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What You Need To Know About E-Cigs

 A cigarette that doesn’t burn or smoke: sounds healthier, right?

Nova Scotia is in a heated debate over electronic cigarettes, or “e-cigarettes”, an alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes that uses vapour instead of smoke to heat the “e-juice” it uses instead of the chemicals of normal cigarettes.

The introduction of this product has raised concerns in the medical community throughout Nova Scotia. Although proponents say that the vapour-delivered nicotine is healthier than smoking, both physicians and Health Canada do not see this product as a reasonable alternative.

Health Risks
In Canada, it’s illegal to sell e-cigarettes for nicotine use, make a health claim about the product, or sell nicotine cartridges/liquid to be used in an e-cigarette. The only e-cigarettes that do not violate the Food and Drugs Act are those that do not contain nicotine and do not tout health claims. However, some people are illegally accessing nicotine e-cigarettes and “e-juice” online. This can lead to negative health outcomes such as nicotine poisoning and addiction. 

Doctors are also concerned with the legal ingredients in e-cigarettes. The the long-term health risks of inhaling propylene glycol – the major ingredient in e-cigarettes – are unknown. Ingredients that replace nicotine in legal Canadian e-cigarettes are also not regulated and may be just as (or more) hazardous than nicotine.

Without understanding what nicotine and other chemicals present in e-cigarettes are capable of, e-cigarettes are not the best solution for trying to quit smoking.

Not Effective Cessation Aid
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the safety of electronic nicotine delivery systems has yet to be scientifically demonstrated.

Doctors are concerned that e-cigarettes are unproven cessation devices and should be required to undergo the same rigorous testing for safety/efficacy as other nicotine replacement therapy. Electronic smoking products may have harmful risks and side-effects, such as “nicotine poisoning and addiction” according to a letter sent from Health Canada to a local Nova Scotia smoke shop in New Glasgow.

Changing the Culture
In addition to potential negative health effects, Doctors are also concerned e-cigarettes will re socialize the act of smoking and lead non-smokers to try, not only unregulated e-cigarettes, but also traditional cigarettes.

In Nova Scotia e-cigarettes aren’t governed by the Smoke-Free Places Act, which prevents smoking in work and public places. The legislation has been instrumental in reducing smoking rates in the province through changing the culture surrounding smoking.

In addition, the often fruit-flavoured e-cigarettes could lure youth and cause otherwise non-smokers to develop a nicotine habit.

Quit Today – The Right Way!
It’s never too late to kick start your New Year’s resolution! As National Non-Smoking Week approaches (January 19 – 25), many effective cessation aids are available for Nova Scotians who need support to quit smoking.

With strong winds, blizzards, and nasty winter conditions setting in, it’s less desirable for smokers to go out for a smoke. National Non-Smoking Week is the perfect time to explore options such as:

  1. Nicotine patches: Clinical trials have shown that the patch can, on average, double the success rate over placebo treatment. Sold without prescription, patches deliver small amounts of nicotine through the skin continuously. The dosages vary and diminish over an average of three months until the user is nicotine free. 
  2. Nicotine gum: Another non-prescription option. Nicotine gum simulates the highs and lows in nicotine levels of smoking with two – 10 pieces for most smokers. This aid is used for an average of three months and does not contain the harmful chemicals found in tobacco smoke. 
  3. Cold-turkey: Even with resources such as counselling, the support of family and friends, and addiction support groups, quitting smoking with no nicotine aids or gradual decrease can be a daunting (but extremely rewarding) challenge. Of the 68.5% of smokers who had tried the cold-turkey method in a survey of more than 8,000 adult smokers, an average of 25% succeeded quitting (compared to the average of 14% who succeeded using gradual methods).

There are many non-nicotine cessation aids that can help cold-turkey quitters such as exercise, hand-occupying activities such as blogging or knitting, chewing raw vegetables and small rewards for meeting non-smoking milestones. 

If you are considering any of the above options, be sure to discuss them with your doctor before you try them.

E-cigarettes are untested, unregulated and potentially unsafe for Nova Scotians. Despite the appealing idea of a product that can control addiction without health hazards, so far this product can’t deliver on those claims. 

Alternative aids to this device are effective for quitting smoking and have Health Canada’s approval and regulatory standards. This winter, step inside from the freezing smoke breaks and embrace a new year with a safe and healthy lifestyle.