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 whats actually in that vapor, and how that vapor is different from cigarette smoke? Because e-cigarettes are relatively new, there hasnt been much long-term research into how e-cigarettes and their vapor affect ones health. Heres a breakdown on what we do know:
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 dont 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 havent been shown to do any better than other options that have been available for years (like the nicotine patch).
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 whats 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 dont 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.
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 dont pose as much of a cancer and heart disease risk as regular cigarettes, but they also may pose other health risks that we havent 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. PlushCares top physicians will diagnose, treat, and prescribe you medication all from your phone. For more information or to book an appointment, visit plushcare.com.