A “safer cigarette”…has there ever been such a thing? Over the years, tobacco products like menthols, Slims, and filtered cigarettes were each at one time hailed a so-called safe way to inhale tobacco, nicotine, and all those other chemical fillers.
So, it’s really no surprise that, when electronic cigarettes, nicknamed e-cigs, vapes, short for ‘vaporizers,’ and hookah pens came on the scene, they were touted as a safe alternative to the now widely-known evils of old school cigarettes.
Users and vape manufacturers, alike, claim that vapes are a completely harmless alternative to smoking but, there isn’t actually much in the way of research to support these claims. In fact, recent studies have shown that vapes and e-cigs still contain tiny particles that can irritate lung tissue and could even cause disease. New studies show that these devices deliver a cocktail of toxic chemicals, including carcinogens (which are cancer-causing agents) into the lungs. According to another study, using e-cigs, such as vapes, may even make bacterial infections resistant to antibiotics.
Because vapes, unlike traditional cigarettes, don’t burn dried tobacco leaves doused in nearly 600 additives, 69 of which are known to cause cancer, leading many people think they are safer to use. Instead, a battery-powered device heats a liquid solution (e-liquid) of nicotine and various flavors, creating an aerosol that is inhaled to simulate the physical sensation of smoking hence the term “vaping.”
Then, as the solution gets hotter, it intensifies the effect of the nicotine “hit.” However, at these higher temperatures, the glycerin and propylene glycol that are used as solvents in the e-liquid are being converted to carbonyls, such as formaldehyde and acetaldehyde, the very same no-no chemicals found in cigarettes, which people who vape believe they are avoiding.
Furthermore, a study earlier this year found that increasing an e-cig’s voltage from 3.2V to 4.8V that contains an e-liquid with both solvents produces almost as much formaldehyde as a typical cigarette. Now, yes, our bodies produce formaldehyde as a byproduct of normal metabolic activity in our bodies’ cells; however, formaldehyde is suspected of being carcinogenic when inhaled. This same study also found that at lower voltages, vapes produced up to 800 times less formaldehyde than a traditional cigarette.
But hang on, even though this might sound a lot safer, the size of the vapor particles combined with the delivery method directly into the lungs heavily impacts the risk of disease. Findings showed that about 40% of these particles can travel deep into the lungs and become embedded in the alveoli, where oxygen exchange occurs. Even if the particle itself isn’t toxic, the size alone places a burden on the lungs and can lead to diseases related to smoking, such as emphysema and COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease).
As a friend puts it, it’s nothing more than a grown up version of playing Barbie, and that goes for guys, too. With all the “mods” and accessories as well as the myriad oils and flavors, vaping has become a hobby, a veritable pastime. People hang out at vape shops, comparing all the new mods they got.
It’s one thing if you turn to the e-cig or vape to help you quit smoking traditional cigarettes; in fact, I have known a couple of people who were able to accomplish this. But for many, it’s a long term substitute to real cigarettes.
Since vaping is still relatively a new thing, there just hasn’t been enough time to do the necessary long-term studies to investigate possible health risks. And although, these early studies might imply that e-cigs are a healthier option than traditional smoking – that honestly isn’t saying much, considering cigarettes are quite bad for you.
Even if vaping is “better” when compared to smoking, it certainly doesn’t mean it’s safe. If you’re going to continue to vape, my advice to you is to be a well-informed consumer and educate yourself on the potential risks and don’t just buy into the hype. And just like with traditional cigarettes, vapor from e-cigs could be harmful to others, who are exposed secondhand, such as those of us who choose not to vape, children, and pets.
If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction there is help available. Call us toll-free at 1-800-951-6135 to speak directly with an Addiction Specialist day or night to get answers to your questions as well as resources. You are not alone.