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31 March 2009

We try the e-cigarette

The talk of every smoking room is the new electronic cigarette. This device looks like the real thing, emits puffs of white smoke, and the tip even lights up when you suck on it.

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The talk of every smoking room is the new electronic cigarette, or e-cigarette. This device looks just like the real thing, emits what look like puffs of white smoke, and the tip even lights up when you suck on it.

What exactly is the e-cigarette? And how does it work? The e-cigarette is a fairly new device that releases a dose of nicotine in vapour, instead of smoke, as normal cigarettes do.

Those that are pro the e-cigarette believe it is a healthier alternative to smoking. Their argument is based on the fact that there is no burning, thus no smoke, thus none of the cancer-causing chemicals or gasses that are released by the burning of tobacco. There is also no second-hand smoke and therefore it poses no threat to anyone else.

The greatest criticism of the e-cigarette is the fact that it has not been scientifically proven to be safe. The World Health Organisation released a statement in September last year warning that there was no evidence to back up contentions that e-cigarettes are a safe substitute for smoking or a way to help smokers quit.

"There is not sufficient evidence that (they) are safe products for human consumption," said Timothy O'Leary, a communications officer at the WHO's Tobacco Free Initiative. The WHO's concerns include the lack of conclusive studies and information about e-cigarettes' contents and their long-term health effects, he said.

Available in South Africa
The e-cigarette has been available in South Africa for about a year and retails between R140 and R1300. According to the distributer of 'Twisp', one of the e-cigarette brands available in the country, the product is gaining popularity and they have sold about 3 000 units.

For the month of April, Health24 is putting Twisp to the test. To find out how the Twisp is faring, visit the Smoker's Diary blog for the latest update.

Read more:
Electric cigarette: friend or foe?
Stop Smoking Centre
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