Every day the headlines ask: are e-cigarettes safe? The question is, is that even the right question?
Is n’t vaping a health hazard? Most skeptics, including smokers, wonder – is it a safe way to quit smoking? But is that the right question? When we take a close look at which products are really safe, things get complicated. What does “safe” mean anyway? Are Cars Safe? Or the vegetables we buy in the supermarket?
In fact, not a single product that we use or consume is guaranteed to be safe. Let’s take the car as an example. Cars can be dangerous in many ways, even if we don’t make mistakes driving. There are countless accidents every year. Likewise, many people die and even more get sick from bacteria in fruit and vegetables. Nevertheless we continue to drive and eat our salad. Because with the use of some common sense and precautionary measures, the risks are low. We apply damage control to most things.
What does mitigation mean?
When you hear the word damage control, you might first think of heroin addicts or protected sex. This is one application of harm reduction – handing out clean needles for addicts and condoms for people with HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases is harm reduction. These precautions reduce the risk and potential harm of such activities. Is it safe to inject a drug like heroin with a clean needle? No, definitely not. But is it safer than without it? Definitely.
E-cigarettes are harm control for dangerous tobacco
Putting seatbelts on in cars doesn’t make them safe, but makes them safer. Washing fresh fruits and vegetables reduces the chances of bacteria making us sick. Some also call it harm reduction or harm reduction. It’s an easy way to reduce the dangers of any product or thing we do.
Smoking causes premature death for many people. Over 450,000 Americans die each year from the effects of smoking, says the CDC. Worldwide there should be around six million. Many people have health problems that do not kill them, but limit their lives or reduce the quality of life. In order to reduce the proven dangers of tobacco smoking, offering less risky alternatives is a good way to reduce health impairments – if not all of the risk goes away. Vaping is harm reduction for tobacco smoking.
According to the latest findings and research, e-cigarettes are almost guaranteed to be less harmful than tobacco cigarettes. The US Surgeon General and other experts have linked most of the smoking-related diseases to the products of combustion of smoke, not the nicotine itself.
Dr. Jed Rose, Director, Center for Smoking Cessation, Duke University Medical Center :
Tobacco harm control has been touted by some as a way to reduce the harmful dangers of smoking. Smokeless tobacco or e-cigarettes offer long-time smokers the opportunity to continue getting their nicotine without the known dangers of smoking – this is something most health advocates understand.
We know this would work because it already worked. In Sweden, for example, a large part of the population uses snuff instead of smoking – and has done so for a long time. In the entire western world, Sweden has the lowest percentage of smoking-related diseases. Large-scale studies show unequivocally that long-term use of snuff involves almost no risk.
It’s very simple: Nothing is as risky as lighting dead material and inhaling the smoke. If you’re someone who wants to consume nicotine without the dangers of smoking, switching to vaping or snuff is certainly a smart choice.
The potential security risks
We’ve already discussed the dangers of vaping on our website, so we’re only looking at a small summary of them today.
Diacetyl hit the headlines earlier this century when employees at a company in the United States that produce microwave popcorn were diagnosed with an incurable lung disease called obliterative bronchiolitis. This came about as a result of working with diacetyl, which was used to flavor the popcorn. This disease has even been nicknamed Popcorn Lungs ever since.
Vapers that use e-liquids with diacetyl cannot inhale the amounts of diketones that are comparable to those that the workers in the popcorn factory were exposed to. Cigarettes also contain diacetyl, far more than any e-liquid. So is it safe to inhale diacetyl? Probably not, but the risk is lower with vaping than with smoking. Incidentally, not all e-liquids contain this additive. And so far no smoker or vaper has been diagnosed with a popcorn lung.
Formaldehyde and other poisons in the steam
A group of scientists from Portland State University found that if the steam were upregulated so that no one could tolerate it, a cheap clearomizer would produce large amounts of formaldehyde. Believing that this was the breakthrough in the anti-e-cigarette movement, they passed these results on to the England Journal of Medicine, which published the information immediately. The result? Negative headlines all over the world, according to the motto: “Researchers found out: e-cigarette vapor full of carcinogenic substances”.
“THE CONDITIONS UNDER WHICH THE E-CIGARETTE AEROSOL WERE TESTED AT SUCH A HIGH VOLTAGE SETTING WERE UNREALISTIC. NO VAPER WOULD EVER BE ABLE TO USE THE PRODUCT UNDER THESE CONDITIONS, ”WROTE DR. MICHAEL SIEGEL, A DOCTOR AND PROFESSOR FROM BOSTON UNIVERSITY. “THIS IS BECAUSE THE WATTAGE THAT WAS BEING USED WAS SO HIGH THAT THE VAPORIZER WOULD OVERHEAT AND LEAVE AN INTOLERABLE, TERRIBLE TASTE ON THE VAPER. WITH AN ORDINARY E-CIGARETTE, THE COILS WOULD LIKELY BE DAMAGED OR DESTROYED. “
We are constantly breathing and swallowing poisons.
If the wick cannot keep up with the steam produced or the vaporizer has dried out, it can happen that you take a so-called “dry puff”. Measuring the toxins that result from it is pointless as no one would inhale them for longer than a split second. There are other known toxins in e-cigarette vapor. However, none of these exist in amounts that would harm the vaper. According to the Royal College of Physicians, “With normal use, the amounts of toxins inhaled while vaping are likely to be well below the legal limits for occupational exposure to hazardous substances, making long-term harm unlikely.”
We are constantly breathing and swallowing toxins – a fact that is often overlooked by e-cigarette critics. When they are in small amounts that the body can easily process, they don’t build up and cause health problems. There have been numerous studies of various ingredients in the vapor that sound intimidating, but no definitive harm has been proven. This does not mean that a real danger is excluded, but it is unlikely.
Is Nicotine Safe?
Nicotine has a bad rap for its association with smoking. On its own, however, it’s a relatively mild stimulant with effects similar to caffeine. It does not cause cancer or any other disease, apparently. Nicotine consumption is probably not dangerous for most people.
Nicotine causes short-term increases in heart rate and blood pressure because it narrows blood vessels when ingested – just like caffeine. So for people with serious heart problems, vaping (let alone smoking) is not a good choice. Pregnant women should likely avoid nicotine altogether, although studies suggesting risks to the unborn child are questionable.
E-liquids should be stored away from children in sealed bottles. Nicotine is often described as “as addicting as heroin,” but this is not true. Smokers get a nicotine kick in the brain, along with other substances that make nicotine more addictive. Other forms of consumption, such as snuff, release the drug slowly into the body. Vaping is probably somewhere between these two variants.
However, there is one safety concern that cannot be ignored: nicotine is dangerous if children drink it. E-liquids should therefore be safely stowed away from children.
Are e-cigarette batteries safe?
The risk of a catastrophic battery failure is very low if you take simple precautions. As long as you are not an expert, use ordinary starter kits with a good battery and a suitable charger. Never carry batteries loose in your pockets and do not leave the batteries charging unattended. With a little common sense and the basic safety rules for using batteries, you will be able to prevent just about any problems with them.
Is it safe to vape? Why do you ask?
Once you’ve understood that e-cigarettes are healthier than smoking regular cigarettes, and you’re still wondering whether it’s safe to vape, we can go over a few potential hazards together. Remember, however, that nobody has ever said that vaping – or anything else – is “safe”. All we can say is that it is reasonably safe.
If you are not already a smoker, it is recommended that you not start vaping either. Vaping is no healthier than not vaping. The risks and benefits of e-cigarettes should always be viewed relative to those of tobacco smoking juice. It is pretty certain that e-cigarettes are healthier than regular cigarettes. But fresh air naturally trumps everything.
Those who have weighed all of the medical findings have likely concluded that vaping poses a relatively minor health risk. Both the Royal College of Physicians and Public Health England suggest that doctors recommend that smokers vape if they otherwise fail to quit. A highly regarded Cochrane Review in 2014 and 2016 supports this opinion.
If there are greater dangers in vaping e-cigarettes, then they haven’t been shown or proven by science. If you are not already a smoker, then you shouldn’t even start inhaling anything into your healthy lungs. But if you’re struggling to quit smoking, you should give vaping a try, partly because of its relatively low health risks.