Are Electronic Cigarettes Safe?
E-Cigarettes, A Safe Alternative?
The question should not be; Are electronic cigarettes harmful? but rather, Are electronic cigarettes safer than regular cigarettes? Because let’s face it, who do you think the people are who will take up vaping? Smokers of course. And if they are making the switch, well that means less who die of cancer. You can’t get a better case than that, right? Some disagree. There is a lot of discombobulation about the topic.
There has been a lot of debate and misinformation over the last few years on the subject of electronic cigarettes. The misinformation has led to various laws and regulations being passed (without the support of any scientific evidence) in many countries that are aimed at restricting the use and sale of electronic cigarettes. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website (1) most of these laws and restrictions are based on speculation without any scientific evidence.
One such move is the recent report by The World Health Organization (WHO) that recommends governments to ban the use of electronic cigarettes. The release of the report was quickly followed by warning to the WHO in an open letter sent to WHO Director General Margaret Chan, by group of fifty three leading medical experts from North America, Australia, Europe, and Asia who argued that low risk products like electronic cigarettes are part of the solution in the fight against tobacco cigarette smoking, not part of the problem.
Why Electronic Cigarettes Are A Safe Alternative
This negativity campaign being done against electronic cigarettes is a shame. Electronic cigarettes do not contain the thousands of harmful chemicals that are found in the traditional tobacco cigarettes. E-liquid, the liquid that is used to provide the vapor in an electronic cigarette) contains the following substances:
- Nicotine (some e-liquids do not contain nicotine)
- Propylene glycol or vegetable glycerin
Electronic cigarettes still deliver nicotine, but none of the other thousands of harmful chemicals that are found in tobacco cigarettes. According to the FDA (2), (3), both propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin are considered to be safe food additives by the FDA.
Although nicotine is addictive, it hasn’t been demonstrated to be harmful on its own. According to scientific research done by scientists the nicotine in tobacco cigarettes is responsible for keeping a cigarette smoker hooked and the toxic effects of smoking come mainly from the other substances in tobacco, none of which are present in any meaningful level in electronic cigarettes. Nicotine in itself isn’t a killer, but it is guilty by association with the traditional tobacco cigarettes.
Addiction is not a good thing, but for the sake of the people, who are already addicted, we should promote electronic cigarettes as a safer alternative.
Why the Propylene Glycol in E-liquids is Safe
A smear campaign has also been run against propylene glycol (one of the additives that are used to produce e-liquids), but according to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, propylene glycol is a “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) additive for medications and foods. It doesn’t cause sensitization and shows no evidence of being genotoxic or being a carcinogen.
Some of the people who are against electronic cigarettes have tried to arouse worry over the use of propylene glycol in electronic cigarettes by dwelling on the fact that it’s used in antifreeze. However, the truth is that it’s used as non-toxic antifreeze and is normally confused with diethylene glycol which is considered toxic in larger concentrations. No short term and long term adverse effects have ever been recorded to occur as a result of the use of propylene glycol in electronic cigarettes.
Why the Vegetable Glycerin in E-liquids is Safe
The use of vegetable glycerin in e-liquids has increased mainly because it produces more vapor than propylene glycol. Vegetable glycerin is used in the production of many beverages and foods and is safe for human consumption. Food grade vegetable glycerin is used in the manufacturing of e-liquids.
The flavorings that are used in electronic cigarette e-liquids are also food grade additives that are safe for human consumption. Some of the tobacco flavors are produced using real tobacco leaves, so there is the potential them having trace amounts of nitrosamines, but again only trace amounts.
The only informed conclusion that can be arrived at after analyzing the above information is that electronic cigarettes are relatively safe. There have simply been no long term scientific studies done of the effects of prolonged vaping. However, we know that the ingredients that are used to produce e-liquids are safe for human consumption. No negative health impacts of the use of electronic cigarettes have been reported, even though they have been used by millions of people for several years now.
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