The Basement Files

E-Cigarette arguments go up in e-smoke


It’s no secret that I absolutely love a good cigar. They’re relaxing, smooth, sophisticated and, thanks to a recent tax hike (thanks again for that one, lawmakers), a bit spendy.

I’ve never been a cigarette person, however. I never cared for the taste, or the smell, but I never begrudged anyone who smoked. Heck, I kind of miss the smell in some places, like bowling alleys or bars. But the health conscious folks put the kibosh on that. They were silent for a while, until Americans, as we tend to do, decided to take our freedom back and moved to a more affordable, and by some accounts, safer alternative, the electronic cigarette.

These things, for the smoker, are great. They come in various flavors, from straight tobacco to strawberry, acai berry, lime, vanilla or peach. You name it and they probably have it. There is no secondary smell either. You could sit in a room all day, puff away, and no one would be the wiser (and, as someone who lives with a person who hates the smell of my cigars, this is a huge plus). There is no ash, no yellow stains on your white linens and paint, no “smelly butts,” and more importantly, no second-hand smoke, just water vapor. You are only hurting yourself, which is why I get upset when places like Hennepin County start lumping e-cigarettes in with traditional cigarettes, which can harm people other than the smoker.

Yet, the anti-smoking crowd still complains. And while they yell the loudest, it doesn’t mean they are right. I’ve heard them complain about the smell, which is bunk. I’ve heard them complain e-cigarettes are not safe because they lack FDA approval. Which is bunk as well, because any stroll down a grocery store supplement aisle will expose you to any number of pills and herbal remedies that people buy at a huge rate that aren’t FDA approved, either. A Lack of FDA approval doesn’t mean it isn’t safe.
I’ve also heard them complain about not knowing what’s in them, which, if you have been following, is bunk as well. I’ll go over the few ingredients in a minute, but I concede this point: if someone is buying an E-cigarette and not doing their homework on the E-liquid inside, they deserve what they get. And that really isn’t my problem. Most reputable brands however, do list their ingredients, and there isn’t much there.

The E-liquid that are inside these cigarettes or, more accurately, vaporizers, consists generally of a liquid base of propylene glycol, and/or glycerol, artificial food flavoring (the same you would find in pretty much anything you eat) and nicotine. You can get them without the nicotine if you choose. So, what are those nasty sounding chemicals?

Propylene glycol

Propylene glycol is “generally recognized as safe.” Yes, safe, by the FDA. It is a non-carcinogenic organic compound with a relatively low toxicity rate. Because of which, this is a common ingredient in food preservatives, paints and pharmaceuticals. Some people (around 2 percent) might have an adverse reaction to PG, such as post-menopausal women, but the compound, especially in the low-doses in an E-cig, is relatively safe.


Glycerol is, barring a long, boring scientific explanation, is a sugar alcohol. Once again, glycerol is considered safe, and is also considered by the FDA to be a carbohydrate. Glycerol has been used as artificial sweeteners, in lotions, soaps, toothpastes and mouthwashes, as well as, you guessed it, pharmaceuticals. It is also an ingredient in nitro-glycerin, a component of dynamite. But my point remains, if it’s safe for mouthwash, it’s more than likely safe to vaporize.


This is the big one, the evil nicotine. Yes, it is addictive, and no one disputes that. But, did you know that nicotine might not be carcinogenic? There have been many studies, showing that nicotine can accelerate tumor growth and generally make things worse once they go wrong. But it might not be the overall cause of a tumor. The jury is still out on it at the moment, and anyone arguing that nicotine is either totally safe or totally dangerous is not to be listened to. Because the fact is, while nicotine has been shown to, say, interfere with the development of an unborn baby, it has also been shown to delay the onset of Parkinson’s disease and aid in the treatment of ADHD and depression. And nicotine itself (when not associated with the tar and other chemicals of traditional cigarettes,) has been shown to actually treat and prevent Alzheimer’s.

Just because nicotine is in a cigarette, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily evil. We need more study on the possible good that nicotine can do, especially if it can help Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, away from the stigma of the “cigarette smoker.”

Is it safe to vaporize? That’s hard to say, and is a choice I can’t make for you. But if you do go the E-cigarette route, you get your “nic-fix” without all the extra chemicals and tar of a burning cigarette, which, when all together in cigarette smoke, is carcinogenic. Besides, you can get E-cigarettes without the nicotine if you’d like, and it is an increasingly popular trend.

So, there is a brief rundown of what’s all in an E-cigarette. I would recommend going online and do more research should you choose to go the E-cigarette route. Are they 100 percent super-duper-ultra-safe? No, but I will argue that they are much safer than the traditional route (especially the non-nicotine E-cigarettes) but they aren’t completely safe. Nothing is. Heck, if you drink enough water in a single sitting it will kill you.

You’ve heard it before, everything in moderation, and the same applies here. If you smoke them, fine. If not, that’s fine, too. But let’s stop treating this segment of the population as pariahs. As for my E-cigarette rant, that’s it, I’m done.

Chris Hamble is a freelance writer and humor columnist serving newspapers in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and is a lifelong Stillwater resident.