Researchers at UTSA will investigate whether those trendy 'e-cigarettes,' which deliver nicotine into a smoker's system through heated steam, are safe for use by smokers who are trying to kick the habit, 1200 WOAI news reports.
Dr. William Cooke, a kinesthesiologist at the university, says even though e-cigarettes are not cigarettes and do not include any tobacco, and do not include the tar and other ingredients in cigarettes which cause cancer, they are still classified as 'cigarettes' for purposes of regulation.
"If you are an ex smoker who is smoking these e-cigarettes in an attempt to quit smoking, you are still considered a tobacco user by the insurance industry, so your premiums are higher," he said.
Cooke pointed out that no smoking rules often also prohibit e-cigarettes, even though they put out none of the 'second hand smoke' which irritate passersby and are the justification for rules restricting smoking.
Cooke says his research will determine whether the direct infusion of nicotine, which is a stimulant, into the system is healthy for users of e-cigs.
"A lot of us go to Starbucks every day for our caffeine fix," he said. "We are addicted to caffeine, and if nicotine is addictive, which it certainly is, then how bad is being addicted to nicotine, and should we give smokers a bit of a break when they're trying to quit."
Even thought nicotine is the 'addictive' substance in cigarettes which make people 'hooked on smoking,' it is not the part of the cigarette that causes cancer, heart disease, lung problems, and the other ailments associated with cigarettes.
But he says certain people, especially those with pre-existing conditions, may not handle the impact of inhaling what is essentially pure nicotine well, potentially those with certain pre existing conditions, and he wants to determine if that is a danger.
"If you have this pre existing condition, should you use these e-cigarettes," he said. "That is one of the direct questions that we're asking."
He says the study is an 'important first step' to understanding the physiological complications and public health concerns surrounding the use of e-cigarettes. His research will not determine whether e-cigarettes are an effective way to quit smoking tobacco.