Electronic cigarettes are becoming big business. Users say the devices have helped them stop smoking traditional cigarettes and that “vaping” is safer than smoking tobacco.

But, the tiny devices haven’t been on the market long enough to have any long term health studies conducted on the very vapor they send straight into the lungs of its users.

So, the ABC15 Investigators wanted to take a closer look at the contents of this vapor. We enlisted the help of a lab to test the vapor you’re breathing in each time you use an e cigarette.


Travis Saul started using electronic cigarettes a year ago. Now, he says, “Vaping is a way of life.”

He said he turned to e cigarettes so he could quit smoking traditional ones. “If you want to quick smoking, vaping will work,” he said.

The father of two wanted to kick his 18 year old habit for his family. “I’d have to go outside to smoke,” he said.

He didn’t want his kids to be around him while he was smoking.

” is just as bad as the smoking,” he said.

Now, Saul owns his own company selling electronic cigarettes in stores and online. He says they are completely safe.


Dr. Stanton Glantz is a professor at the University of California at San Francisco and one of the leading researchers on e cigarettes.

He believes calling vaping’ safe is a lot of smoke and mirrors.

“If you are around somebody who is using e cigarettes, you are breathing in ultra fine particles and you are breathing in nicotine,” he said.

You can buy e cigarettes without nicotine in them, but most of them contain the addictive chemical.

“It heats up a mixture of nicotine, proplynegycal and other chemicals, and that heated mixture becomes an aerosol, which is inhaled deeply into your lungs to deliver the addictive drug nicotine,” Glantz said.

Current research shows there is detectable levels of nicotine in non smokers who hang around people using e cigarettes.


“I would say e cigarettes are the cigarettes of the 21 st century,” according to scientist Dr. Prue Talbot. She and her team at the University of California Riverside are among the first in the country to analyze the vapor in e cigarettes.

The ABC15 Investigators had her team test two brands of e cigarettes using a smoking machine and a specialized microscope.

The first test was for Smoking Everywhere Platinum. It showed metals.

“There is quite a bit of tin. Most of this material is composed of tin,” said Dr. Talbot. “There is also some oxygen, some copper and some nickel.”

Smoking Everywhere Platinum had so much metal in the vapor that it created pellets.

“I think the fact there is significant amount of tin in these pellets is important. This means the people using this product are going to be inhaling the tin,” said Dr. Talbot.

The doctor continue to say that inhaling tin directly or even second hand can be dangerous.

“Nanoparticles in general can be toxic,” she said. “In the case of e cigarettes, the nanoparticles would tend to go deeper into the respiratory system.”

“These particles are so very small they go from your lungs straight into your blood stream, and carry the toxic chemicals into your blood, and then appear in various organs,” said Dr. Glantz.

The research team has tested many brands of e cigarettes, and each one had a different result. But, keep in mind, each brand is manufactured differently.

For example, the second brand we had the lab test, Mistic, had no tin in the vapor. But, the lab found concentrations of copper.

Supporters say e cigarettes are only 10 to 20 percent as polluting as tobacco cigarettes. But Dr. Glantz said that’s still not good. “On an absolute whole, it’s still a bad thing,” she said.

Both Smoking Everywhere and Mistic are made in China. We contacted both companies, but we have not received a response.


There is currently no federal regulation of the products even though they use nicotine. However, Arizona has made it illegal to sell them to minors.

We asked the Food and Drug Administration about any future plans for possible regulation.

“Electronic cigarettes are battery operated products that turn nicotine, which is highly addictive, and/or other chemicals into a vapor that is inhaled by the user. The FDA regulates electronic cigarettes that are marketed for therapeutic purposes as drugs or devices. The FDA intends to propose a regulation that would extend the agency’s ‘tobacco product’ authorities which currently only apply to cigarettes, cigarette tobacco, roll your own tobacco, and smokeless tobacco to other categories of tobacco products that meet the statutory definition of ‘tobacco product.’ Further research is needed to assess the potential public health benefits and risks of electronic cigarettes and other novel tobacco products,” the agency said in a statement.

Even though FDA only currently regulates electronic cigarettes if they make a therapeutic claim, consumers may submit

Regulation stacks up for e-cigarettes : nature news & comment

Morality and marketing

But because little research has been done on the effects of e cigarettes, such moves lack a solid scientific grounding. It is generally accepted that the devices are safer than conventional cigarettes, although studies by the FDA and Health New Zealand, a research consultancy based in Christchurch, have shown that some brands contain carcinogens and other toxic chemicals, including diethylene glycol and N nitrosamines (A. D. Flouris and D. N. Oikonomou Br. Med. J. 340, c311 2010).

If e cigarettes are used in moderation, the nicotine doses they provide may be lower than those attained from smoking cigarettes. But although the devices are smoke free, nicotine itself causes high blood pressure and palpitations, and is highly addictive. Little is known about the long term effects of e cigarette vapour.

Some experts think e cigarettes are a saviour. They may kill smoking as we know it, says Peter Hajek, director of the Tobacco Dependence Research Unit at Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry. That s the biggest hope we have of ending the tobacco epidemic.

But as big tobacco companies have piled into a market worth more than US$2 billion worldwide, regulators have failed to keep up, in part because the chemicals in e cigarettes vary so widely. Some countries, such as Norway and Brazil, have banned the products. But in the United States, e cigarettes are currently regulated only if they are marketed as quitting aids. The United Kingdom has said it will regulate them as medicines meaning they will have to meet strict quality standards but its regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, is holding fire until the new European rules are in place.

The decisions that regulators make will shape not just the future of the industry but also the public health response and scientists both for and against e cigarettes have waded into the debate while regulation is still up in the air.

Right now, electronic cigarettes are the triumph of wishful thinking over data, says Stanton Glantz, a tobacco control researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, who thinks that the products should be regulated. He points to a report released earlier this month by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, that shows some children who have never smoked cigarettes are using e cigarettes, suggesting that the devices may be a gateway product. And he notes that several surveys have reported high levels of smokers using both cigarettes and e cigarettes, indicating that the products are being used to sustain nicotine addiction. The use of vapour flavourings, such as vanilla, could also be seen as an attempt to prolong use and appeal to younger consumers.

Other scientists, such as Hajek, say that regulating e cigarettes as medical devices would be a disaster. He believes that the cost of complying with rules for medical devices would allow big tobacco companies to dominate the nascent e cigarette industry, squeezing out innovative new products.

To overregulate now could threaten the existence of e cigarettes and cut down the options for people who want to quit, agrees Christopher Bullen of the National Institute for Health Innovation at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. He was the lead author on a study published this month showing that e cigarettes were as effective as nicotine patches in helping smokers to quit (C. Bullen et al. Lancet 2013).

Vaughan Rees, a tobacco researcher at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts, thinks that e cigarettes need to improve before they can replace cigarettes and that, for now, they should be regulated as tobacco products. Although they do present an opportunity to improve public health, he adds, care needs to be taken to ensure that they don t flourish alongside conventional cigarettes. Then we ve got a double problem, he says.