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01:11 AM January 30th, 2013

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By: Linda Bolido, January 30th, 2013 01:11 AM

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 lbolido@inquirer.com.ph

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