E-cigarettes: The good, the bad, and the unknown
Electronic cigarettes are increasing in popularity both for smokers who think they’re a safer option than the real deal and teens who think “vaping” is cool and completely harmless. Unfortunately, the story isn’t so simple.
First things first. If you don’t know, e-cigarettes are tobacco-less, battery-operated units that heat up and turn a solution of nicotine, water, propylene glycol and glycerine into vapor. Because e-cigarettes don’t burn tobacco and don’t smell like lit cigarettes, many smokers view them as harmless and “light up” indoors and in places where smoking is usually banned.
But while it is true e-cigarettes don’t have tar or tobacco, smokers hoping to quit by using them may be disappointed. The Centers for Disease Control reported that there is no evidence showing that the use of e-cigarettes actually leads to smoking cessation. Instead, it converts tobacco smokers to “e-cig vapors” who are still addicted to nicotine and who will likely eventually turn back to tobacco cigarettes.
The CDC also reports that the use of e-cigarettes among U.S. middle and high school students more than doubled from 2011 to 2012. The sharp increase is concerning since kids experimenting with electronic cigarettes are more susceptible to highly-addictive nicotine, which could ultimately lead to tobacco smoking.
Many of these young “vapors” don’t realize that even cartridges labeled “nicotine-free” in flavors like strawberry, banana cream and bubble gum still contain low amounts of nicotine as well other chemicals that are harmful. That’s why health officials are calling for a ban of e-cigarette sales to minors.
Before deciding whether e-cigarettes are the right choice for you, consider this:
- Using e-cigarettes to quit smoking probably isn’t going to work. Try Quitter in You or other proven smoking cessation programs instead.
- Secondhand vapor health implications are being studied, so until more is known, don’t use e-cigarettes indoors or around children.
- E-cigarettes are unregulated by the U.S. government, so there’s no reassurance of quality controls in the manufacturing process.
Photo credit: mag3737