There is much debate about the health risks of using this nicotine delivery system. Claims include that the use of e-cigarettes is safer than smoking and a tool to help smokers quit smoking cigarettes. However, health officials are concerned with the long-term health implications of e-cigarettes since there is not enough data on the effects of prolonged usage to reach a conclusion. What do you think?
Here are five facts about using e-cigarettes to help you decide:
- The act of using an e-cigarette is called “vaping.” This term is coined from the inhalation of an aerosol called “vapor.” E-cigarettes work by heating a liquid solution called e-liquid or “juice” to its boiling point, thereby creating a vapor that is inhaled. This vapor contains up to 30 different chemicals, including nicotine, which feed the user’s craving just as a traditional tobacco product might.
- E-cigarettes use e-liquid that consists of about 75 percent propylene glycol or glycerin. One assumption is that the inhalation of either of these chemicals is not harmful because the FDA has classified them both as “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) for consumption. However, the FDA classification applies to ingesting these chemicals, not inhaling them.
- Besides nicotine, the vapor that is inhaled may contain heavy metals that are tiny particles that get inhaled into the lungs and stay there. The vapor can also contain cancer-causing products such as formaldehyde, acetaldehyde and acrolein, which is also a known irritant to the eyes, skin and nasal passages. Also, just as second-hand cigarette smoke has been deemed harmful, second-hand e-cigarette vapor may be harmful as well.
- There are currently no Food and Drug Administration standards for manufacturing e-liquid. Because of this, many labels may incorrectly list ingredients or leave ingredients off altogether. One of the most important ingredient in e-liquid is nicotine. Juice comes in increments of nicotine ranging from 0mg/mL to 36mg/mL. Tests have recently shown that the nicotine levels may be mislabeled on the bottles.
- The lack of regulatory oversight of e-cigarettes has allowed them to be heavily marketed towards teenagers. According to the Centers for Disease Control, “In 2013, more than a quarter million middle and high schoolers never smoked regular cigarettes but had used e-cigarettes.” It isn’t clear whether using e-cigarettes will lead young folks to try other tobacco products.