According to CDC, tobacco is the main cause of preventable death, disability, and disease in the U.S. Approximately 40 million Americans continue to smoke, and 4.7 million students use one or several tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. Every year, in the U.S., smoking and secondhand smoke exposure account for 500,000 premature deaths and 16 million lives devastated by a serious smoking-related illness.
E-cigarettes aim to be the most effective solution for those who want to quit smoking. They have already gained an impressive popularity, FDA reporting that over 2 million students were already using them in 2016, and their use has been rising constantly throughout the past few years. But are they really safe and effective, or is it just a matter of time until scientists discover the long-term side effects? Keep reading to find out!
All about E-Cigs and Their Safety
The website of the National Cancer Institute’s Tobacco Control Research Branch, SmokeFree.gov, explains that e-cigarettes, also known as e-hookah and vapes, work by heating and vaporizing a liquid combination of chemicals and nicotine. When using e-cigs, people basically inhale and exhale those vapors.
Although some ads and websites promote e-cigs as the safest and most effective way to quit smoking, there is not enough evidence to support this theory. On the contrary, recent research suggests that the vapors contain harmful chemicals. Due to this research, the FDA has not yet approved and issued clear regulations.
On their website, they acknowledge that some products are less harmful than others and they express the opinion that e-cigarettes have both risks and benefits. They consider them beneficial as a short-term solution to quit smoking, but harmful due to their harmful chemicals content and potential to perpetuate nicotine addiction.
Although e-cig vapors are less toxic than cigarette smoke, known to include around 7,000 chemicals, they still contain nicotine and other harmful substances, like heavy metals, volatile organic compounds, and even carcinogens. E-cigarettes’ effectiveness as an adjuvant for those who wish to quit smoking is subject to controversies as well, the research data available so far being quite conflicting.
- Cochrane researchers reviewed 24 e-cig studies published until January 2016 and concluded that only 2 randomized control trials provide some evidence of the electronic cigarette’s potential to help smokers quit. However, they rated the 2 studies “low” in terms of GRADE standards confidence after deeming the number of trials too low to be conclusive, the event rates too low, and the confidence intervals regarding the estimates as too wide. The studies only followed subjects for a period of two years, and only reported mild side effects, like mouth and throat irritations.
- A CDC study found that most of those using e-cigarettes to quit smoking do not really quit but continue to use both types of cigarettes.
- The British Psychological Society recently issued a report that promotes e-cigs as a method to quit smoking and recommends the authorities to educate and support people to use this alternative to cigarettes to give up traditional smoking.
- UNC Health Care and UNC School of Medicine announced this October the results of a new study concerning e-cigs. It compared sputum samples from traditional cigarette smokers, e-cig smokers, and non-smokers. It discovered that e-cigs use increases the risk of developing inflammatory lung diseases like cystic fibrosis and COPD, could negatively affect the tissues lining organs and blood vessels, increases oxidative stress and mucus secretions, and could alter important genes in the airways immune defense.
- The American Lungs Association militates against the use of e-cigs, arguing that the devices cause lung disease and their use is dangerous for secondhand inhalers as well, especially for children. Through their statements, they have been pressuring the FDA to issue strict regulations regarding their use.
The list could continue, but it is obvious that e-cigarettes have both supporters and enemies. Some see them as the ticket to healthier life, while others see them as a new method of poisoning ourselves. There are also voices arguing that the only reason the authorities refuse to acknowledge e-cigs as the blessing they are is to avoid upsetting the tobacco industry giants.
Whatever the truth, several states in the U.S., including New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and California, have decided to ban public indoor vaping, in an attempt to prevent e-cig users from harming others as well. Everyone seems to agree that those who do not smoke should under no circumstances take up e-cigarette smoking.
For those who smoke traditional cigarettes, the risks and benefits are difficult to weigh. Several doctors and scientists have explained on various occasions that traditional and electronic cigarettes are not alike, so they should not be compared. It is one thing to burn tobacco leaves and inhale the smoke, and a completely different thing to vaporize and inhale a chemicals cocktail.
Moreover, e-cigs have only recently emerged on the market, so the information regarding their safety is still scarce and incomplete. It took medicine decades to assess the harmful effects of smoking tobacco. Only time will tell how dangerous this alternative to it really is. So far, not even the FDA could decide how to regulate this industry.
The Bottom Line about Using E-cigarettes to Quit Smoking
The situation is this: by using e-cigarettes, you replace a harmful habit with one you cannot yet assess accurately. Even if time were to prove that e-cigs really are safer than their traditional counterparts, as CDC warns, there is no guarantee you will actually succeed to quit smoking.
In fact, chances work against you, as e-cigs contain the same nicotine that makes traditional cigarettes addictive, so you will most likely end up addicted to these as well. If you really think you need e-cigs to quit smoking for good, and you are only going to use them short-term, then maybe they will help.
However, before you try them, ask for your loved ones’ support and make sure you’ve exhausted all other options. It is your health at stake, and it would be a pity to trade one threat to it for another. You are stronger than any type of cigarettes, you just have to find and use that strength to get rid of any harmful habits.
What do you think about e-cigs? Have you managed to quit smoking? We’d love to find out more about your experience, so share it with us and our readers in a comment, and don’t hesitate to subscribe to our newsletter for more interesting topics!