The history of humankind is characterised by its receptiveness to stimulants. Since the beginning of time, these substances have included intoxicants such as alcohol, as well as smoking. Although we are all aware of the health risks, 'most people only give up their vices when they cause them discomfort' (William Somerset Maugham).
This adage is particularly true of smoking. It is widely known that excessive smoking increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases and lung cancer, yet we still yield to the temptation of the 'nicotine fix'. Epidemiological studies have repeatedly shown the harmful effects of this addictive pleasure, but attempts to quit smoking often fail, despite the certain knowledge that every cigarette can be one too many.
In response, the cigarette industry is propagating the e-cigarette as an alternative. Combustion of tobacco releases thousands of harmful substances that are of course inhaled by smokers as well. In contrast, the e-cigarette lets you inhale a vapour that does not contain any products which present a risk to your health; at least, it is claimed. This 'vapour' is created from an aromatic liquid (main ingredients include propylene glycol, glycerine, ethanol, various flavourings and nicotine, as required) using a vaporiser.
Accordingly, the electronic cigarette is marketed by the cigarette industry as a 'healthier' alternative to traditional cigarettes or a means to help people quit smoking. A lot of money is being invested to prove scientifically that e-cigarette products are less harmful than tobacco products. This statement is essentially true. However, it does not really answer the question about the effects of the 'vapour'. Epidemiological studies, such as those for cigarette smoking, are not available and no one can therefore rule out that excessive or long-term consumption could cause harm to users’ health.