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To Vape, or not to Vape?

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To Vape, or not to Vape?

writtenByWritten by: Andy Wong
Andy Wong

Andy Wong

Andy is the Chief Marketing Officer at PlushCare. He's passionate about advancing healthcare solutions and improving access to care via health technology.

Read more posts by this author.

August 23, 2017 Read Time - 3 minutes

You may have seen people puffing on e-cigarettes and leaving a cloud of vapor in their wake, or you may even have tried an e-cigarette yourself. Have you ever wondered what’s actually in that vapor, and how that vapor is different from cigarette smoke? Because e-cigarettes are relatively new, there hasn’t been much long-term research into how e-cigarettes and their vapor affect one’s health.  Here’s a breakdown on what we do know:

The “Good”:

• Regular cigarettes are associated with a full one-third of all cancer-related deaths in the United States. This is probably due in large part to toxins such as tar and carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke. Luckily, e-cigarettes don’t produce those toxins because they vaporize nicotine – the addictive substance in cigarettes – without burning anything. Long-term studies on nicotine exposure have found that nicotine alone does not increase risk of heart disease or cancer.

• Some have claimed that e-cigarettes help people stop smoking regular cigarettes. There have been multiple studies testing this idea in different countries, and most have been inconclusive. In other words, it is not known whether e-cigarettes help people quit smoking, and e-cigarettes haven’t been shown to do any better than other options that have been available for years (like the nicotine patch).

The Bad:

• E-cigarettes are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which means that the contents of e-cigarette liquid are not regulated. In other words, manufacturing companies are not held to strict standards in reporting and verification of what’s actually in the liquid that you vape – so the vapor produced by an e-cigarette could contain chemicals or contaminants that you are completely unaware of.

• While e-cigarettes don’t produce the same toxins found in cigarettes, they do produce other toxins because of what is in the vaping liquid: propylene glycol, glycerol, flavorings, and other compounds (along with nicotine, of course). Some e-cigarette liquids have been found to have metals such as tin, lead, nickel, and chromium in them. At least one study has linked the e-cigarette liquid flavorings to an increased risk of cancer. When you vaporize this liquid and inhale it, some proportion of that vapor will coat and remain in your lungs.

The Ugly:

• Most e-cigarettes currently available in the U.S. are sold by large tobacco companies. Many public health officials assert that these large companies want people to use e-cigarettes so they become (or remain) addicted to nicotine, which will keep those companies in business. Their marketing (which is also unregulated) may imply that e-cigarettes are “healthy” or will help you quit smoking, but the reality is that there is no evidence supporting these assertions.

The bottom line: There is no clear data on the health effects of using e-cigarettes, and it is not clear whether vaping helps you quit smoking. It is probable that e-cigarettes don’t pose as much of a cancer and heart disease risk as regular cigarettes, but they also may pose other health risks that we haven’t seen yet. Given that e-cigarettes are unregulated in the U.S., if you are interested in quitting smoking it would be more beneficial to speak with a doctor about approved, proven methods of smoking cessation.

As always, PlushCare doctors are available to talk with you about any questions you have about your health, including smoking cessation. PlushCare’s top physicians will diagnose, treat, and prescribe you medication all from your phone. For more information or to book an appointment, visit plushcare.com.

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here.

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