E-cigarettes, battery-powered devices that heat a liquid nicotine solution, have been sold in the United States since 2007 and are marketed as an option to help smokers kick the habit.  Instead of a nicotine patch or chewing gum, e-cigarette users inhale the vapor.

It's obviously safer than smoking but anti-cigarette advocates in the United States of America are also against this 'vaping' because of the presence of cigarette companies as investors. Originally, smoking awareness was to get people to get rid of smoking but a campaign against a smoking cessation product means it is more of a desire to get rid of certain companies.

Culture wars aside, a review in Norway sought to collate all of the available evidence, even though e-cigarettes are not legal. They found that, like organic food or other products, e-cigarettes have been granted a "health halo" that may not be warranted. The report only considered e-cigarettes with nicotine since there has been very little research about e-cigarettes without nicotine.  Though smoking is what will lead to lung cancer, nicotine itself is not without risks

Still, for smokers trying quit, or former smokers, it is better than cigarettes, but the concern is that adolescents who might be inclined to take up marijuana or cigarettes might adopt these.

"In Norway, it is mainly smokers and former smokers who use e-cigarettes. The question is if this will still be the case if e-cigarettes become more accessible. It is important to avoid e-cigarettes becoming a trend among adolescents and young adults, or to introduce non-smokers to nicotine addiction and tobacco use," says Dr. Camilla Stoltenberg, Director-General at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.

Nicotine remains a concern because: 

  • Harms the cardiovascular system

  • Use during pregnancy can lead to impaired lung function development in the foetus and in later life

  • Has a negative impact on reproductive health (reduced birth weight, premature birth and stillbirth)

  • Children who find nicotine cartridges are at risk of poisoning.

In the report they concluded

  • Since e-cigarettes supply nicotine in the same quantities as cigarette smoking, the same harmful effects from nicotine can be expected.

  • The vapor from e-cigarettes contains so much nicotine that bystanders can ingest the same amount as with passive tobacco smoking. This may affect addiction to nicotine.

  • E-cigarettes are less harmful than smoking tobacco, especially with regards to cancer.

  • The health risks of long-term e-cigarette use in the population are unknown.
E-cigarettes have only been available for a short time so risk assessments are mainly based on evaluation of the individual components of e-cigarettes. There is also a wide range of e-cigarette types, with varying content of nicotine and other ingredients. Differing types and usage patterns will influence health results - the dose makes the poison, as Paracelsus said.