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. Have you ever wondered what's 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 of what we do know:
The Good: Regular cigarettes are associated with one-third of all cancer-related deaths in the United States. This is probably due mainly 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 the risk of heart disease or cancer.
Some have claimed that e-cigarettes help people stop smoking regular cigarettes. Multiple studies have tested this idea in different countries, and most have been inconclusive. In other words, it is unknown whether e-cigarettes help people quit smoking, and e-cigarettes haven't been shown to do any better than other options 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 must be held to strict standards in reporting and verifying what's actually in the liquid you vape. So the vapor produced by an e-cigarette could contain chemicals or contaminants that you are entirely 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 e-cigarette liquid flavorings to increased cancer risk. 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 the 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 unclear whether vaping helps you quit smoking. Probably, e-cigarettes don't pose as much of 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., it would be more beneficial to speak with a doctor about approved, proven smoking cessation methods if you are interested in quitting smoking. PlushCare doctors are always available to discuss any questions you have about your health, including smoking cessation.