The electronic cigarette. A godsend for some, a tragedy for others. Most recently invented by Hon Lik in 2003, (supposedly invented first in 1963 but it was lost to the world since the idea never took flight) the electronic cigarette has risen in both popularity and use over the years as a great alternative for daily smokers.
The electronic cigarette is a battery operated product that creates a water vapor resulting from heating nicotine, bypassing the harmful smoke we get from regular cigarettes. However, what do we actually know about electronic cigarettes? Especially with all of the recent activity on banning the use of electronic cigarettes by minors, it makes one wonder: what is it about electronic cigarettes that creates such a controversy?
One side claims they are a healthy alternative to smoking and easing out of regular cigarette smoking. The other side claims that electronic cigarettes are associated with worse poisons and an impressive list of harmful chemicals. But what are the arguments and do they make sense?
The most important thing to know about the electronic cigarette is that it is not yet regulated by the FDA. It is a product that is in its trial period per-say, and not enough concrete studies have been conducted for the FDA to regulate the electronic cigarette. With this in mind, there are constant studies being conducted for and against the use of the electronic cigarette. Some with less of a bias than the others of course, but most point to clear findings supporting or bashing electronic cigarettes. Let us explore the different sides of the controversy.
Supporters rejoice, for there are many, many, many different types of flavored vapors for the electronic cigarette, which is already a huge step up from the same old cigarette smoke smell. You can now inhale anything from a banana cream pie vapor to a Jack Daniels and coke vapor. What’s more, the are numerous varieties of styles and trends electronic cigarettes take on! I have seen electronic cigarettes that look like their basic predecessor, while others have very unique looks. There is even an electronic cigarette that looks identical to a USB drive. Imagine being that trend setter, having access to a whole new world of trendy e-cigs, and using a neon glowing electronic cigarette. Cool.
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From the scientific perspective, numerous studies shed a positive light on the electronic cigarette. A study found that the amount of nicotine inhaled through a electronic cigarette is lower compared with conventional cigarette smoking. With nicotine addiction in mind, this is a breakthrough and hopefully leads to less abuse of cigarettes. On that note, a study conducted in New Zealand found that the electronic cigarette can help smokers quit regular cigarette habits while another found that secondhand exposure to the vapor from electronic cigarettes exposes people to nicotine and not any harmful tobacco specific combustion products. Another leg up on the competition, cigarettes eat your heart out.
While most studies focus on comparisons between tobacco smoke and vapor smoke, not many focus on the electronic cigarette itself. Glamour aside, you are still inhaling nicotine, you are still mimicking the habit of smoking a real cigarette, and you are still inhaling and exhaling a hot vapor which could itself be harmful. Apart from the idea that the electronic cigarette can help ease people off regular cigarettes, there are still a lot of arguments against their use.
At the University of California Riverside researchers found that cartridges leak at times exposing user to dangerously high levels of nicotine. A pre-existing nicotine addiction could thrive with such a hazard present. Another study found that there is an increase in airway resistance when using an electronic cigarette, possibly causing damage to the lungs in the future. Heart risk is also being explored as far as the nicotine levels go, with a study linking the increase in heart disease to the level of exposure to nicotine from electronic cigarettes. All of this doesn’t even take into account the long term harm caused by a hot vapor containing various metals, propylene glycol, and glycerin.
I would love to say one side is clearly in the right, but there is unfortunately still a great deal of inconclusive data with regards to electronic cigarettes and the health risks they may pose.
There is a lot of information on the inter-web to sort through these days, mostly because of our constant yearn for knowledge, but when taking into consideration all the studies that were conducted on the electronic cigarette, it would be best to just avoid the use of electronic cigarettes all together. It is an unregulated product, and like most products that have yet to yield concrete long term side effects, it should be approached with caution. Not to mention a lot of the studies that have found results are all based on short term effects, there is yet unknown data to be observed and analysed before we can claim the electronic cigarette to be completely safe for daily use.
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However, if you are intrigued but on the fence about switching over to the electronic cigarette, consider the financial aspect. If you currently smoke a pack of cigarettes each day, you could be paying roughly 600$ a year vs. the over 1000$ a year it costs for you to smoke regular cigarettes. Plus, electronic cigarettes are styling and trendy! Just look at those cool cats pictured above!