Each year in North America, 480,000 people die from smoking related diseases.
And, I can guess we all have that one friend who cant’ give up their tobacco addiction.
I don’t think I need to be the one to tell you how vulnerable they are to the severe health problems from complications of smoking.
But when you start badgering them to stop smoking, they may pick up an e cig or vaporizer and justify it with “It’s safe, it’s not a real cigarette with all of those bad chemicals.”
I’m not a smoker but I would think that most individuals who put the cigarettes down think that vaping is safe and not harmful.
And though they think they are taking a step towards quitting, 76.8% of e-cigarette users go back to conventional cigarettes. Or they may have never actually left the habit.
Reuters found 75% of people who use electronic cigarettes or other vaporizing devices continue to also smoke traditional tobacco products.
But is vaping really safe? What are the dangers of vaping and e-cigs? Are there any side effects of vaping? And, is vaping safer than smoking?
These were all questions I had.
So I wanted to put together a post to go over these side effects and explain to you the chemicals in electronic cigarettes and compare vaping vs smoking.
But before we take a closer look into the toxicity of e-cigarettes, let’s take a look at what these devices really are.
What Are E-cigarettes?
An estimated 52.9 million people in North America currently smoke cigarettes. I already mentioned almost half a million people die each year from smoking related diseases.
Which is why…
Researchers have continuously tried to design alternatives for smoking without the dangerous side effects.
Vaporizing all started when a Chinese pharmacist named Hon Lik, invented e-cigarettes in Beijing in 2003. He wanted an alternative to classic cigarettes after his father passed away.
He intended to help people quit smoking after his father passed from lung cancer, how ironic!
It had taken a few years for the United States to catch onto the e-cigarette bandwagon since they were introduced in 2006-2007.
Despite many unanswered questions on their safety, efficacy and impact on public health, e-cigarettes have rapidly penetrated into the Unites States markets.
Today, nearly 500 brands and 7,700 flavors of e-cigarettes are available in the market; they have become a hot new trend among young smokers.
The population of “vapers” is now up to roughly 10% of U.S. adults and 15% of U.S. adults under the age of 40. These numbers are on the rise since the U.S. government estimated this at about 2.6% in 2013!
Vaping is on the rise…
Current data suggests that this $1.7 billion vaping market can easily take over the tobacco industry within the next decade.
Such outstanding sales targets are only based on faulty marketing and advertising gimmicks.
E-cigarettes are often marketed as tobacco-free nicotine delivery devices. Main advertising claims attract e-cigarette users (especially teens) by marketing vape pens as:
- 95% healthier
- 93% cheaper
- 95% cleaner than traditional cigarettes
- Can be smoked anywhere
- Does not produce secondhand smoke
- The modern smoking trend
This is how they work…
These electronic cigarettes are handheld devices that vaporize a flavored liquid called e-liquid.
They are battery operated inhalers that heat up an element which then heats up the e-liquid and eventually releases chemical filled vapors for inhalation.
The user draws air through the device activating a battery that powers the production of a toxic aerosol (not a water or nicotine free vapor) from the e-liquid containing nicotine and flavorings.
E-cigarettes are an Electronic Nicotine Delivery System (ENDS) claiming to be tobacco-free, hence suggesting that they are safer than traditional cigarettes.
This process of using an e-cigarette is called “vaping”.
Your thought process…
Are these alternatives as safe as they claim? Will they really help people to quit smoking?
Let’s take a look at smoking vs vaping and the dangers of vaping along with the concerning health factors in question.
Are E-cigarettes Safer?
The FDA has decided to start regulating e-cigarettes like other tobacco products beginning August 8, 2016 because of their potential health risks.
To view the FDA’s stand on hookah pens, vaporizers, e-pipes, etc. click here.
Alternative tobacco products such as e-cigarettes may cause serious health problems, including cancer due to the chemicals and toxins present in the e-liquid.
According to the 2013 review by The Group to Alleviate Smoking Pollution (GASP) there is enough evidence showing e-cigarette liquids contains 42 harmful chemicals that are known to cause health effects, are toxic, or may cause cancer.
Apart from nicotine the liquid also contains toxins such as
- Benzene (known to cause leukemia)
- Diethyl Glycol (affects your nervous system, lungs, and heart)
Dr. Ron Chapman, State Health Officer and director of the California Department of Public Health says:
Let’s take a look at some of these harmful, cancer causing chemicals found in e-cigs.
Nicotine is an addictive drug commonly found in tobacco leaves. Each traditional cigarette contains about 10 milligrams of nicotine.
Here’s a scary nicotine fact…
A single drop of pure nicotine on your tongue could actually kill you?
Luckily, smokers only take up only 1 to 2 milligrams of this drug per cigarette.
Nicotine is known to stimulate your central nervous system resulting in the rise of:
- Blood pressure
- Heart rate
Almost all e-cigarettes contain nicotine. E-cigarettes do not contain a nicotine free vapor. Some claim to be nicotine-free which actually contain its primary metabolite called cotinine, which has similar side effects as nicotine.
FDA lab tests confirm that
- Cartridges labeled as nicotine-free had traceable levels of nicotine (2009).
- The amount of nicotine delivered by e-cigarettes of the same brand and strength shows inconsistent data and is not regulated (2014).
It also has effects on the development and functioning of your brain.
Studies reveal that nicotine increases the risk of developing psychiatric disorders, cognitive impairment and attention deficit disorders in smokers.
Because it acts directly on the pathways involved in cognitive control, development of the prefrontal cortex during adolescence may be affected by nicotine exposure.
While e-cigarettes were originally made with negligible traces of this drug, newer varieties today are designed with a higher voltage to deliver a greater concentration of nicotine.
Maciej Goniewicz, a tobacco and e-cigarette expert at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, N.Y. says:
“People smoke because of the nicotine.”
Can E-cigs Cause Cancer?
Carcinogens are substances or hazardous exposures that are capable of causing cancer.
Studies performed by the FDA indicate detectable levels of carcinogens in the two leading brands of e-cigarettes.
Formaldehyde and Acetaldehyde are two carcinogens that are released by e-cigarettes when heated by the batteries when set at a high voltage.
Jonathan Thornburg from RTI International in Research Triangle Park, N.C. says:
“The mass of particles in the vapors is about 3 milligrams per cubic meter of air, he says, or about 100 times as high as the Environmental Protection Agency’s 24-hour exposure limit for levels of fine air particles. Thornburg’s group’s analyses predict that some 40 percent of these inhaled particles would deposit in the lungs’ smallest, deepest airways.”
Another study suggested the incremental lifetime cancer risk associated with long-term vaping and inhaling formaldehyde is 15 times higher when vaping at 5.0 volts.
Think about this…
Wouldn’t you agree that an alternative that also leads to cancer, sort of defeats the purpose of having an alternative itself?
The e-cigarette vaping liquid also contains chemical flavorings and food preservatives.
The addition of such flavors masks the unpleasant taste of e-cigarettes.
Although these food additives are classifies as generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the FDA, they have not been proven safe for inhalation.
Currently e-cigarettes are manufactured in almost 7,700 different flavors, the most common among them being:
- Fruit Squirts
- Cotton Candy
- Double Apple
- Blue Water Punch
Diacetyl is an e-cigarette flavoring agent which is linked to obstructive lung disease when inhaled.
In a study on rats, when inhaling diacetyl the mice saw a loss of >10% body weight. Other mice suffered from rhinitis (hay fever) and laryngitis, and bronchitis. The amounts of diacetyl that the rats could withstand was between 50ppm – 100ppm. Concentrations above 100ppm resulted in death of the mice.
I could not find any studies on the limits in ppm for humans. I think that would be a little unethical…
But, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health evaluated the presence of diacetyl, acetyl propionyl and acetoin in 51 vape and e-cig flavors.
They found at least 1 of these chemicals in 92% of the samples, with 76% containing diacetyl.
Despite these results…
The tobacco industry continues to aggressively glamorize the use of e-cigarette in commercials and offers them in candy flavors to attract younger adults and teenagers.
In a report from Monitoring The Future (dot) org, of about 50,000 students across 400 schools resulted in nearly 4,500 (9%) of eighth-graders, 8,000 (16%) of 10th-graders and 8,500 (17%) of high school seniors said they had inhaled an e-cigarette or “vaped” in the past month.
This is alarming…
As of March 2015 kids can also easily buy e-cigarettes online. Got a credit card and a shipping address? Great, you can have vapes shipped to your home even under the age of 18.
Shocking facts like these is what pushes The Nutritional Source to educate and write posts like this.
Apart from the above mentioned toxins, e-cigarettes also release gaseous forms of particulates and metals such as lead, arsenic, copper, aluminum and nickel.
A 2013 study indicated that nickel occurs in concentrations 2 to 100 times more in e-cigarettes compared regular cigarettes.
E-cigarettes and vapes have also been found to have similar levels of toxins and cancer causing particles as regular cigarettes.
The good thing is that these metals are found to actually be less than the Permissible Daily Exposure (PDE) when inhaled from e-cigs.
Lead, nickel, strontium, tin, zinc, copper, and other metals are all found in electronic cigarettes. The levels of these inhaled in the toxic aerosol range from >5 to >10,000 levels lower than the safety limits.
Although they are less than the safety limits, the remaining toxins and chemicals are a concern.
If you are a nonsmoker why would you start vaping? After reading this research, it has no health benefits and toxins including:
- Cancer causing chemicals
- Unnecessary metals
Try using FDA-approved methods to quit smoking such as nicotine patches and gums.
Consult your physician before you take any step towards dealing with your tobacco addiction. Some cities like Boston, Los Angeles and New York have passed laws against the public use of e-cigarettes in public areas.
The FDA has proposed new regulations to take effect in August of 2016 that extends its authority over many tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.
E-cigarettes have not been around for long enough to be able to determine all the harmful side effects. Based on current studies, that’s enough for me to not want to pick up the vaping habit.
Unfortunately many adults and teenagers are under the impression that vaping is safe and can effectively help people to quit smoking.
Moral of the story…
Ditch the smokes and e-cigarettes and choose other safer methods to overcome your tobacco addiction.
Have you ever smoked an e-cig or have friends who do? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below!