The Consumer

E-cigarettes won’t help a smoker quit


It seems the battery-operated electronic cigarette is not a safe alternative to tobacco for smokers who are finding it difficult to quit.

An online story of the Deccan Herald, which came out Sunday, said experts had warned that what was being touted as a healthier alternative to smoking could be even more damaging.

“Experts say in order to vaporize the nicotine solution, the chemical propylene glycol was put into the cartridges,” the report said. It quoted Dr. Elisabeth Pott, director of the Federal Center of Health Education in Cologne, Germany, who said the chemical, which accounted for up to 90 percent of the e-cigarette’s content, could “cause acute respiratory irritation.”

The news report also cited an analysis conducted by the United States Food and Drug Administration in 2009, which “found traces of the carcinogen nitrosamine and other potentially harmful substances,” plus ethanol and glycerin, in several e-cigarette brands.

In the Philippines, anti-smoking advocates had already expressed concern about the growing popularity of  e-cigarettes. A local newspaper report said the Department of Health (DOH) had pointed out that the use of e-cigarettes would not help smokers quit.

Anthony Leachon, DOH consultant for noncommunicable diseases, said the product would make it easy for smokers to resume their habit. Instead of using e-cigarettes, he advised smokers to seek professional help if they wanted to quit.

The news report said Maricar Limpin, executive director of Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance Philippines, said the e-cigarette could also be addictive as the vapor it produced contained nicotine. People who used the e-cigarette could remain addicted to nicotine and not know where the substance was coming from. Limpin pointed out the product was flavored to hide the taste of nicotine.

So what is it really?

What’s a ‘gray unit’?

Reader Celeste Pacana wants to share with readers her rather unusual, if not downright strange, experience. She bought a television set, which she thought was made by one of the well-known Japanese manufacturing companies, from a small appliance store. A few days before the yearlong warranty was to expire, the unit broke down.

Naturally, she brought the TV to the brand’s authorized service center. This was when things started to turn bizarre. The service center said it could not repair the unit because there was a problem with its serial number. She was told by the service center that her TV was considered a “gray unit.”

They explained that a “gray unit” was not sourced from authorized distributors or the company directly. That is probably a roundabout way of saying the unit was not authentic, not the real thing.

Pacana found out later that a cousin, who bought from the same store a TV by a Korean manufacturer, also had the same problem.

The moral of the story, which Pacana herself has learned by now, is to buy branded products only from reputable stores. With so many fakes being passed off as genuine articles, consumers really have to be careful where they buy things, especially items that are rather expensive.

Pacana did not say anything about the price of the “gray unit.” I suppose the store offered a very attractive price. But, at any rate, it is better to pay more and be assured of quality after-sales service.

I am loyal to a few brands not because they are necessarily better, but because of the after-sales service, including how convenient it will be for me to bring the appliance to the service center for repair or maintenance.

Send letters to The Consumer, Lifestyle Section, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 1098 Chino Roces Ave. cor. Mascardo and Yague Sts., 1204 Makati City; fax 8974793/94; or e-mail

Get Inquirer updates while on the go, add us on these apps:

Inquirer Viber

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

  • J.T.C.

    Lies and deceptions because studies say they are safe and that the smoke is what kills and destroys, not nicotine. P.G. is already in tobacco in much higher quantities. Stop the lies and deceptions to protect government tax revenues, big pharma and big tobacco profits and a network of sellouts that promote this garbage for profit. Sellouts to humanity is what opposition to e cigarettes are. They love death and disease so they can profit from it.  You people make me sick!

  • Lorenzo Trajano

    I’ve been on the e-cigarette for almost 2 months now and I can say for certain that in a couple more I can get myself to stop smoking the e-cigarette too. I knew from the very beginning that I was only going to use it for a while, not as a permanent fix to replace my habit of smoking real cigarettes. And cmon. I read the headline, then I read the content… So the writer of this article is actually saying that one of the reasons why e-cigarettes won’t help me quit is because it isn’t a good way to spend your money (gray unit warranty claims)? Where’s all that medical mumbo jumbo with the percentages and the hyfaluting chemical compound names that will somehow kill me down the line? What a letdown. lol

  • Simon Ward

    The authorized repair center’s explanation of a “gray unit” was correct. It’s not a roundabout way of saying it’s fake. It’s common practice among makers of high-end goods to do this, to protect their retailers and authorized suppliers of after-sales service. Apple does it for their computers, and maybe for all their products. If you suspect you are buying from a gray seller, ask for a warranty that requires the seller to honor it, not the manufacturer, just as you would if buying a used car from a dealer.

  • WeAry_Bat

    Gray units – look up in the internet for online sites where chinese manufacturers are selling all kinds of electronic appliances.  It is amazing, they have nearly everything matched to nearly everything in US and Europe brands.  LCD TVs, touchscreen phones, tablets…

    What’s to stop a middle man to get those then replace the markings and brand plates.

  • nisakiman

    What utter rubbish. Thousands upon thousands of people have effortlessly stopped smoking cigarettes by using an e-cig.

    Instead of using e-cigarettes, he advised smokers to seek professional help if they wanted to quit

    Professional help? What, like nicotine patches / gums? That have a 96% failure rate? If you really want to give up smoking (which I don’t because I enjoy it) the only way to go is e-cigs. Forget “professional help”, it’s a waste of time and money.

  • Chris O’Sullivan

    I am not a smoker. My good friend, however, is. I cannot recount the number of times that he has quit one day, gone out one night and then the following day back to smoking again. Nicotine is certainly addictive, but you know what, the action of smoking a cigarette is one of the hardest things to stop. Everyone has a habit – I’m not just talking about smoking. When you do the same repetitive action over and over again, that repetitive action becomes second nature. Smoking is a repetitive behaviour. nisakiman is right – nicotine patches – yay what a success they are – NOT!!! E-cigs are a way to combat the craving and the action.

  • dequis

    ang mga manufacturer ng sigarilyo may nilagay na pamapaadict higit pa sa nicotine. iyan dapat ipagbawal.

  • . .

    Yet more propaganda perpetrated by governments and  tobacco companies!
    It is funny how all the anti e-cig articles always use the same weak evidence with the obligatory quote from Dr. Elisabeth Pott. There is no evidence to say that these things are bad for you and I, and many like me, are very sure that they are hundreds if not thousands of times less bad for you than normal (analogue) cigs. It is strange that nicotine use is seen as such a evil terrible thing and something that should be eradicated. Of course the packages in which nicotine has been traditionally administered (cigarettes, cigars, pipes etc)  have many unwelcome side effects and no-one can argue with that but we cannot overlook the fact that nicotine, in its self, is pretty harmless stuff. Yes, I would like to see regulation on the nicotine solutions. This would be a positive step which I hope does happen, in a sensible way!  I am a caffeine user. I am an alcohol user. I am a nicotine user. Electronic cigarettes allow me to harmlessly indulge. If e-cigs are not banned (for political and monetary reasons; large tobacco companies are all powerful!) I may carry on consuming nicotine, from e-cigs, for the rest of my life. If they are banned, sadly, many people will return to tobacco. This would keep the governments and the tobacco companies very happy with their huge taxes and profits. There is something inherently wrong with a system that would allow that to happen and, should it happen, everyone should be concerned, not just nicotine users!

    • Chris O’Sullivan

      I don’t agree with your nicotine comment being “pretty harmless stuff”. 

      Nicotine IS indeed harmful on many accounts. I’m not going to go into great detail.. but … here’s some trivia:
      – A drop of pure nicotine on the skin will KILL you. 
      – nicotine itself is linked to heart problems including heart attack. 
      – you can overdose on nicotine ie causes your heart to race, and blood vessels to constrict. 

      It’s probably a little difficult to OD with regular cigarettes because your throat and lungs would feel like they’ve been charred from the smoke (and the other 10000 chemicals) long before you OD on the nicotine.

      However, I saw an article somewhere on a review site that the guy said he ODed using an e-cig. I’ll see if I can find it again but I think he said he felt like a kid in a candy shop after receiving his ecig for the first time and that he smoked constantly (and everywhere) for a whole day. I’ll dig the article up for you. 

      • grinningsoul

        Nicotine is found naturally in many vegetables, it’s in your body whether you like it or not. Almost all of the world’s health bodies aknowledge that nicotine is relatively harmless in small amounts, in fact it is used to treat a number of ailments.
        The symptons you list can all be attributed to caffeine, in fact caffeine has a few nastier ones as well.
        There are many substances that scaremongers can call ‘deadly’ in our bodies and in everything we eat, we would die without them. It is the levels that are the key. An e-cigarette simply does not contain anything near the level of nicotine that can produce serious medical health risks.

      • Chris O’Sullivan

        Regardless of the nicotine debate just now, I think everyone who has contributed to this discussion would agree that…a regular cigarette contains far more garbage (in terms of toxic chemicals) than an e-cig.  

        I say bring on the e-cigs any day of the week. 

      • . .

        You are of course correct. I should have said that “nicotine, used sensibly, is pretty harmless stuff “. It is the same as alcohol in that respect. Alcohol, as I am sure you are aware, can easily kill and cause serious health, psychological and social problems. Yet attempts to ban this, to my knowledge, have never succeeded!

  • Emma Sy

    Basically how an electronic cigarette works is that it vaporizes the juice and air comes in through the air holes of the unit to create the smoke (vapor). The e-juice is made out of Propylene Glycol, Vegetable Glycerin, food flavoring and it may or may not contain Nicotine.

    So what does a real cigarette contain? Millions of carcinogenic (cancerous) substances. You light it up and carbon monoxide comes out of the other end because you burn. You get very yellow teeth as well and darker lips.

    More or less this is what happens. What I don’t get is why people are still saying that e-cigarettes are worse than real cigarettes or tobacco. Is it maybe because since the rise of the electronic cigarettes, lots of people are switching and quitting analog (real) cigs? Or that because of e-cigarettes, tobacco companies have noticeably less income than before?

  • Digitusimpudicus

    Come on give the people  freedom of choice here. The government wants higher taxes on tobacco and now there’s drumming on banning the digital cigarette?  This is a propaganda blitz from cigarette  manufacturing giants I think… I smoked for decades and quit tobacco instantly the moment I tried “vaping”. I’m not twitching or loosing breath yet but I have less muscle aches, less acidity internally and more energy these days. Between two evils I’d opt for the digital type then lessen my nicotine levels then totally quit.

To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.

Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:

c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City,Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94