Are e-cigarettes dangerous?

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As smokers become “vapers”, the media’s comments on e-cigarettes range from warnings of their unknown effects on health, to praise of their advantage as an alternative to smoking. A recent study from Professor Fiona Measham of Durham’s School of Applied Social Sciences has concluded that most young people do not consider vaping as a form of smoking. How safe is it to let this opinion prevail? Are e-cigarettes really a safe alternative to smoking, or do their unknown impacts mean they are part of a dangerous bet to place on our health?

Given their original purpose as a safer alternative to smoking, e-cigarettes could be considered as a miracle product. The NHS claims that smoking tobacco accounts for more than 80,000 preventable deaths every year, and is responsible for 84% of deaths from lung cancer. The toxic chemicals within tobacco are accountable for its effects on the lungs, circulation, brain and heart function. As e-cigarettes are devoid of tobacco and do not rely on combustion to produce smoke, the majority of these health problems could potentially be avoided by vaping instead. The amount of nicotine, the addictive component of cigarettes, can also be modified in e-cigarettes. Tan, a regular vaper, says: “I’ve gone down from 6 mg of nicotine to 3 mg, and I have one for 0 mg which I will switch onto soon, and they say that one of the addictive things is the actual action of smoking”. Tan also describes the other advantages to using e-cigarettes. “Smoking is very expensive and the taste is not great, and most people don’t like to smell it on other people! Vaping is cheaper, and the range of flavours is great.”

Another point to argue may be the fact that those who chose to smoke e-cigarettes instead of tobacco are, indirectly, causing less harm to those around them through second-hand smoking. However, those who turn to vaping in an attempt to quit smoking may be discouraged by the disapproval received from other members of the public. Complaints about vape smoke are very common. In an open letter to e-cigarette users regarding vaping indoors, Clair Lower argues that the absence of a ban doesn’t mean you should vape in the presence of non-smokers, as by doing so “you are being rude”. Tan agrees that this “hate” is concerning, and expresses that people “are meaner to vapers than smokers even though we provide sweet, sweet smells!”

Using e-cigarettes is a still a major gamble

We must remember, however, that tobacco smoking was once considered to be less harmful than we now know it is, and many research groups claim that a similar pattern may occur with vaping, as not enough research has been conducted in the area. Short-term damage to health has been found: the University of California, San Diego showed that human cells treated with the vapour from e-cigarettes induced DNA damage similar to that seen from tobacco smoke, and died earlier than those which were left untreated. The exact chemical component responsible for this effect is unknown, although known carcinogens in e-cigarettes include formaldehyde and diacetyl. A study published in the journal Pedriatrics showed that the number of children aged under 6 poisoned by nicotine from e-cigarettes has risen by nearly 1500% since 2013, and those in contact with e-cigarettes are 5.2 times more likely to be admitted to hospital and 2.6 times more likely to have a severe reaction than those exposed to tobacco smoke.

So despite being a much better alternative to tobacco smoke, it appears that vaping is still harmful. For those attempting to quit smoking, e-cigarettes are an excellent step forwards towards reducing the risk of lung cancer and other conditions. However, for those who do not smoke, taking up vaping is a step backwards. Tan raised an interesting point: “People are a lot more curious to try vaping than smoking. Lots of people have asked me if they can try mine”. Furthermore, with the long-term impacts on our health unknown, using e-cigarettes is a still a major gamble. There is a potential danger in young people regarding vaping as completely separate to smoking, as Fiona Mesham’s study showsthis view could foster the harmful misconception that e-cigarettes are completely safe.

Photograph: TBEC Review via Wikimedia Commons

One thought on “Are e-cigarettes dangerous?

  • More and more people are switching to electronic cigarettes or vapes. Undoubtedly, there is a great debate about the benefits or harms of such products, but everyone has the right to make their own choice. I advise you to find here more Delta 8 products for every taste

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