Are E-Cigarettes a Safe Alternative to Traditional Smoking?
Electronic cigarettes were introduced to the American market in 2007 as an alternative to regular, combustible tobacco cigarettes. They have been marketed as a way for smokers to be able to smoke in public places, as a cheaper substitute for traditional cigarettes, and as safer for your health.
The problem with these claims is that currently the e-cigarette market is not regulated the way traditional tobacco cigarettes are, leading a lot of health entities like the World Health Organization and the Mayo Clinic to warn consumers that this product may not be as safe or as beneficial an alternative as they claim to be.
If you are considering switching or adding electronic cigarettes to your routine, here are a few things you should be looking at:
• The Effect on Your Lungs
• Nicotine Vapor vs Tobacco
• Second Hand Smoke
• Other Concerns
The Effect on Your Lungs
Electronic cigarettes contain no tobacco; instead they have liquid nicotine which is heated and turns into a vapor which can then be easily inhaled. And since the additives in tobacco which contain carcinogens are believed to be the main reason why cigarettes cause lung cancer, the assumption is that the vapor of tobacco-less e-cigs will be much better for your health.
Unfortunately, there have never been any studies conducted to see whether inhaling the nicotine water vapor actually has health risks of its own. In general, doctors say that inhaling anything other than air into your lungs can cause health problems and lung irritation that users should beware of.
Nicotine Vapor vs Tobacco
Probably the biggest claim made by electronic cigarette companies is that they are better for your health because they do not contain tobacco, and as such they don’t contain the additives and the carcinogens associated with tobacco.
But since electronic cigarettes are not subject to regulations, there is actually no official record of what ingredients are in their nicotine vapor. According to the Mayo Clinic, when the FDA randomly tested samples of the nicotine liquid from two different major e-cig brands, they actually did discover additives with carcinogens. Until these companies are required to report and regulate their product’s ingredients, it might not be a good idea to just assume they are “safe.”
No Second Hand Smoke Effects?
Since e-cigs do not produce smoke, companies like BluCigs, NJOY, and ECigsBrand promote their product as though they also produce no negative health effects from second hand smoke. But as the previous two points have shown, since there have been no studies done on the potential negative effects and harmful ingredients of the nicotine vapor, this is also an unfounded assumption.
But there is another health concern related to the lack of second hand smoke – the fact that unlike traditional cigarettes, e-cigs can be used in public spaces, like airports, bars, and restaurants. This can lead to people who are used to abstaining from traditional cigarettes during flights or nights out to suddenly smoke far more frequently, and since the nicotine vapor may possibly include carcinogens, this could have serious unintentional health effects.
Another issue that isn’t often discussed is that since e-cigs are not a tobacco product there is no age limit for sales. This means that teenagers and even children under the age of 18 can purchase and use these products without penalty.
This could raise the level of youth exposure to nicotine, which not only means that lung damage would begin earlier, but also that prolonged long term exposure could also become more common.
The Bottom Line
Really the biggest issue with electronic cigarettes is simply that they are currently held to no regulations and are not required to meet any standards, which is never a good thing when it comes to a product you are putting inside your body.
At the end of the day, many experts believe that electronic cigarettes are likely safer than traditional, combustible cigarettes, but that is not the same as thinking they are safe or pose no health risks. A casual smoker of tobacco cigarettes who becomes a frequent smoker of vapor e-cigs may actually be doing themselves more harm than good.