The fact that there are millions of people around the world who use and enjoy electronic cigarettes, doesn’t mean that everyone’s happy about them being around. There are plenty of people and organizations that will whip out research data faster than you can say ‘e-cig’, to prove that these are dangerous and unsafe devices. At the same time, there a few studies that prove e-cigarettes to be safer and healthier alternatives to tobacco cigs. Let’s take a look at some of the popular points of view from both sides of the debate.
What do E-Cigarettes Contain?
Well, the answer to that question depends on which side of the debate you are on. For the pro-e-ciggers, these analog lookalikes are practically harmless devices – completely devoid of tobacco and related carcinogens. According to Thomas Kiklas, director of the Tobacco Vapor Electronic Cigarette Association, e-cig liquid contains only five ingredients – water, nicotine, propylene glycol, glycerol and flavorings. So it’s pure nicotine vapor that is not smoked but ‘vaped’. The absence of other chemicals makes them much safer than traditional cigarettes, he says.
The opposing point of view on this matter is just as strong. The FDA, in their analysis of the devices, did find trace amounts of toxic substances and carcinogens in several of the samples tested. Yet another study revealed that ‘passive vaping’ isn’t all that safe either. German researchers reported in the July edition of Indoor Air that e-cigarettes may emit volatile organic compounds, aerosols and nicotine, which means it isn’t the best idea to be standing around a vaper. Another worry is that since e-cigarettes are largely manufactured and imported from China, there could be very little quality control over processes. Nicotine levels may not always be as indicated, and contamination in propylene glycol could also be a major problem.
Others prefer to take a more ‘cat-on-the-wall’ approach to this issue. They don’t want to call e-cigs safe or unsafe, until more ‘responsible’ research is conducted.
Do E-Cigarettes Help People Quit Smoking?
Again, yes and no. When electronic cigarettes were first introduced, they were priced at approximately $200. That price has come down quite drastically in recent times – you can now buy a new unit for about one-tenth the price or less. In the long run, they even work out cheaper than using tobacco. Many vapers vouch for the fact that they enjoy the taste of e-cigs more than that of tobacco. The variety of flavors that e-liquid comes in, do helps too. In fact, a survey revealed that 31% of those who responded were ex-smokers who had completely replaced their analogs with e-cigs and 67% had cut back on smoking.
But then here are many who do not go by these statistics, arguing that the biggest use people get out of electronic cigarettes is as a ‘bridge product’. E-cigarettes help people dodge smoking laws, they claim. According to David Abrams, executive director of the Schroeder Institute, this only means that people will avoid or delay quitting tobacco. The ease of availability of e-cigs also makes sure that they are accessible to young kids who might not otherwise have considered smoking. Studies show that young adults are attracted to the large variety of e-liquid flavors, and over 50% of them are likely to accept one if offered by a friend. According to Kiklas, however, United States retailers do try their best not to sell the product to kids.
Are E-Cigarettes Bad for You?
Mixed answers are what you will get with this question, as well. Unfortunately, today there exist studies that have proven either version to be true. For instance, a very recent study conducted by the University of Athens showed that the use of electronic cigarettes caused a ‘significant airway resistance’ (breathing problem) after just 10 minutes of use. They tested the device on 8 non-smokers and 11 smokers with a healthy lung function. Yet another study coming out of Greece, from the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center, Athens, found that e-cigarettes do not pose any threat to the heart. 20 young people were observed before and after smoking a cigarette, as were 22 others before and after using an e-cig for 7 minutes. While the tobacco cig caused disruptions in the study subjects, the electronic unit did not.
The FDA were not happy with what they found inside the e-cigarettes they tested, so they tried to regulate it as a drug-delivery device. However, a ruling by a federal judge did not give them the authority to do so. It was recently decided that e-cigs would be regulated as tobacco devices instead. With so much of ambiguity going on about the apparent safety, or lack thereof, of electronic cigarettes, the best would be to just wait and watch for long term research evidence. Until then we would have to make do with the fact that e-cigarettes may not be completely safe, but definitely less dangerous than analogs. After all, thousands claim that although vaping feels just like smoking, their bodies feel much better.