Are Electronic Cigarettes Safer Than Regular Cigarettes?
Myth

Vaping is safer than smoking tobacco (there is research that shows clearly that electronic cigarettes are safer than regular cigarettes).

Is Vaping Safer than Smoking? Are eCigarettes Safer Than Regular Cigarettes?

Studies have shown that both vaping and smoking tobacco are harmful. There is no conclusive evidence that shows that electronic cigarettes are safer than tobacco cigarettes. This isn’t to say there is no difference between tobacco and vaping, or that vaping doesn’t have potential cessation qualities, it is only to say that neither is safe, both are addictive, and one is not clearly better than the other.[1][2][3]

For example, a study was done by the University of Rochester which looked at 59 studies done on eLiquid and eCigarettes. It clearly found that electronic cigarettes posed health risks. As the study concludes, more studies need to be done, but what is shown so far is rather telling… and that is just the problem. We know both tobacco smoking and vaping e-liquid nicotine problems are bad, but where we know the longterm negative effects of tobacco the longterm risks of vaping are still unknown.

The gist of this article and the dangers of vaping vs. tobacco can be summed up by this quote:

“Vaping still means pumping your blood steam full of a toxic substance”. See: Vaping linked to host of new health risks.

Electronic cigarettes and health – the basics.

The Study That Shows Vaping eLiquid via eCigs is NOT Safe

Other debates and potential smoking cessation benefits aside, the following expert sums up everything you need to know about the health risks of eCigs.

The study “Vapors Produced by Electronic Cigarettes and E-Juices with Flavorings Induce Toxicity, Oxidative Stress, and Inflammatory Response in Lung Epithelial Cells and in Mouse Lung” found: “There are approximately 1015 free radicals in a puff of conventional cigarette smoke in addition to heavy metals nanoparticles which have also recently been shown in e-cig aerosols to similar levels per “puff” [10,16]. Heavy metals may undergo redox cycling and alter the oxidation state of the cell by potentiating the production of ROS [17]. It is expected that OX/ROS in aerosols of ENDS/e-cigs will have an impact on cellular oxidative stress, redox imbalance, and lung inflammation, but this is still not clear in vitro in lung cells and in vivo in lungs. We hypothesized that electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS)/e-cigs induce oxidative toxicity and inflammatory response by generation of ROS and alteration in redox GSH levels in lung cells in vitro and in vivo in mouse lung exposed to their aerosols, respectively.”[4]

What the above means in plain english: The above sounds very confusing on paper due to the density of technical words, so let us translate. Free radicals are molecules missing electrons. Oxidation is when free radicals steal electrons from healthy cells. They estimated one thousand billion free radicals per puff of eCig smoke (similar to tobacco). This is saying that “cellular oxidative stress, redox imbalance, and lung inflammation” (cell damage and inflation) seem to occur with eCigs and tobacco cigarettes, due to heavy metals and free radicals, in similar ways to tobacco, in tests on mice (we have different ethics for studying humans and it takes longer to get that data). The report goes in depth and shows a lot of deeper and darker information. It never says eCigs are worse than regular cigarettes, just that they both seem to be bad when we aggregate the studies done so far.

To temper the information above, this video and the following FDA studies go a little easier on eCigs. So check out the video below and the other information for more angles on the eCig vs. regular cig debate.

Smoking vs Vaping.

Is Vaping or Smoking “Safe”?

We don’t know with 100% certainty if vaping with an e-cigarettes is less dangerous than smoking a cigarette, or if e-liquid is less dangerous than tobacco, but we do know for sure that neither is “safe” (as illustrated clearly above).

According to the FDA: 

eCigarettes have not been fully studied, so consumers currently don’t know any of the following:

  • The potential risks of e-cigarettes when used as intended
  • How much nicotine or other potentially harmful chemicals are being inhaled during use
  • Whether there are any benefits associated with using these products

Additionally, it is not known whether e-cigarettes may lead young people to try other tobacco products, including conventional cigarettes, which are known to cause disease and lead to premature death.[1]

This video discusses 5 factoids on e-cigs.

What is Actually in eLiquid, is that Safe?

eLiquid (the stuff you put in an e-cigarette) is typically about 95% propylene glycol and glycerin and the rest water, nicotine, and flavorings. Nicotine is itself fairly toxic, and thus, it can’t be labeled “safe” no matter what intake mechanism one uses.

Propylene glycol and glycerin are generally thought of by the FDA as “safe”. Although, the safety of the rest of the ingredients heated and held in the lungs over a long period of time is not known (as studies like that take time). We do know preliminary tests show negative health benefits, and that the liquid itself is proven to be toxic when ingested.[8]

Other studies, like a Health New Zealand study, have shown trace amounts of toxicants in e-cigarette mist, but concluded it not harmful.[8]

TIP: When we aggregate studies we find some real dangers, but when we cherry pick studies we are left with no conclusive evidence. Remember how long it took to conclusively prove tobacco was bad. There is no logical reason to treat this differently in your mind given what we know so far.

What are the Risks of Electronic Cigarettes?

eCigarettes have been shown to potentially have some undesirable side effects. The FDA has received voluntary reports of adverse events that included hospitalization for illnesses such as:

  • pneumonia
  • congestive heart failure
  • disorientation
  • seizure
  • hypotension
  • other health problems

Whether e-cigarettes caused these reported adverse events is currently unknown.cite>[1]

Other Risks of Electronic Cigarettes

There is a risk of poison by e-liquid with young people. Scientists at the National Center on Environmental Health (NCEH) joined forces with OSH and the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) to study e-cigarettes. They concluded that poisoning due to conventional cigarettes was generally caused by young children eating them. In contrast, poisoning related to e-cigarettes involved the e-juice, and could occur by inhalation, or absorption through the skin or eyes as well as by ingestion.There is no scientific research that proves e-cigarettes are safer than regular tobacco cigarettes, but we know there are health risks.

There is a risk of more users, especially among young people. eCigarettes use among middle and high school students tripled from 2013 to 2014, according to data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) in today’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).[3]

Using both e-cigarettes and regular cigarettes (rather than quitting) could be worse than just smoking regular cigarettes. In 2013 about 1 in 5 U.S. smokers had tried an e-cigarette.

eCigarettes vapor can contain cancer-causing formaldehyde at levels up to 15 times higher than regular cigarettes.[5]

TIP: The long term effects of eCig usage is unnkown. The real first round of tests may be the mortality rates of heavy users. So consider not being part of that study.

This video from DNews gives its two cents on if eCigs are safer.

What are the Health Benefits of eCigarettes?

We don’t know if there are any benefits, but many believe that e-cigarettes can be used as a smoking cessation product (i.e. a product that can help one quit smoking). Despite this, some research shows that e-cigarettes may not be an effective means of tobacco cessation. The science is still out on this one, especially a solution that doesn’t involve nicotine laced eLiquid could have real potential.

Being Safer Than One of the Least Safe Things in America, Isn’t a Compliment

Nearly $300 billion a year is spent to combat the effects of smoking. 1 in 2 Americans who smoke die from smoking. Smoking is the #1 preventable cause of death in the United States of America.[5]

Are eCigarettes Covered By Health Insurance For Smoking Cessation?

eCigarettes are not proved to help quit smoking and aren’t covered as a form of smoking cessation. However, anyone with insurance has access to smoking cessation options at no out-of-pocket costs due to the Affordable Care Act.[5]

Smoking cessation options include:

  • Phone Counseling
  • Group Counseling
  • Individual Counseling
  • Tobacco Cessation and Nicotine Replacement medications (brand name or generic) similar to: inhalers, lozenges, gum (like Nicorette), and/or drugs like Wellbutrin and Chantix.

According to the American Cancer society, only 4 to 7 percent break the habit without some nicotine replacement or medication. Yet, only 25% are successful even with medicines.[7]

Tobacco and eCigarette Businesses Make Billions

Both the tobacco industry and the e-cigarette business make billions each year. Any study they fund, or studies funded by advocacy groups against them have a high chance of containing bias. This should be taken into account when listening to any given viewpoint or looking at any one specific study. Remember, there was no “conclusive, accepted evidence” that tobacco was deadly until around 1964. As e-cigarettes have become more popular, more instances of poisoning from them are being reported.[2]

There is a risk of more users, especially among young people. eCigarette use among middle and high school students tripled from 2013 to 2014, according to data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) in today’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).[3]

Using both electronic cigarettes and regular cigarettes (rather than quitting) could be worse than just smoking regular cigarettes. In 2013 about 1 in 5 U.S. smokers had tried an e-cigarette.[3]

eCigarette vapor can contain cancer-causing formaldehyde at levels up to 15 times higher than regular cigarettes.[5]

This video gives the view point that suggest eCigarettes aren’t “safe”, many people online disagree with the line of thinking shown in this video and the study it cites.

What are the Health Benefits of Electronic Cigarettes?

We don’t know if there are any benefits, but many believe that e-cigarettes can be used as a smoking cessation product (i.e. a product that can help one quit smoking). Despite this, some research has shown that they may not be an effective means of tobacco cessation.

Being Safer Than one of the Least Safe Things in America, Isn’t a Compliment

Nearly $300 billion a year is spent to combat the effects of smoking. 1 in 2 Americans who smoke die from smoking. Smoking is the #1 preventable cause of death in the United States of America.[5]

Are eCigarettes Covered By Health Insurance For Smoking Cessation?

eCigarettes are not proved to help quit smoking and aren’t covered as a form of smoking cessation. However, anyone with insurance has access to smoking cessation options at no out-of-pocket costs due to the Affordable Care Act.[5]

Smoking cessation options include:

  • Phone Counseling
  • Group Counseling
  • Individual Counseling
  • Tobacco Cessation and Nicotine Replacement medications, including brand name or generic drugs like: Inhalers, Lozenges, Gum like Nicorette, and/or drugs like Wellbutrin and Chantix.

According to the American Cancer society, only 4 to 7 percent of those addicted to nicotine are able to break the habit without some nicotine replacement or other medication. Even with medication, only 25% are successful.[7]



Conclusion

Neither vaping or nor smoking tobacco is safe or healthy. eCigarettes may be safer than traditional cigarettes, but there is no science-backed reason to think this… in fact, current studies hint that vaping is at least as unhealthy as smoking. Even if vaping was “safer”, it doesn’t mean much considering how “not safe” cigarettes are.

Important things to understand with further study will be (1) the consequences of their long term use, and (2) eCigarette’s potential as a smoking cessation aid. It isn’t easy to cut through all the big-tobacco funded studies to find truth, but looking at all of the studies together one can’t help but to conclude “any way you slice it, eCigs are not safe”.


References

  1. Electronic Cigarettes (e-Cigarettes)“. FDA.gov. Retrieved Oct 14, 2015.
  2. E-cigarette study sparks national attention around e-cigarettes and nicotine toxicity“. CDC.gov. Retrieved Oct 14, 2015.
  3. E-cigarette use triples among middle and high school students in just one year“. CDC.gov. Retrieved Oct 14, 2015.
  4. About one in five U.S. adult cigarette smokers have tried an electronic cigarette“. CDC.gov. Retrieved Oct 14, 2015.
  5. James Pankow, Ph.D.; Gregory Conley, J.D., M.B.A.; Eric Jacobs, Ph.D. “Hidden Formaldehyde in E-Cigarette Aerosols“. Jan. 22, 2015, New England Journal of Medicine. NEMJ.org. Retrieved Dec 13, 2015.
  6. ObamaCare and Smokers“. ObamaCareFacts.com. Retrieved Oct 14, 2015.
  7. A word about success rates for quitting smoking“. Cancer.org. Retrieved Oct 14, 2015.
  8. Peering through the mist: systematic review of what the chemistry of contaminants in electronic cigarettes tells us about health risks“. Biomedcentral.com. Retrieved Oct 14, 2015.
  9. The Reports of the Surgeon General The 1964 Report on Smoking and Health“. Profiles.nlm.nih.gov. Retrieved Oct 14, 2015.

Citations

  1. Vaping is Far from Harmless
  2. Vaping linked to host of new health risks
  3. New and Emerging Tobacco Products: Biomarkers of Exposure and Injury
  4. Vapors Produced by Electronic Cigarettes and E-Juices with Flavorings Induce Toxicity, Oxidative Stress, and Inflammatory Response in Lung Epithelial Cells and in Mouse Lung


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