E-Cigs: What Do We Know

Do a search online for facts regarding the negative and positive attributes of e-cigarettes and regular tobacco cigarettes. Depending on the website, you can find varying information. Given that there are billions upon billions of dollars associated with the sale of cigarettes, the tobacco industry has spent equally as much over the last 50 years or so, defending the benign qualities of cigarettes, initially, and then continued marketing even after the dangers were common household discussions. If electronic cigarettes become a popular substitute for traditional cigarettes, that industry could potentially become very lucrative as well. It is always advisable to do extensive research when seeking information on any topic but, one should always take into account the motive, if any, of the information provider. In doing research for this article, we were mindful of our efforts in obtaining information from sources that do not have a monetary stake in the argument or an emotional one.

When it comes to tobacco, facts are plentiful regarding the health hazards associated with smoking, dipping snuff or chewing. This product has been well researched and even the tobacco companies, today, can no longer claim it is harmless. As reported by the American Cancer Society, cigarettes, cigars, and pipe tobacco are made from dried tobacco leaves with ingredients added for flavor and to make smoking more pleasant. The smoke from these products is a complex mixture of chemicals produced by the burning of tobacco and its additives. Tobacco smoke is made up of more than 7,000 chemicals, including over 70 known to cause cancer (carcinogens). Some of these substances cause heart and lung diseases and all of them can be deadly. You might be surprised to know some of the chemicals found in tobacco smoke include:

  • Cyanide
  • Benzene
  • Formaldehyde
  • Methanol (wood alcohol)
  • Acetylene (the fuel used in welding torches)
  • Ammonia

Tobacco smoke also contains tar and the poisonous gases carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide. We could include more negative qualities of tobacco use but this list seems impressive enough.

In regards to the safety of electronic cigarette use, research is on-going and there are no absolute conclusions. However, this is what the National Institute on Drug Abuse had to say:

  • While e-cigarettes are often promoted as safer alternatives to traditional cigarettes, which deliver nicotine by burning tobacco, little is actually known yet about the health risks of using these devices.

Wording continues at this site stating possible health hazards in regards to the liquid used in e-cigarettes to flavor the vapor and deliver nicotine:

  • E-cigarettes are designed to simulate the act of tobacco smoking by producing an appealingly flavored aerosol that looks and feels like tobacco smoke and delivers nicotine but with less of the toxic chemicals produced by burning tobacco leaves. Because they deliver nicotine without burning tobacco, e-cigarettes appear as if they may be a safer, less toxic alternative to conventional cigarettes. Although they do not produce tobacco smoke, e-cigarettes still contain nicotine and other potentially harmful chemicals. Nicotine is a highly addictive drug, and recent research suggests nicotine exposure may also prime the brain to become addicted to other substances. Also, testing of some e-cigarette products found the vapor to contain known carcinogens and toxic chemicals (such as formaldehyde and acetaldehyde), as well as potentially toxic metal nanoparticles from the vaporizing mechanism. The health consequences of repeated exposure to these chemicals are not yet clear. Another worry is the refillable cartridges used by some e-cigarettes. Users may expose themselves to potentially toxic levels of nicotine when refilling them. Cartridges could also be filled with substances other than nicotine, thus possibly serving as a new and potentially dangerous way to deliver other drugs.

In regards to definitive information relating to the hazards of electronic cigarettes, it seems the jury is still out. Research is being done but there are no facts to offer as yet. We do know however that nicotine is the addictive agent in traditional cigarettes and can be quite harmful in large doses. Although e-cigarettes can be used minus the nicotine, testing is still being done on the possibility of additional chemicals one may inhale while vaping. Take a look at this video offered by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iz67IqkLwYs&feature=youtu.be

We all know of someone we would love to see give up smoking. There are many aids on the market to assist in doing so. Some, like the nicotine patch even contain nicotine. The question is, can e-cigarettes be one of those smoking cessation aids? Or are they just as dangerous as tobacco cigarettes? This is a question that the “informed” consumer needs to answer. It’s clear however that we need to continue to follow the research done on e-cigarettes to determine the risks.

American Cancer Society http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/tobaccocancer/questionsaboutsmokingtobaccoandhealth/questionsabout-smoking-tobacco-and-health-cancer-and-health

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/health_effects/effects_cig_smoking/index.htm

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,

Medline Plus Medical Encyclopedia

National Institute on Drug Abuse