The number of cigarette smokers is the lowest it has ever been. The percentage of Americans who smoke has dropped from 42% of the population in 1965 to about 18% in 2012 according to Cancer.org. That means that fewer than 1 in 5 adults are smoking cigarettes these days. However, that doesn’t mean that tobacco use and smoking culture has completely depleted in our society. Now, young people are “smoking” in other ways like with flavored hookahs and electronic cigarettes, or e-cigs. For young people who like the taste or want to quit smoking traditional cigs these methods of smoking seem like a safer and healthier alternative. But the question remains, how safe are these e-cigs, anyway?
E-cigs have become a nearly $3 billion industry and is believed to grow five times that in the next couple years. They first were developed in China and then brought to the states in 2007. The appeal first hit to cigarette smokers who wanted to try substituting their tobacco habit for a safer one. Although e-cigs look very similar to normal cigarettes, they actually aren’t even tobacco. They’re actually vaporizers that heat up a liquid inside instead of burning anything. Many e-cig users are under the impression that “vaping” is better for you than inhaling smoke. However, this theory is debated regularly by many health experts.
Although e-cig use is still in its infancy, there are some things we do know about it. First of all, there’s no carbon dioxide or odor issue because there’s no smoke involved. This means that use of an e-cig can be done more frequently indoors without ruining fabrics or bothering other people as much. However, using a vaporizer is still addictive because despite the lack of tobacco in the e-cigarette liquid, it’s still made up of nicotine, flavors, propylene glycol (a solvent), and other additives. However, there are variations in the amount of nicotine depending on the type of fluid users buy and even can choose the certain flavors that don’t have nicotine.
The biggest problem with e-cigs is the liquid nicotine. Although the liquid used for vaping with an electronic cigarette isn’t just tobacco, the liquid nicotine in it is extracted from it. Plus, the nicotine fluid can be deadly. Inhaling, ingesting, or absorbing as little as a tablespoon is enough to kill an adult and as little as a teaspoon could kill a child according to the New York Times. Additionally, a huge concern is that there’s not enough disclosure about what exactly are used in the ingredients so health experts are uncertain about health and safety claims. How can you say its safe (or not) when there’s no real valid way to prove it is?
Worse still, is that some researchers have been finding that e-cig users are showing similar lung problems like diminished function and cellular changes similar to that of tobacco-cigarette smokers. Additionally, inflammation and airway resistance has been noted in e-cig users. However, cancer risks still appear to be lower than that of cigarette users.
A final issue with e-cigs is that although technically children under 18 are not allowed to purchase them, the internet makes it extremely easy to do so anyway. A lot of young people are buying electronic cigs even though they aren’t supposed to be. Considering how dangerous the liquid nicotine is, it’s a scary thought that children may be getting their hands on it.
The e-cig debate may not go away anytime soon. And, although vaporizing could very well be better than traditional cigarette-use, it doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t harmful as well.