E-cigarettes are being hailed as a safe alternative to traditional smoking by several companies. While the marketing for e-cigarettes and the act of “vaping” ramps up, more and more outlandish claims are being made by the producers of these electronic devices, and people are “vaping” in droves in an attempt to leave the world of cigarettes behind. Simply put, there are associated dangers of smoking e cigarettes that many people, especially those already entrenched in the community, might not be aware of.
Many researchers are not looking at e-cigarettes and their mechanism of action to try and understand whether or not they are truly a healthy alternative to cigarette smoking. The increased popularity of the devices is of particular interest, as well. According to a report released by the NCBI, “Data obtained from the HealthStyles survey showed that, in the US, awareness of ECs rose from 40.9–57.9% from 2010 to 2011, with EC use rising from 3.3–6.2% over the same time period.” The high rate of popularity, which is growing daily, is of concern to some researchers. Not only has the health benefits not been properly researched, but in some cases, e-cigarettes could act as a gateway to traditional smoking for teens and young adults who wouldn't have otherwise picked up cigarettes. Simply put the safety and efficacy of cigarettes is not yet known, just as the safety and efficacy of traditional cigarette smoking was not yet known when it first became popular.
What is in an E-cigarette?
One of the major dangers of smoking e cigarettes is that you simply don't know what is in them. These devices, in most cases, are not regulated and weird chemicals are being used in many of the offerings currently on the market. Currently, there are about 250 different e-cig manufacturers. Studies have shown that many e-cigs utilize something calling “diethylene glycol” as an agent for delivering nicotine through vapor. Diethylene glycol is a common ingredient in antifreeze.
Propylene gylcol is also commonly used. Proplyene gylcol is a commonly used sanitation agent. Neither compound is considered safe for ingestion, although whether or not inhalation is safe remains to be scene. These are lab created compounds, and thus may have negative effects on the human body. While not all e-cig manufacturers utilize such products, to be far, many do, and they are not required to release that information to the public. “Green” e-cig companies are utilizing vegetable glycerin to ensure their e-cigs remain all-natural, however, these companies are in the minority, not the majority.
If you are wondering what is actually in an e-cigarette, the short answer is; you just don't know. According to TechHive, e-cigs remain a largely unregulated commodity. Like many vitamin supplements, the companies that manufacture e-cigs do not have to send their products through the FDA for approval. This means anything could really be in those cigarettes by the time they hit the market. There is no restriction by the FDA at this time, but many believe regulations will come at some point; the question is simply when.
Can E-cigarettes Help you Quit Smoking?
One claim that many e-cigarette companies have tried to make is that “vaping” is not only safer than smoking, but it can help individuals quit smoking traditional cigarettes. While some studies have suggested that e-cigs could potentially help with smoking cessation, tried and true evidence of its efficacy are not available. According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, “There haven’t been any scientific studies that prove e-cigs actually help people to quit smoking. There is also concern that using e-cigs may lead kids to start smoking regular cigarettes.”
Many studies have been done on cessation success with the use of e-cigs as a tool, all studies have found that nicotine gum and/or patches are likely a better choice for those looking to quit smoking. The reasons are fairly simple and straight forward. By continuing to inhale a nicotine vapor, the psychological attachment to smoking remains intact. This does not happen with gums or patches because there is no inhalation. The psychological habit is broken at the same time that the addiction to smoking is. The step-down method that is employed by these two systems has been shown to be effective. The same can not be said for e-cigs and vaping. Several researchers have concluded that e-cigs may serve as an alternative to smoking, long-term, but they do not appear to be effective at smoking cessation or breaking the addiction to nicotine. Success in those looking to quit smoking may be more about personal desire to quit than the use of an actual e-cig, according to some researchers.
Are E-cigarettes Safe?
The short answer is, science simply does not know. The devices haven't been on the market long enough to truly tests for all of the dangers of smoking e cigarettes, and those currently utilizing vaping products are the first generation to do so. What we do know is that there are chemicals with unknown effects on the human body that go into many e-cigs, and this could be potentially problematic. There is also a grave concern that one of the dangers of smoking e cigarettes is simply that it will act as a gateway for young smokers. The sweet flavored e-cigs currently on the market could draw in a younger group of smokers, an issue that state and federal regulators have been trying to stop for many years now.
Without regulation it is hard to decide whether or not e-cigarettes are safe, but what we do know is that there are some associated dangers of smoking e cigarettes, and some unknowns that could be problematic later down the line. E-cigarettes are very likely on the docket for regulation in the near future, and this could be helpful in placing strict safety regulations on the industry. Until then, however, the e-cigarette market is a bit of a “wild west” and unscrupulous companies do exist in the space. At this point, it can be said that e-cigarettes are a “buyer beware” product, as we don't know all of the associated dangers of smoking e cigarettes just yet.