Are E-cigs the Healthy Alternative to Smoking?
Get the info before you vape at the next party
You've seen them around, maybe you've even had a hit of your friend's vape pen. All the cool kids are doing it - maybe. And, there's no actual smoke so they have to be safe, right? Weeeellll, maybe safe isn't the right word. For those who currently smoke and are trying to transition away from cigarettes, safer may be the agreed upon term. But, even with that, for those who are picking up a JUUL (or any e-cig) but have never smoked before, it's still not the best idea.
So, let's break it down and talk about some of the facts about electronic cigarettes.
- They don't create actual smoke. That's true, and that's why they are safer. But, the vapor also isn't just steam. It's heated e-juice, which is made of propylene glycol and/or glycerin (1). Many different research studies have found that when heated, like in an ecig or vape pen, these chemicals can cause lung irritation (2). They can also turn into formaldehyde when heated, which has its own health worries, like cancer (6). Dow chemical, a company that makes chemicals for a living, even says propylene glycol shouldn't be inhaled (1). Along these lines, because this vapor isn't completely harmless, vaping in enclosed areas or around kids also probably isn't the best idea.
- They come in a myriad of different flavors. While this might make them more appealing the chemicals that are used to create these flavors can cause some harm to your body, too. Research has found that certain flavors change the way a heart beats (4), can cause cells to become inflamed (3), and they can deposit nanoparticles (which are just very tiny pieces of dust or smoke or metal) into your lungs (3). One study even found that these responses are worsened when flavor chemicals are combined, like to create creme brulee or tutti frutti (3).You weren't really hoping tutti frutti flavor came from real berries were you?
- Because they don't burn tobacco leaves, they don't create tar (1). True, but they do still create a lot of different things you breathe in. Some of those substances include copper, tin, chromium, and nickel, which all can harm your health (3).
- They are a nicotine delivery system. While that sounds pretty technical, that's exactly what they do. And, it's good to remember that nicotine is a pretty addictive substance. It can also cause high blood pressure, impair brain development, and increase chances of addiction to other drugs (5).
- Instead of fire from a match or lighter, they have a heating element. This could be seen as an improvement and lowered risk of things catching on fire. In some brands the intensity of the heating element can be controlled, which has both benefits and drawbacks. It means that the user has more control over the amount of nicotine they get on one hit, but it can also heat the e-juice to levels that are less safe (1).
So, what does knowing all of this mean? Bottom line, yes, ecigs are safer for your personal health than cigarettes. But, in general, are they safe, not really. They still funnel particles other than air into your lungs. They still have a slew of unsafe chemicals in them. They still give you a hit of nicotine, which is an extremely addictive substance. And, because they have a heating element, there is still a chance that they can burn or catch on fire. Do what you want with that info, you are well informed adults, just be responsible.
- E-cigarettes: Good news, bad news - Harvard Health Blog - Harvard ... ›
- E-Cigs and Second-Hand Vaping - Scientific American ›
- How healthy vaping e-cigs is compared to smoking cigarettes ... ›