Today, a ton of people are now well aware that traditional cigarettes or tobacco cigarettes can cause diseases such as cancer, emphysema, and chronic bronchitis. The cigarettes themselves as well as cigarette smoke can also be responsible for a number of additional health concerns such as coronary heart disease, fatty buildup within the arteries, lung disease, and so much more. But what about e-cigarettes? They’re different so they must be healthier, right? Continue reading as we answer the commonly asked question, “Are e-cigarettes safe?”
What is an e-cigarette?
You may have heard the term “vaping” before. Vaping is just another way to illustrate the use of e-cigarettes. To use an e-cigarette or vape pen, an individual will first add an e-liquid into their
device, which is heated by an internal battery and turned into a vapor that can be inhaled. To purchase an e-cigarette, the user must be 18 years or older. IDs should be checked before the purchase of e-cigarette products. While it is not the same thing as smoking a traditional cigarette, there are many places that ban both cigarette smoking as well as vaping in public locations.
E-liquids are known for offering appealing flavorings ranging from fruit to sweets such as watermelon, mixed berries, peanut butter cookie, and even espresso or grape soda. This has made e-cigarettes increase in popularity among the younger generation. In fact, as many as 11% of high school students were users of electronic nicotine delivery devices in 2016. However, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), e-liquids often contain nicotine, propylene glycol, and other potentially harmful ingredients.
For many previous cigarette users, e-cigarettes became an alternative to regular cigarettes. Often marketed as a “safer” alternative to traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes still have a fair amount of nicotine and other chemicals. It is also extremely important to note that the FDA has not approved the use of e-cigarettes as a way to stop smoking. This could likely be because of the unknown harmful effects of the ingredients that are burned to create the vapor within e-cigarettes.
The top three cigarette brands in the U.S. are Marlboro, Newport, and Camel. The Marlboro brand contains anywhere from 0.5–1.1 mg of nicotine per cigarette or 10–22 mg of nicotine per pack. Newport’s brand of cigarettes contain anywhere from 0.8-1.6 mg of nicotine per cigarette or 16–32 mg of nicotine per pack. Camel contains anywhere from 0.7-1.2 mg of nicotine per cigarette or 14–24 mg of nicotine per pack. Although e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco, their nicotine content can be quite high, which helps lead to or maintains an already established nicotine addiction.
Nicotine can be problematic for those who suffer from heart conditions and diseases. On top of becoming heavily dependent of nicotine, chemicals within e-liquids can potentially be harmful as well. Inhaling vapor and chemicals burned through an e-cigarette device can make breathing increasingly difficult over time. Chemicals such as diacetyl sometimes show up in e-cigarettes because of their use of flavoring. According to the American Heart Association, e-cigarettes containing diacetyl have been linked to bronchiolitis obliterans, also known as “popcorn lung.” Symptoms include dry cough, shortness of breath, inflammation, and scarring of the lung tissue. Damage from popcorn lung remains permanent.
Those who are pregnant should not turn to e-cigarettes as an alternative to smoking regular cigarettes. Again, the risk of maintaining a nicotine addiction is high and can be passed along to the developing fetus. Those who are pregnant or nursing should stay away from nicotine products altogether.
Overall, e-cigarettes have only recently become available to the U.S. This means that there isn’t a large amount of research on e-cigarettes and their long term effects or health risks. Without a ton of research, it is difficult to say absolutely, “Yes!” when answering the question, “Are e-cigarettes safe?” The fact is e-cigarettes are not approved by the FDA and components within them have been linked to other health concerns. Today, many associations are attempting to find ways to better regulate e-cigarettes for human consumption but the guidelines are still not quite set in stone.