The use of cigarettes has indeed seen some decline in the past years due to new cigarette alternatives. Nevertheless, cigarette smoking is still among the leading causes of diseases and untimely death in the United States.
Carcinogens that are present in cigarettes have been linked to the development of different types of cancer, this is true even with just second-hand smoke. After all, tobacco and nicotine are among the list of scientifically-proven carcinogens that causes various cancer.
One of the best health decisions a person could make is to quit smoking. As a result, a lot of smokers look at different smoking alternatives in hopes of totally getting off of nicotine.
There are different attempts to imitate cigarettes in the way it delivers the addictive substance nicotine. In the past, cigarette alternatives have been introduced to deliver nicotine like patches, gums, snuffs, inhalers, and even lozenges, to reduce the dependence on cigarette use.
Still, the majority of the public has little to no knowledge when it comes to the health-effects linked to the long-term use of new technologies that deliver nicotine such as vape and e-cigarettes.
Since Cigarettes and Tobacco Cause Cancer, Does Vaping and E-cigarettes Do The Same?
There has been a significant rise and fall in various cancer cases in the past, and arguably, a good portion of cancer cases are linked to cigarette smoking.
Since the introduction of e-cigarettes in 2008, a significant number of cigarette-smokers have turned to vape and use e-cigarettes, which begs the question, how does it affect our health? And is it a better alternative to smoking cigarettes?
What does ENDS mean, and what are e-cigarettes?
The earliest version of e-cigarettes imitates the traditional look and experience of cigarette-smoking.
Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS), is a collective of electronic devices that are battery-operated, most of which are rechargeable. Examples of devices under this category are, vape pens, vaporizers, vape, electronic cigarettes, e-hookahs, e-pipes, and e-pens.
All the devices under the ENDS category are considered noncombustible tobacco products by the FDA as its nicotine content is extracted from the tobacco plant.
Most devices have 3 main components, the battery, the nicotine juice or “e-juice”, and the atomizer, which vaporizes the e-liquid composed of propylene glycol, vegetable glycerine, nicotine, and other ingredients.
Some e-liquids do not have nicotine in them. This is an attempt to encourage nicotine-dependent users to transition from high nicotine concentrations to e-juices that have no nicotine at all, and eventually stop vaping and effectively suppress nicotine dependence.
As good as some vape enthusiasts’ intentions are, nicotine-free vape juices unintendedly ended up in the hands of non-smokers, essentially and eventually introducing them to nicotine, and in the worst-case -cigarette smoking. Which is the total opposite of the intended use for ENDS.
The variety in the strength of nicotine concentration in vape juices also allowed those who started from low-nicotine juices to move up to high-nicotine juices, instead of the opposite. Classification of juices whether it’s low-nic or high-nic is determined by the amount of nicotine per milliliter of e-juice.
Low-nic juices have 2-10mg of nicotine per ml while it is considered as high-nicotine if the juice has nicotine that is 11-34mg/ml.
The base of e-liquids which is made from the combination of propylene glycol and vegetable glycerine are believed to expose users to toxins which increases with their usage.
The heating element that is used to vaporize e-liquids is made of different types of metals such as nichrome and stainless steel, which are observed to emit fumes that are more or less considered toxic.
Most vaporizers and e-cigarettes also use cotton which is then saturated by the vape juice and allow it to hold the liquid for easier vaporizing. It is not uncommon to accidentally burn this cotton, increasing the chances of inhaling harmful carcinogens.
Lastly, there have been reports in the past that batteries off of vape devices are exploding. Although this is most likely due to user-error and newer devices being innovated to avoid this accident, this remains to be one of the risk factors in vaping.
With this information alone, a lot of experts doubt the capability of vaping and e-cigarettes as an instrument to stop smoking.
Can we consider vaping and e-cigarettes ‘healthier’ alternatives to tobacco smoking?
Vaporizing, as opposed to the combustion of the tobacco plant and other chemicals, has been observed to have significantly fewer toxins than traditional cigarettes.
Nicotine by itself is a toxic and highly addictive substance, which can cause cravings and withdrawal symptoms upon ending its usage.
Nicotine is the main agent in e-cigarettes and traditional cigarettes, it can cause an increase in blood pressure and raises adrenaline as well, increasing your likelihood of suffering a heart attack.
Also, contrary to what most people believe, e-cigarettes do not actually ‘vaporize’ the e-juice. As aerosols, rather than just vapor, are observed to be present as a bi-product of vaping.
According to one observation, the two components of e-juice namely, vegetable glycerin and propylene glycol, have been studied to be toxic to cells.
Experts also suggested that trace amounts of aldehydes such as formaldehyde, acrolein, and acetaldehyde are also present in e-cigarette ‘vapor’. These aldehydes can cause irreversible lung complications, as well as cardiovascular diseases.
Some research implied that e-cigarettes and vaping could have fewer ill effects on its users. However, it is still viewed by the FDA as an ineffective product to help cigarette cessation because it remains to promote the hand-to-mouth habit that strongly resembles cigarette smoking.
Aside from being a potential cancer risk-factor, the effects of its long term use are still yet to be elaborated as we continue to discover more about this cigarette alternative. There are also new reports of lung complications that are directly linked to vaping, and some cancer patients might be at a higher risk of developing EVALI if they are exposed to e-cigarette vapors.
Needless to say, we still have a lot of things that we do not know about vaping and e-cigarettes.