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E-Cigs: What Do They Really Contain?

The following article is a summary and based on research found at: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23467656

It is undeniable that electronic cigarettes very often make the object of controversial discussions, regardless of the place where they take place: specialized forums, conferences related to health aspects, TV shows, or a simple family discussion around the table, at dinner time.

‘Are e-Cigs safer than tobacco?’ or ‘Do you know exactly what the vapour contains?’ are usually the starters of many heated debates. The aim of this article is to look a little deeper into this matter and clarify some of these doubts.

How Do E-Cigarettes Work?

All e-cigarettes function basically on the same principle. E-cigs are battery-powered devices that convert liquid nicotine into vapour, which users inhale. E-cigs typically feature a heating element which is responsible for atomizing a liquid solution commonly known as e-liquid. The e-liquid normally contains nicotine, propylene glycol, glycerine, water, and flavourings. However, e-liquids that contain no propylene glycol, no nicotine, or no flavours are also available. By using e-cigs, the user practically inhales an aerosol – also commonly known as vapour – rather than cigarette smoke. And the best part is that there is absolutely no fire, ash, or smoky smells involved.

Basically, electronic cigarettes are an alternative way of consuming nicotine, an addictive chemical that can be found in tobacco. However, e-cigs do not contain the harmful chemicals – such as tar or carbon monoxide – that are normally associated with tobacco cigarettes.

Is E-Cig vapour more harmful than tobacco smoke?

Though there is no definitive evidence regarding the risks of vaping on both users and bystanders, recent studies have clearly demonstrated that the effects of the vapour produced by e-cigs do not generate the same health risks as regular tobacco cigarettes.

Two studies conducted by Maciej Goniewicz, a cancer researcher at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute (New York), and published in Nicotine and Tobacco Research have reached the conclusion that the exposure to the nicotine produced by e-cigs is lower than the exposure to regular tobacco smoke. Goniewicz also pointed out that nicotine is safer if compared to other harmful toxicants usually found in the tobacco smoke.

According to the results of the two studies, E-cigs produce some particulate matter as well. However, regular tobacco cigarettes produce 7 times more. Another result worth mentioning is the fact that E-cigs did not alter the quantity of carbon monoxide and other harmful gases in the air.

According to Goniewicz , non-users of e-cigs are exposed to a certain amount of nicotine. However, they are not exposed to other hazardous toxicants while in close proximity to e-cigs users. Though further research on this aspect is needed, the results of the study clearly suggest that e-cigs are much safer – both in terms of nicotine and toxins -, than regular tobacco cigarettes, especially when it comes to the impact on bystanders.

Despite the fact that there are many aspects that require extensive further investigation, both vaping detractors and defenders tend to agree that the benefits of vaping outweigh their potential harmful effects. Nicotine-based E-cigs can efficiently substitute for regular cigarettes, but with much lower health risks. What’s more, e-cigs seem to be more successful than other regulated smoking cessation products, thus saving millions of lives.

According to the research we could safely conclude that if people want to use nicotine – which is a legal recreational drug used worldwide – then it would be safer for them and those surrounding them to use it from an e-cig than by smoking regular cigarettes.

References: Goniewicz JL, et al. Levels of selected carcinogens and toxicants in vapour from electronic cigarettes. Tobacco Control 2013 March 6: published online.