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Psst, wanna drag of my e-ciggy?

E-cigarettes are devices that don't burn, but you can smoke in bars. The question is, are they harmful?

In my weekly attempt to learn long technical words, I was browsing New Scientist when I came across a concept that made me cough to a splutter.


Powered by batteries, they look vaguely like a cigarette, the end furthest from your lips glows red, they emit smoke, and they give you something of a nicotine hit with every drag.

However, because they don't burn, they are not classified as, well, cigarettes. And because they don't make a health claim, they're not classified as, you know, medicine. Which means that you can sit at a bar and e-puff.

Here's the strange thing. They are being marketed as devices that will help you quit smoking. Just as the condom was marketed as a device to quit sex, you might think. But the theory is that you get a similar amount of nicotine as you do from a patch.

Don't you just adore the word 'health' in the brand name? CC Uduokkamah

The World Health Organization believes any therapeutic claims by e-cigarette manufacturers are mere smoke and mirrors.

Researchers at a company called Health New Zealand are not so sure. Apparently, each drag only gives you a third of the nicotine of a suck on your American Spirit. And the potential for passive inhalation is minimal.

Murray Laugesen, a public health researcher from New Zealand, told New Scientist: "All pointers so far show the device is safe. Whether it will be a successful smoking cessation device in the future depends on whether governments wrap it in cotton-wool regulations or allow smokers to buy it with a modicum of reasonable safety checks."

So might any of you be prepared to try the e-fag, as they call it in the UK? Or might some of you be holding out for the researchers to create another "healthy" product: John E-Walker?