Electronic cigarettes have been marketed over the past several years as being a healthier alternative to smoking the conventional cigarettes. This is because they have been heavily marketed as not containing many of the toxins found in the tobacco of cigarettes; the fact that nothing was actually lit on fire means that fewer toxins are released. For those who are trying to quit, e-cigarettes are seen as a viable tool to help them quit, particularly for those who have had problems with things like gum, patches and quitting cold turkey. However, like anything in life, e-cigs have their share of side effects and these issues are worth knowing about if you want to understand all of your options.
Known Side Effects
While e-cigs are seen as a healthy alternative, it is important to note that several side effects are known. How serious they are is a whole other matter and depends largely on how many e-cigs you down in a day and where you buy them.
- Has a strong effect on the heart, ramping up the chances of heart disease and heart attacks. Nicotine is the culprit here; in the cases of lung diseases, problems there are caused by the tar in cigarettes which is where electronic cigarettes have them beat. But it’s also worth pointing out that caffeine also has an impact on the heart and I don’t see many people advocating an end to coffee drinking!
- If the e-cigarette is broken, harmful components are released
- Some contain a component found in anti-freeze which can be very damaging to one’s health. Again though, it’s worth noting that this only happens if you are exposed to a great deal of the component over a long period of time. Furthermore, at least one study discovered that the amount was to the tune of 1% which isn’t really harmful at all. Still, it’s worth noting.
- Many also contain Tetramethylpyrazine which has been traced to causing brain damage. Many other products don’t; this is mostly a matter of quality control and again, unless you are using them to excess, this may not cause a problem anyway.
These are the known side effects of electronic cigarettes. There are plenty of unknowns, including how much nicotine is found in one brand or another, what other substances have been snuck into the product and, since they’ve only been out for half a dozen years or so, what the long-term health effects will be on users.
New Studies Into Electronic Cigarettes Reveals…
One of the big problems that electronic cigarettes have for discerning users is that very little study was ever done into the side effects and actual chemicals found in the products. While makers claim that they are nearly pure nicotine, a little bit of digging quickly revealed that many manufacturers put other things into the e-cigs; even nicotine placed in products which were marketed as being free from the substance!
But even in cases where the e-cigs do have as advertised, a big problem lies in quantity. Since electronic cigarettes are not regulated, there is no standard by which these products can be measured. This leads to many e-cigs having far too much nicotine in them which can cause a range of health issues. And because of the lack of regulation, you just never know what you’ll find: studies done a few years ago found all kinds of toxic ingredients including diethylene glycol-a substance used in antifreeze.
Other studies are also being conducted into just what kind of effect breathing vaporized nicotine has on the body. Researchers at UTSA will be spending the next year conducting research into what effects vaporized nicotine has on the human body since such a thing has yet to be done. Scholars are working with the idea that it may cause problems with the nervous system. This impacts daily living by increasing metabolism, causing trouble with exercise, prevents the cardiovascular system from regulating arterial pressure and decreases the brain’s ability to regulate blood flow. We don’t know if this is true yet, but this study will look into these possibly side effects. It will also look at the broader complications physiologically speaking and other public health concerns. Of course these studies alone won’t do it; once the findings are gathered, more precise work will be done into looking at dosages (how much is too much), how age impacts the user and other long-term effects.
The bottom line is that one of the big problems with ‘vaping’ is that there is just not enough information about them yet. There is very little regulation on what should be in the products and how much is too much of something. There is little manufacturing oversight and the FDA is still torn on what to label the projects as. So, the bottom line is that the side effect of electronic cigarettes is that we don’t know the full side effect list yet.
Compared to Conventional Cigarettes
Every new (or newish) product has unknown factors; it’s the nature of the beast when you are working with something that hasn’t even been out for a decade yet. Electronic cigarettes have their risk factors and things which we just cannot predict just yet. However, we do know the dangers of conventional cigarettes. The combustion of the tobacco found in rolled smokes include:
- The release of over 1,000 chemicals, many of them related to tar. These chemicals cause damage to the lungs, cardiovascular system, and brain. They also cause oral health problems, bad odor, sleeping issues (for some users), food issues, and can become a gateway to other substance abuse, though again it’s worth nothing that this is dependent on the user, not on the product
- The release of second hand smoke by conventional cigarettes is nearly as hazardous to those around the smoker as they are to the smoker. For example, in marriages where on partner smokes and the other one doesn’t, the other partner still has a vastly reduced lung capacity, no matter how active he or she is. It also causes a great deal of damage to children.
- Smoking shortens life spans; it’s estimated that for every cigarette you puff, you shorten your life by about 11 minutes. Quitting greatly improves your life span again.
- Smoking causes an estimated 90% of lung cancer deaths in men and 80% in women
- Increases the risk of coronary heart disease by between 2 and 4 times
- Smoking has been linked to almost a dozen forms of cancer, including kidney, lung, mouth, pancreas, stomach and bladder
- Linked to infertility, stillbirth, SIDS, and low birth weight and lower bone density in women.
When compared to the few worries about nicotine amounts in electronic cigarettes and the risks of other toxins sneaking in (and in smaller amounts), it’s no wonder that more users are agitating for greater electronic cigarette use over the conventional ones! And for every doctor who recommends the patch or gum, there’s another one saying the electronic cigarettes could be a good way to go instead of using these products, particularly if you have problems with them.
Many who do use these products are relieved to do so; they find that they can smoke less using them; they feel that there are too many chemicals in the ‘real’ cigarettes and some may find that quitting is easier to do while using these as a transitional tool. Most other smokers though simply prefer electronic cigarettes because they pack far less of a punch on the system than conventional cigarettes; none of the risks of conventional cigarettes are found in electronic cigarettes-it’s simply the health effect of nicotine.
Electronic cigarettes are a great tool for smokers to use if they want to break the conventional cigarette habit. They have far fewer chemicals released than the usual smokes, they are generally safer to be around, and they come in nice flavors which mean less of a stink. On the other hand, we don’t yet know what the health affects of regular electronic cigarettes are yet; there just aren’t enough conclusive studies out there yet and they haven’t been out long enough to see what long term health effects will be. If you are simply looking to get your nicotine fix, then electronic cigarettes are probably the best way to go because we know they don’t release over a thousand toxic chemicals! But if you’re looking to quit altogether, these devices probably won’t do it for you and you’re better quitting cold turkey, using therapy or finding other means. Good luck!