Many are concerned over the debate as to the safety of electronic cigarettes. While some argue over speculation, studies have not proven that e-cigarettes are unsafe.
Evidence has shown the harm caused by tobacco products. Not only are cigarettes linked to serious diseases like lung cancer, heart disease, and stroke, but they are also linked to chronic conditions like asthma, allergies, and other respiratory illnesses. In order to avoid these health complications, many smokers have turned to e-cigarettes to get the nicotine they need, while avoiding the tar, smoke, and carcinogens found in tobacco. Some health officials have pointed out that e-cigarettes may not be any better than tobacco products, as they aren’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. However, studies have not shown that e-cigarettes are as harmful as tobacco products, and other studies have even shown that they may be useful tools in helping smokers kick the habit.
What are E-Cigarettes?
Before understanding how e-cigarettes may impact health, it’s important to know what it is they do, and what they don’t do. E-cigarettes contain no actual smoke. Instead, they rely on a heating element which transforms liquid (usually purified water and either propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, or both) into vapor. This vapor offers the feel of a cigarette being smoked, but it doesn’t contain tar, smoke, or most of the chemicals found in tobacco smoke. Where cigarettes contain sometimes hundreds or thousands of potentially harmful ingredients, e-cigarettes usually only contain four: water, propylene glycol, glycerin, and some type of flavoring. Nicotine is also included, which is how e-cigarettes may help some quit actual tobacco products. However, unlike cigarettes, e-liquid offers nicotine in varying strengths. Users can choose the level of nicotine they prefer, or opt for zero nicotine content.
Are E-Cigarettes Harmful?
While e-cigarettes don’t contain many ingredients, and the ones they do contain are typically harmless, some doctors have been hesitant to recommend them to patients who are trying to quit. There are a couple of main concerns when it comes to electronic cigarettes:
Nicotine: E-cigarettes still contain nicotine, in varying amounts (if nicotine content is selected). While nicotine is an addictive drug, its effects are not the same as harder drugs. In fact, its effects on most people are similar to those of caffeine, another stimulant drug that most adults consume every day in coffee, tea, or soda. While some assume that the nicotine in e-cigarettes is synthetic, and thereby potentially more harmful than the naturally occurring nicotine in tobacco, this is false. The same nicotine is found in tobacco, e-cigarettes, and other nicotine replacement therapies.
The act of Combustion: Some argue that e-cigarettes haven’t been around long enough for studies to have proven that they are harmless. While the ingredients themselves aren’t harmful, it is speculated that some chemical compounds may form during the heating process. However, since there is no flame, there is no combustion.
What do Studies Actually Say?
According to WebMD, studies so far have shown that e-cigarette use is likely far less harmful than the use of tobacco products. The main issue with cigarettes is the smoke, and e-cigarettes don’t produce smoke during use. Other studies have shown that e-cigarettes do help current smokers quit.
Additionally, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence and the Medicines Healthcare Regulatory Association agree that e-cigarettes are safer than tobacco products for those who smoke. While their long-term use hasn’t been studied extensively (namely because e-cigarettes are a relatively new invention), all studies thus far indicate that they are a far better option than smoking tobacco.