Are E-Cigarettes Bad For You?
E cigs, vapor cigarettes, smokeless cigarettes, fake cigarettes, electronic cigarettes – whatever you want to call them, they’re gaining in popularity but are they bad for you? If you follow our Health and Fitness News you might’ve seen that they’ve been in the news quite a bit lately. The Centers For Disease Control has found that E Cigs have been gaining in popularity amongst adolescents from sixth to twelfth grade (1) and a French study has found that E Cigarettes contain certain levels of carcinogens comparable to levels found in regular cigarettes – formalydehyde anyone (2)?
What Are E Cigs?
We’ll start from the beginning: Electronic cigarettes have grown to be a popular substitute for traditional smokers. The device uses an electronic heating element that vaporizes a liquid solution to either release nicotine, flavored vapor, or both. The concept is that one will get their nicotine fix without the plethora of chemicals that are well documented in regular cigarettes.
What is in E Cigs?
To understand the E Cigarette, we need to understand what it’s components are. With that, we’ve got one big problem. There are so many different brands out there and each brand can contain a different nicotine cartridge. According to How Stuff works, the liquid solution that fills the cartridge is propylene glycol and glycerol (3). Other studies and research has confirmed their article. Out of the many chemicals that are found in E Cigarettes, three major components of the vaporizer have been identified: propylene glycol, nicotine, and glycerine (5). A couple of other common chemicals include tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs) and diethylene glycol (5).
One study identified the chemical diethylene glycol as being highly toxic. This chemical is highly toxic and was responsible in poisoning epidemics in the early 20th century. It’s actually so toxic, it’s not allowed in food or drugs at all (10).
Are E Cigarettes Healthy?
Of all the analysis done on E Cigs thus far, there’s no question about it – E Cigarettes contain toxins. It’s just hard to say how many toxins they contain. Each brand is different and each nicotine cartridge is different. However, are the toxins the same as conventional cigarettes? Not according to the current research. One study looked at major E Cig brands to find that the levels of toxins were anywhere between 9-450 times lower in toxins than the traditional cigarette (4). It’s a big difference between the numbers, but again all brands are different. Another study found that the levels of TSNA’s were anywhere from 500-1400 percent less than in regular cigarettes (5).
On the flip side to reduction in toxins, a study released by France’s National Consumer Institute analyzed 10 different E Cigarette brands. They found that 3 out of 10 of them contained “a significant quantity of carcinogenic molecules.” The study also found that the E Cigarettes contained levels of formaldehyde and acrolein that were almost equal to levels found in standard cigarettes (2).
Okay, so is E Cigarette vaporization toxic to your body?
In a petri dish, yes. In your body? The only conclusive thing that research has to show so far is that, nobody really knows how bad E Cigarettes are. Back to the petri-dish thing. In a lab dish chemicals found in E Cigarette dish were cytotoxic (bad for your cells) but the study did state that they were remarkably more safe than regular cigarettes (11).
There’s also one other thing to address: nicotine is highly toxic – and even lethal in high doses. The notion that E Cigarettes are completely safe for the body should be disregarded.
Now, back to the propylene glycol which we mentioned earlier in the article. In addition to being used to make the vapor from E Cigarettes it’s commonly used in theatre smoke. A couple of things about this – a major industrial company that makes the stuff recommends that inhalation of the vapor be avoided (10). Also, another study looked at 101 people and their personal “fog” exposure. What the study found was that the propylene glycol theatrical fog had the potential to generate acute and chronic respiratory effects including reduced lung function (10). An additional study also revealed that E Cigarettes were found to have “immediate adverse physiologic effects after short-term use that are similar to some of the effects seen with tobacco smoking.” The caveat? The study also stated that the long term-effects of E Cig use is not known and needs to be further investigated (16).
In addition to lung issues, there is also one documented case out there involving an elderly woman having heart issues after smoking E Cigarettes. According to the study published in the Journal, a woman developed an irregular heartbeat known as atrial fibrillation (17). Atrial fibrillation is a potentially deadly heart rhythm as it’s the most common cause of strokes. Now this doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a link between E Cigarettes and heart arrhythmias but the study did suggest the need for caution when it comes to physicians recommending the devices to elderly patients – as well as the need for further research.
Second Hand Smoke From E Cigarettes?
So what about second hand smoke, er, I mean vapor? The vapor exhaled is clearly no comparison to that of regular cigarettes. There is a huge myth surrounding E Cigarettes though that they’re absolutely free of second hand “smoke.” If you frequently vaporize indoors one study showed that nicotine residue did stick to walls after vaporization. Over time the nicotine reacted in the air with nitrous acid to form carcinogens (10). Another study put out from the Journal of Indoor Air also confirmed that indeed, nicotine, as well as other chemicals were released into the air after smoking (9). Thus, you are exposing you – and your friends to toxins. Just how bad is it? Nobody really knows yet because there’s not enough research. Plus, aside from the nicotine, there’s all the other chemicals that are being put into the air through exhalation.
Are E Cigarettes Safe During Pregnancy?
No. Nicotine causes arterial constriction which can restrict blood flow. The decrease in blood flow and lead to decreased oxygen and nutrient levels to the fetus. Smoking nothing is the only safe bet. There’s also that formaldehyde
Do E Cigarettes Help People Quit Smoking?
To sum it up nicely, a review of all the literature out there regarding the safety of E Cigarettes found that, “despite many positive findings from surveys among e-cigarettes users, there is need for comprehensive state-of-the-at clinical trials to show efficacy of e-cigarette as smoking cessation tool. (12,14)”
If you’re a reader, you’re probably a lot like me where you may have come across several people in your life who swear that Electronic Cigarettes have helped them to quit smoking. If it has, that’s a good thing, and more power to you. So far, a lot of the research out there has been done on relatively small groups of people. Here is what some of the other research is saying: One study showed alternative tobacco products as a whole didn’t promote smoking cessation but E Cigarettes showed the most promise (6). There has been little direct research that have directly studied the effectiveness of helping people reduce but what is out there is promising.
There’s one more thing to consider:
What’s known about smoking is that sometimes it’s the physical/psychological act of smoking that people prefer. Some studies of E Cigs have included ones without nicotine and they were found to be effective at helping people reduce traditional cigarette smoking (5). It’s no secret that for some people smoking is mental which is why medications like nicotine patches or gum leave it hard for people to quit smoking. A small study (of only 40 participants) showed that use of use of the E Cigarette substantially decreased cigarette consumption without causing significant side effects in smokers not intending to quit (7). In an additional study, 300 smokers who had no intentions of quitting, the use of e-cigarettes, with or without nicotine, decreased cigarette consumption and elicited enduring tobacco abstinence without causing significant side effects (8).
There is a possibility that E Cigarettes may help some people curb their regular cigarette addiction. But do you get the same amount of nicotine as you normally would? It doesn’t seem as likely. One study found that 10 puffs on one brand of electronic cigarettes delivered a small amount of nicotine, “far less than a tobacco cigarette (5).” Another study found that fifteen puffs on an E Cigarette is considerably lower than a regular cigarette (13).
Who Owns Electronic Cigarettes?
Based on the research out there at this time, it’s safe to say that Electronic Cigarettes offer less chemical exposure than traditional cigarettes but can we trust that there are no harmful side effects, especially when it comes to the long-term? I mean, it wasn’t really that long ago when the tobacco industry was saying that traditional cigarettes were perfectly healthy.
In 2012, the most popular E Cigarette, Blu, was purchased by the tobacco company Lorillard (makers of Newport, Kent, True, Old Gold, and Maverick Cigarettes). Reynolds Cigarettes – the second largest U.S tobacco company and producers of Camel, Kool, Capri, Winston, and Natural American Spirit – have stepped up it’s marketing campaign of its E Cigarette, Vuse. Finally we have Altira, the largest U.S. tobacco company and makers of Marlboro joining the game late, but nonetheless coming out with their own brand of Electronic Cigarettes (15).
In 2012, traditional cigarette sales were down 6% as a whole and Electronic Cigarettes are partly to blame for that (15). As the popularity in this product continues to rise and as big tobacco catches on, can we trust them to say that these are good for you, once again?
Summing Up The Safety Of E Cigarettes
1. There is no long-term research out there showing the health risks associated with vaporizing.
2. There is little clinical research and the research that has been done involves relatively small clinical trials so therefore, the official verdict is still out as to whether or not E Cigarettes help people quit smoking.
3. The little research available suggests that although fake cigarettes do contain toxins, so far they are nowhere near as harmful as regular cigarettes.
4. Nobody really wants extra toxins in their home or around their infants or loved ones. Side effects do happen with E Cigarettes and research is non-existent on the long term effects of vaporization. Use E Cigarettes at your own discretion.
If E Cigarettes have helped you to quit smoking, I’d love to hear from you.
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1. Jaslow, Ryan. “E Cigarette Use Doubles Among Teen Students, Says CDC.” CBS News. 5 September 2013. Web. 5 September 2013.
2. Pfeiffer, Eric. “Study Says E-Cigarettes May Contain Carcinogens Similar To Regular Cigarettes.” Yahoo! News. 27 August 2013. Web. 27 August 2013.
3. Cassidy, Susan. “How Electronic Cigarettes Work.” How Stuff Works. 26 October 2011. Web. 5 September 2013.
4. Benowitz N., Gawron M., Goniewicz M., Havel C., Jablonska-Czapla M., Jacop P 3rd., Knysak J., Kosmider L., Kurek J., Prokopowicz A., Rosik-Dulewska C. “Levels Of Selected Carcinogens And Toxicants In Vapour From Electronic Cigarettes.” Journal of Tobacco Control (2013): n. pag. Web. 5 September 2013.
5. Cahn Z., Siegel M. “Electronic Cigarettes As A Harm Reduction Strategy For Tobacco Control: A Step Forward Or A Repeat Of Past Mistakes?” Journal of Public Health Policy (2011): n. pag. Web. 5 September 2013.
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7. Campagna D., Caponetto P., Morjaria JB., Papale G., Polosa R., Russo C. “Effect Of An Electronic Nicotine Delivery Device (E-Cigarette) On Smoking Reduction And Cessation: A Prospective 6-Month Pilot Study.” BMC Public Health Journal (2011): n. pag. Web. 5 September 2013.
8. Campagna D., Caponetto P., Ciebella F., Carusso M., Morjaria JB., Polosa R., Russo C. “Efficiency And Safety Of An Electronic Eigarette (ECLAT) As Tobacco Cigarettes Substitute: A Prospective 12-Month Randomized Control Design Study.” PLOS One (2013): n. pag. Web. 5 September 2013.
9. Markewitz D., Salthammer T., Schirpp T., Uhde E. “Does E-Cigarette Consumption Cause Passive Vaping?” Indoor Air – A Journal Of Indoor Environment and Health (2013). Volume 23. Issue 1. Pages 25-31.
10. Darville A., Hahn EJ., Lee K., Riker CA. “E-Cigarettes: Promise Or Peril?” The Nursing Clinics Of North America (2012): n. pag. Web. 5 September 2013.
11. Allifranchini E., Bocchietto E., Esposito M., Farsalinos KE., Romagna G., Todeschi S. “Cytotoxicity Evaluation Of Electronic Cigarette Vapor Extract On Cultured Mammalian Fibroblasts (Clearstream-Life): Comparison With Tobacco Cigarette Smoke Extract.” Journal Of Inhalation Toxicology (2013): n. pag. Web. 5 September 2013.
12. Goniewicz ML., Knysak J., Kosmider L., Sobczak A. “Electronic Cigarette — A Safe Substitute For Tobacco Or A New Threat?” Przegla̧d lekarski (Medical Review) (2012): n. pag. Web. 5 September 2013.
13. Gawron M., Goniewicz ML., Knysak J., Kosmider L., Kuma T. “Nicotine Levels In Electronic Cigarettes.” Journal Of Nicotine and Tobacco Research (2013): n. pag. Web. 5 September 2013.
14. Bullen C., Glover M., Laugesen M., McRobbie H., Thornley S. “Effect Of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Device (E Cigarette) On Desire To Smoke And Withdrawal, User Preferences, and Nicotine Delivery: Randomized Cross-Over Trial.” Journal Of Tobacco Control (2010): n. pag. Web. 5 September 2013.
15. Kamerow D. “Big Tobacco Lights Up E-Cigarettes” BMJ Group (2013): n. pag. Web. 5 September 2013.
16. Anagostopoulous N., Behrakis PK., Connolly GN., Evangelopoulou V., Kouglas M., Vardavas CI. “Short-term Pulmonary Effects Of Using An Electronic Cigarette: Impact On Respiratory Flow Resistance, Imbedance, and Exhaled Nitric Oxide.” Chest Journal (2012): n. pag. Web. 5 September 2013.
17. Hommel E., Monroy A., Mukaila R., Smith ST. “Paroxysmal Atrial Fibrillation Following Electronic Cigarette Use In An Elderly Woman.” Clinical Geriatrics – A Clinical Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (2012). Volume 20. Number 3. 28-32.