Beware of Unregulated E-Cigarette Contaminated with Drugs

Beware of Unregulated E-Cigarette Contaminated with Drugs

Around the middle of the 20th century, the news about the harmful effects of tobacco smoke became popular. In turn, people all over the world started to get conscious about smoking, even second and third-hand smoke. It has been determined that using tobacco products is one of the significant risk factors in developing illnesses and conditions such as lung cancer, vascular diseases, and strokes & heart attacks. Scientists believe that these conditions are the top causes of deaths of smokers and/or people exposed to smokers.

The tobacco industry started to get proactive after the developments were made public. At first, tobacco companies tried to debunk the scientific evidences that noted the health risks of smoking but their efforts were not enough. It was also during that time when some of the tobacco manufacturers started to offer cigarette varieties such as light, low tar, and filtered. These changes in the products indirectly claimed to have lesser health risks but no convincing evidence was published. To date, 90% of all cigarettes in the market are filtered, although the level of risk compared to the unfiltered ones is unknown.

A relatively new product in the cigarette industry is the e-cigarette. Within the last decade, e-cigarettes are continuously getting popular among smokers. Manufacturers market this product as the safer alternative to tobacco or filtered cigarettes. What are e-cigarettes?

History of E-cigarette

The first electronic cigarette, or e-cigarette, was developed by a Chinese pharmacist named Hon Lik in 2003. This first generation e-cigarette was similar to the one invented by Herbert Gilbert in 1963 which was never offered to the market. Hon Lik patented the design and introduced the product in China in 2004. By the year 2006, e-cigarettes have penetrated the international market. In 2013, the sales of e-cigarettes were estimated at $1.7B.

An e-cigarette is made up of metal and is shaped like an analog or traditional cigarette that is battery operated. It is composed of an atomizer – the part that uses the power from the battery – and a cartridge which contains the e-liquids that the atomizer turns into vapor. According to e-cigarette manufacturers, they consider this the healthier alternative because tar and carbon monoxide are not emitted while giving users the nicotine fix they look for in cigarettes. The vapor is safe because the agent used to produce it is propylene glycol – the same one used for fog machines at concerts and parties – or in some cases, vegetable glycerin. Not all e-liquids contain nicotine though; there are flavored ones already available in the market.

The Debate

People who are against e-cigarettes call for the regulation of the sale of these devices. They do not mind the flavored ones, though. Nicotine, the substance that is addicting, is their main issue. These anti e-cigarette groups are concerned that there are no available studies to support the manufacturers’ claims. The pro-group counters that the product has only been in the market for about a decade and only got popular around five years ago, thus, long term studies are not yet made available.

Nicotine, some say, is an addictive drug that may result in increased heart rate and blood pressure, and may cause the thickening of the artery wall. But in reality, nicotine is a low health risk addiction without the toxins in the smoke. Since, smoke is not present in e-cigarettes, vaping or using e-cigs is not as harmful as they seem.

There is a more serious issue being raised when a man in Taiwan was apprehended for using an unregulated e-cigarette contaminated with drugs and was tested positive for methamphetamine. This substance is a Category 2 narcotic specified by the Narcotics Hazard Prevention Act in China. The man called Wen told the police that he was clueless about the contents of his e-cigarette and that he bought his device from a Chinese online shop. He denied that he knew about the narcotics present in his “green apple-flavored” e-cigarette. He said that he bought the device to kick the smoking habit.

The call to regulate the sale of e-cigarettes may be valid but not entirely to control the use of nicotine. While nicotine is the addicting substance in tobacco and e-cigarettes, vapers are able to indicate how much nicotine they inhale from e-cigarettes and this cannot be done with regular tobacco unless smokers reduce the number of sticks they use. These devices need to be regulated because some people may take advantage of the system by putting other substances like methamphetamine. Take Wen, for instance. He had no idea that the one he bought was spiked with a dangerous drug. He did not know that his device was contaminated. This could have been avoided if he purchased his e-cigarette from authorized sellers and not from an online seller. E-cigarette users should also be wary of fake devices sold in the market. The best way to avoid fake ones is to purchase from credible stores and/or sources.

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