Substance Abuse

Benefits and Dangers of Using E-Cigarettes

As people became more aware of the dangers of smoking tobacco, as proven by the increasing number of deaths due to lung cancer, e-cigarettes may be the solution that smokers have been waiting for. If you are thinking about using e-cigarettes, we will list down the pros and cons of using this controversial device.

What is an Electronic Cigarette?

An electronic cigarette or e-cigarette is an electronic device that makes use of flavored chemicals that vaporize when used. The vapor produced by the e-cigarette is inhaled by the user, hence the term “vaping”.

The liquid used in electronic cigarettes is usually made of propylene glycol, glycerine, nicotine and flavorings. However, not all e-cigarettes contain nicotine.

A lot of people don’t see e-cigarette use as a fad; in fact, manufacturers see it as a great potential for a new market. The popularity of e-cigarette use surged in the mid 2000s. Manufacturers from different countries created their own versions, outwitting each other on how they could come up with the best design to encourage smokers to switch from the traditional tobacco smoking to vaping.

To date, e-cigarette sales have skyrocketed into a billion-dollar business.

Chemicals in E-cigarettes

e-cigarettes electronic cigarette smoke

A paper published in the Environmental Science and Technology revealed that there are different levels of harmful chemicals found in e-cigarettes made by different manufacturers.

A test conducted at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory used two different e-cigarettes and simulated vaping using different power settings. Analyzing the vapor emitted by the e-cigarettes, the research team discovered 31 harmful chemicals, including 2 cancer-causing compounds.

The chemicals produced vary on the temperature by which the liquid is vaporized by the heating coil of the device. It is safe to say that that higher the temperature inside the coil, the higher the amount of chemicals emitted by the e-cigarettes.

In 2009, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that some e-cigarettes sold in the market contain diethylene glycol, an ingredient used in antifreeze. In 2015, it was found that aerosols from e-cigarettes contain formaldehyde, which is also found in cigarette smoke.

Acrolein, an eye and respiratory irritant, was recently found in e-cigarettes at 0.46 micrograms on the first five puffs. As the heat increases, the e-cigarette emits much more acrolein per puff. Compared to the traditional cigarette, the mount of acrolein released in e-cigarette is much less.

GASP of Colorado (Group to Alleviate Smoking Pollution) has identified 42 chemicals found in e-cigarette vapor. Here’s a list of the e-cigarette chemicals that the group discovered:

2-butanone (MEK) Lead
2-furaldehyde Limonene
Acetaldehyde m,p-Xyelen
Acetic acid Magnesium
Acetone Manganese
Acrolein Nickel
Aluminum Nicotine
Barium N-Nitrosonornicotine
Benzene o-Methylbenzaldehyde
Boron p,m-Xylene
Butanal Phenol
Butyl hydroxyl toluene Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
Cadmium Potassium
Chromium Propanal
Copper Propylene Glycol
Crotonaldehyde Sulfur
Diethylene Glycol Tin
Formaldehyde Toluene
Glyoxal Valeraldehyde
Iron Zinc
Isoprene Zirconium

Benefits of E-cigarettes

E-cigarettes are marketed to help longtime smokers who want to quit smoking. Although some e-cigarettes contain nicotine, Cancer Research UK says that the level in e-cigarettes is a lot safer than that produced by burning tobacco, in which toxins produced are the primary cause of disease and death.

Ever since e-cigarette was introduced in the market, there has been a significant decrease in the number of tobacco users. According to a study from the University College of London, roughly 18,000 people have improved their likelihood of smoking cessation in 2015.

In terms of secondhand smoke emitted by e-cigarettes, reports said that it is safer than the secondhand smoke emitted by traditional cigarettes.

E-cigarette manufacturers claim the following benefits of e-cigarette use over using traditional tobacco:

Odor

Considering that e-cigarettes produce vapors, they are relatively odorless. Traditional cigarette smell is very distinct, and can cling to clothes, fingers, or inside the car. The burning tar in cigarette is responsible for that awful smell that non-smokers would almost always complain about.

Cost

Traditional smoking may be more expensive than using e-cigarettes. Tobacco smokers may be spending thousands of dollars each year.

In contrast, for as long as the electronic cigarette device is working, the user only needs to buy the e-liquid. One container of e-liquid can last longer compared to the number of tobacco cigarette sticks consumed in a day.

Apart from the cost of each cigarette stick is the need to mask off the unfavorable smell coming out from the mouth of smokers. They would need to use breath fresheners or packs of gum to hide the “smoker’s scent”.

This can also cause stains on teeth, which would cost a lot of money to whiten. Much worse, it may lead to unhealthy oral conditions that can make the teeth fall from its sockets if not given proper care.

Social

More companies have become conscientious with regards to providing a smoke-free environment because of the hazards that traditional smoking can have – increase in absenteeism, loss in productivity and increase of health costs.

It is less likely that smokers and non-smokers would be comfortable in the same room because of the difference on their take on human health. A non-smoker would prefer to breathe fresher air than be with a smoker who puffs cigarettes the whole time.

Safety

Lighting e-cigarettes does not pose any fire hazards compared to traditional cigarettes. There have been many cases where the cause of fire was from lighting a cigarette, whether it’s from a lit match or failure to properly dispose cigarette butts. E-cigarettes would not cause fire when used, since they run on batteries.

Health

E-cigarettes may not be considered as a remedy for tobacco addiction. However, a higher risk of having different forms of cancers has been linked more to traditional cigarette use than e-cigarettes. Some conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease have also been associated with traditional cigarette smoking use.

E-cigarette users see that the device is helpful in terms of cost and consequences. The ability to lessen the impact of health issues is one of the reasons that encourage individuals to prefer e-cigarettes over traditional cigarettes.

Dangers of E-cigarette Use

e-cigarette use secondhand smoke

In some way, using e-cigarettes to replace traditional tobacco smoking may be helpful to some, most especially to those who opt to use e-liquids that contain less harmful substances.

However, some people fear that e-cigarettes may be encouraging the younger crowd to get into the smoking habit because some e-cigarettes do not contain nicotine found to be harmful in tobacco smoking.

Main danger: chemical components

E-cigarette manufacturers may focus too much on the growth of their businesses without much thought that the chemicals in e-cigarette liquids can also lead to serious health risks.

Despite the favorable flavors that e-liquids have, they contain chemicals that can cause health issues to smokers, as well as to non-smokers exposed to vapors from e-cigarettes.

Nicotine is not the only chemical that we should be concerned about with regards to smoking. In fact, out of the sheer number of chemicals found in e-cigarette vapor, half of them can significantly affect the health of users and people exposed to secondhand e-cigarette smoke.

Here are some of the chemicals from e-cigarettes, and the dangers that they pose:

Acetyldehyde

It is a poisonous solvent and is used as a paint stripper. Short-term exposure to this chemical may cause irritation of the eyes, skin, and respiratory tract.

It is also known to be a contributing factor to certain cancers from long-term use. Symptoms are similar to alcohol intoxication.

Cadmium

It is a toxic metal that is used in car batteries. Chronic inhalation or oral ingestion of cadmium may result to build-up of the substance in the kidneys, and may lead to kidney diseases.

Diethylene Glycol

It is a chemical used in antifreeze. It is capable of causing eye and respiratory tract infection, as well as cause reproductive and fetal malformation.

Formaldehyde

It is a preservative used for dead bodies. Some household products may also contain this chemical. Chronic exposure may lead to nasopharyngeal cancer and leukemia.

Isoprene

This is one of the chemicals used in making synthetic rubber. It is considered to be carcinogenic to humans.

Lead

Lead is a naturally occurring element that does not have any beneficial use. Worse, it can cause serious health conditions with long-term exposure in both humans and animals.

Nicotine

Chronic exposure to nicotine may affect the nervous system and may cause heart problems.

Nickel

Only a small amount of nickel may be beneficial for both humans and animals. However, chronic nickel exposure may lead to a skin condition call nickel dermatitis, which can cause itching of fingers, hands and forearms.

Benzene

This is found in gasoline and pesticides. Chronic exposure has been known to cause various blood disorders and may affect the reproductive system in women most especially those who are conceiving at the time of exposure.

Facts and Figures on E-cigarette Use

e-cigarettes liquid dangers

The proliferation of e-cigarettes in the market has caused a tremendous increase in teen smoking. Although they may pose less health risks than traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes should not be considered a solution to smoking cessation.

A recent study has shown that as young as 8th graders have become daily users of e-cigarettes. Here are some disturbing figures on e-cigarette use, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse:

Grade Level Cigarette Users E-cigarette Users
8th Graders 3.6% 9.5%
10th Graders 6.4% 14%
12th Graders 11.4% 16.2%
  • Teens who start out young in using e-cigarettes are also most likely to use tobacco. More than 30 percent of e-cigarette users started smoking within 6 months.
  • Boys are two times more likely to use e-cigarettes than girls.
  • Roughly 7 out of 10 teens are exposed to e-cigarette ads.
  • About 66 percent of teens use e-cigarettes.

Are E-cigarettes Safe?

E-cigarettes may be advertised to help smokers quit smoking and get rid of the addiction from nicotine. While it’s true that e-cigarettes may pose fewer risks than traditional smoking, it should not be seen as a safer way of smoking. This is because the liquid in e-cigarettes contains harmful chemicals that can cause health problems.

E-cigarette use has not been prescribed by any physician to stop tobacco smokers. Nicotine patches are still the primary alternative to nicotine consumption, which should eventually help smokers to slowly quit smoking. With e-cigarette use, a smoker may not find the desire to stop because the habit of smoking remains, and may still be exposed to harmful chemicals.

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