E-cigarettes, also known as electronic cigarettes, have become a popular alternative to smoking the real deal, but the pros and cons of turning to this futuristic alternative are still under debate. Are e-cigarettes really any better than smoking a cigarette? Here are seven reasons e-cigarettes pose dangers to our health.
The effects of e-cigarettes are nowhere near as well-documented as cigarettes.
The e-cigarette industry is already worth billions of dollars, but there is nowhere near as much information on e-cigarettes as tobacco products. This is alarming, since the tobacco industry also lived under a veil of scientific obscurity for decades until the detrimental health effects of cigarettes became well-known. Many people think e-cigarettes are a safer alternative, but that belief remains scientifically unproven, and evidence continues to come out saying e-cigarettes have toxic effects.
E-cigarettes contain plenty of cancerous chemicals.
By smoking e-cigarette vapor, people hope to avoid the cancerous chemicals inhaled from burning tobacco. Yet, e-cigarettes carry their fair share of toxic chemicals, too. Here’s a summary from the American Lung Association.
“In 2009, the FDA conducted lab tests and found detectable levels of toxic cancer-causing chemicals, including an ingredient used in antifreeze, in two leading brands of e-cigarettes and 18 various cartridges. A 2014 study found that e-cigarettes with a higher voltage level have higher amounts of formaldehyde, a carcinogen. It is urgent for FDA to begin its regulatory oversight of e-cigarettes, which would require ingredient disclosure to FDA, warning labels and youth access restrictions.”
Also, a 2013 study from the German Cancer Institute detected 8 different toxic chemicals in various e-cigarette liquids. And because the e-cigarette industry remains largely unregulated, the chemicals found in e-cigarettes aren’t uniform across the market. Some products may be less toxic than others, but without enough research or regulation it’s hard to know.
E-cigarettes might be just as addictive as tobacco.
E-cigarettes and tobacco products have the same highly addictive drug: nicotine. E-cigarettes derive nicotine from traditional cigarettes, delivering the same drug in a smokeless (vapor) form. In July, Daily Mail reported on a study by the American University of Beirut and the Center for the Study of Tobacco Products which demonstrated e-cigarettes contained highly addictive forms of nicotine. E-cigarettes might not have the same carcinogenic materials as cigarettes (like tar), but nicotine still fosters addiction.
E-cigarettes have negative effects on lungs.
A supposed benefit of e-cigarettes is inhaling vapor instead of smoke. However, e-cigarette vapor is turning out to have a destructive effect on the lungs. A recent July analysis by the University of Athens claimed that “using an e-cigarette caused an instant increase in airway resistance that lasted for 10 minutes.” Put simply, smoking e-cigarettes unhealthily constrains your airways.
Additionally, a study published in May by Indiana University showed that even nicotine-free e-cigarette vapor has damaging effects on the endothelial cells of the lungs. Endothelial cells protect the lungs from infections, so damaging them can’t be good for your immune system.
E-cigarettes won’t help you quit.
A lot of people vape e-cigarettes because they think it will help them kick their addiction. But recent research, including a comprehensive study by UC San Francisco, show that e-cigarettes don’t provide any extra help in quitting smoking. After surveying 849 smokers, the researchers found that users of e-cigarettes weren’t more likely to quit smoking.
“We found that there was no difference in the rate of quitting between smokers who used an e-cigarette and those who did not,” said head researcher Dr. Pamela Ling, a professor at the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at UC San Francisco.
E-cigarettes might create the equivalent of secondhand smoke.
Even if you don’t smoke, avoiding smokers is good for your health. But the American Lung Association point out e-cigarettes can also create the equivalent of toxic secondhand smoke, secondhand vapor.
“Also unknown is what the potential harm may be to people exposed to secondhand emissions from e-cigarettes. Two initial studies have found formaldehyde, benzene and tobacco-specific nitrosamines (all carcinogens) coming from those secondhand emissions. Other studies have shown that chemicals exhaled by users also contain formaldehyde, acetaldehyde and other potential irritants. While there is a great deal more to learn about these products, it is clear that there is much to be concerned about, especially in the absence of FDA oversight.”
E-cigarettes could be a gateway into tobacco products for youth.
The tobacco industry spends millions of dollars advertising to youth, and it turns out e-cigarettes might be helping convince young people to smoke nicotine. Here’s a summary of studies from the American Lung Association.
“The American Lung Association is concerned about e-cigarettes becoming a gateway to regular cigarettes, especially in light of the aggressive industry marketing tactics targeted at youth—including the use of candy flavors and the glamorization of e-cigarette use. Studies are showing a dramatic increase in usage of e-cigarettes, especially among youth. For the first time ever, a national study released in December 2014 found e-cigarette use among teens exceeds traditional cigarette smoking. The study also found that e-cigarette use among 8th and 10th graders was double that of traditional cigarette smoking. CDC studies have also shown e-cigarette use among high school students increased by 61 percent from 2012 to 2013.”
Another study, conducted this August by the University of Southern California, found that teenagers who try e-cigarettes are more likely to smoke tobacco. The researchers sampled 2,500 9th graders who had never smoked a cigarette, finding those who tried vaping e-cigarettes were 23 percent more likely to smoke a tobacco cigarette over those who had never tried an e-cig. On top of that, one-fourth of the surveyed youth who tried e-cigarettes admitted to smoking tobacco cigarettes within the last 6 months.
UPDATE: In response to the backlash surrounding this article, including a blog post by Reason, I’ve written an op-ed.
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