28 March 20
Electronic Cigarettes and vaping have become a normal part of our society’s daily terminology in the past couple of years. Advertisements for them abound, and vaping shops have begun to pop up everywhere. There are untold number of websites selling electronic cigarettes, and there are high profits to be made. Electronic cigarettes have been touted as a healthy alternative to smoking, or a non-addictive social activity. The multiple flavors available make the activity seem fun and harmless. While the advertising makes certain claims about how healthy electronic cigarettes are, companies have been known to stretch the truth or outright lie in order to increase sales. In determining the safety of electronic cigarettes, it is important we look at both the claims that have been made as well as the medical evidence available to make an educated decision. Once the evidence is reviewed, it will become obvious that electronic cigarettes are harmful to the user’s health.
Arguments For and Against
Although the WHO does not recommend using electronic cigarettes for smoking cessation aids, many people do so. Siegel, Tanwar and Wood (n.p.) found that after 6 months, 31% of electronic cigarette users had abstained from smoking; for those who had not abstained, 66.8% said they had reduced how many cigarettes they were smoking. 48.8% reported maintaining abstinence from cigarettes for a period of time (Siegel, Tanwar and Wood n.p.). The study found that those who use electronic cigarettes more than 20 times in a day had a higher quit rate, at 70% (Siegel, Tanwar and Wood n.p.).
While electronic cigarettes may help cigarette user’s quick smoking, they are simply switching one addiction for another. Both e-cigarettes and regular cigarettes are addictive because of the nicotine they contain. E-cigarettes are simply a way to deliver pure nicotine to one’s system (Partnership for Drug-Free Kids n.p.). This delivery of pure nicotine can prime people to become more easily addicted to other drugs, especially cocaine, since nicotine and cocaine combine for a more intense high (Partnership for Drug-Free Kids n.p.). This means that using e-cigarettes in lieu of regular cigarettes is nothing more than switching addictions, as well as opening oneself up for more addiction issues.
Manufacturers of electronic cigarettes argue that their product does not have as many negative effects as regular cigarettes. For instance, My Vapor Store states on its website that there is no tobacco in e-cigarettes, and tobacco is the leading cause of smoking related deaths (Myvaporstore.com n.p.). They also assert that electronic cigarettes contain less chemicals, and therefore create less issues with second hand smoke (Myvaporstore.com n.p.). A 2013 study found that e-cigarettes contained between 9 and 450 times lower amounts of carcinogens than actual cigarettes (Goniewicz et al. n.p.). While this seems like evidence for the claim that e-cigarettes are not harmful, the truth may be otherwise.
Admittedly, there may be some benefits of e-cigarettes over regular cigarettes, which does not mitigate the reality that they still have adverse health effects. One issue is actually highlighted by the 2013 study showing lower amount of carcinogens. The wide range of differences in different brands of e-cigarettes is telling of the fact that there is no regulation (Fairchild n.p.). Different brands, or even different batches, can contain different amounts of nicotine, carcinogens, and contaminants (Fairchild n.p.). While this may at first not seem like a big deal, lack of oversite means that there is no control on what can be put into e-cigarettes. This in itself should be cause for concern. The American Cancer Society also points out that nicotine is still harmful to fetal development, and can cause birth defects (American Lung Association n.p.). In 2009 the FDA conducted lab tests on various e-cigarette. They found detectable levels of carcinogens; these include an ingredient from antifreeze (American Lung Association n.p.). A 2014 study found that the higher voltage e-cigarettes have, the higher amount of formaldehyde in them (American Lung Association n.p.).
Second hand smoke is a major consideration with regular cigarettes since it can cause cancer just like inhaling smoke. E-cigarette manufacturers claim that vapor from e-cigarettes being harmful like regular cigarette smoke is a myth. The claim is that vapor is just vapor, and therefore cannot contain chemicals harmful to those around the person using the e-cigarette (Learn.eversmoke.com n.p.). They say it has “no smell, no lingering odor, or anything to it that will offend bystanders” (Learn.eversmoke.com n.p.).
The e-cigarette manufacturer’s arguments about second hand vapors not being harmful is a weak one. Claiming that a lack of odor means that the vapor is not harmful falls very shirt of scientific evidence. This may be because scientific evidence shows that the true myth is that second hand vapors are not harmful. The American Lung Association says that two studies have found benzene, formaldehyde and nitrosamines that are tobacco-specific coming from e-cigarette vapors (American Lung Association n.p.). Every one of these items is a carcinogen. John Hopkins recently did an experiment on mice where they exposed them to second hand vapors from e-cigarettes. Mice exposed to the vapor were more susceptible to repertory infections (Caba n.p.). Some even died as a result of being exposed to pneumonia and being unable to use their natural systems to fight it off because of being compromised by the e-cigarette vapor (Caba n.p.). The hypothesis is that e-cigarettes vapor’s contain free radicals, such as found in regular cigarette smoke, which cause cell death by damaging molecules and DNA found in cells (Caba n.p.). While the vapor may be less harmful than second hand cigarette smoke, it is still harmful. People who choose to abstain from any kind of cigarettes should avoid the vapors of e-cigarettes just like they would regular cigarettes, lest they suffer adverse health effects as a result of inhaling the vapor.
The arguments for and against electronic cigarettes are many. It is a fair assessment to say that if one was going to choose to between smoking cigarettes and using electronic cigarettes, it would be advisable to choose electronic cigarettes. With that said, that does not make electronic cigarettes safe. It simply makes them safer. They still contain nicotine, which is addictive and can cause birth defects. There is no federal oversite, so the manufacturers are free to put whatever they want into the electronic cigarette and no disclose it to the public. This makes for a varied e-cigarette experience that may run from pure nicotine, to a product high in carcinogens. Even the second hand vapors are harmful to others, just like cigarette smoke. While they may be a slightly better alternative to cigarettes, they still have enough detrimental health concerns to be questioned. No matter how one looks at the issue, electronic cigarettes are not the healthy alternative they try to claim to be. They are harmful to both the user and those around them, and their use should be highly questioned.
American Lung Association,. 'American Lung Association Statement On E-Cigarettes - American Lung Association'. N.p., 2015. Web. 25 July 2015.
Caba, Justin. 'A New Worry: E-Cigarettes' Secondhand Vapor'. Medical Daily. N.p., 2015. Web. 25 July 2015.
Fairchild, Amy. 'THE CASE FOR OR AGAINST E-CIGARETTES: WHAT THE SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH SAYS | Feature Stories | Cancer Prevention National Newsletter And Web Site'. Nypcancerprevention.org. N.p., 2015. Web. 25 July 2015.
Goniewicz, M. L. et al. 'Levels Of Selected Carcinogens And Toxicants In Vapour From Electronic Cigarettes'. Tobacco Control 23.2 (2013): 133-139. Web.
Learn.eversmoke.com,. 'History Of The Electronic Cigarette'. N.p., 2015. Web. 25 July 2015.
Myvaporstore.com,. 'Why Are E-Cigarettes Better Than Tobacco Cigarettes?'. N.p., 2015. Web. 25 July 2015.
Partnership for Drug-Free Kids,. 'E-Cigarettes May Increase Risk Of Addiction To Cocaine And Other Drugs: Researchers - Partnership For Drug-Free Kids'. N.p., 2014. Web. 25 July 2015.
Siegel, Michael B., Kerry L. Tanwar, and Kathleen S. Wood. 'Electronic Cigarettes As A Smoking-Cessation Tool'. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 40.4 (2011): 472-475. Web.