cigarette is a handheld electronic device which vaporizes a flavored liquid. The user inhales the vapor. Using e-cigarettes is sometimes called vaping. The liquid in the e-cigarette, called e-liquid, is usually made of nicotine, propylene glycol, glycerin, and flavorings.  Not all e-liquids contain nicotine.

The health risks of e-cigarettes are uncertain. They are likely safer than tobacco cigarettes, but the long-term health effects are not known. Regulated nicotine replacement products work better for quitting smoking,  but e-cigarettes can help some smokers quit.  When used by non-smokers, e-cigarettes can lead to nicotine addiction and starting smoking. So far, no serious adverse effects have been reported in trials. Less serious adverse effects include throat and mouth irritation, vomiting, nausea, and coughing.

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E-cigarettes create an aerosol, commonly called vapor, generally containing nicotine, flavors, glycerol and propylene glycol.  Its exact composition varies. The vapor can contain toxicants and traces of heavy metals at levels permissible in inhalation medicines,  and potentially harmful chemicals not found in tobacco smoke at concentrations permissible by workplace safety standards. However, chemical concentrations may exceed the stricter public safety limits.

The modern e-cigarette was invented in 2003 by Chinese pharmacist Hon Lik, and as of 2015 most e-cigarettes are made in China.  Since they were first sold in 2004 their global use has risen exponentially.  In the US and UK their use is widespread, and a significant proportion of schoolchildren use them. Reasons for using e-cigarettes involve trying to quit smoking, reduce risk, or save money, though many use them recreationally. A majority of users still smoke tobacco, causing concerns that dual use may “delay or deter quitting”. About 60% of UK users are smokers and roughly 40% are ex-smokers, while use among never-smokers is “negligible”. Because of overlap with tobacco laws and medical drug policies, e-cigarette legislation is debated in many countries. A European directive in 2016, set limits for liquids and vaporizers, ingredients, and child-proof liquid containers. As of August 2016, the US FDA extended its regulatory power to include e-cigarettes.  There are around 500 brands of e-cigarette with global sales in excess of US$7 billion.

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