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The Health Dangers of E-Cigarettes

Perhaps you’ve seen it coming out of a car window, from passersby on the street, or even inside of a building: the disappearing white cloud of fruit-scented air that is the signature of an e-cigarette in use. With the deadly dangers of tobacco cigarettes well-known, e-cigarettes have been hailed as a seemingly miraculous alternative. Unfortunately, the truth about “e-cigs” or “vapes” is much cloudier.

E-cigarettes are handheld, battery-powered machines that heat nicotine, flavorings, and other chemical using cartridges full of “e-juice,” allowing users to inhale the chemicals as a vapor. The devices can be made to look like anything from a traditional pipe or cigarette to a ballpoint pen or USB drive.

Electronic cigarettes first appeared in the United States in 2006. There are no long-term studies on its safety. There’s no evidence that they are less cancerous, or better for the lungs and heart, than their tobacco-based counterparts.

While e-cigarettes may be an alternative for individuals who already smoke conventional cigarettes regularly, they are not harmless or healthy.

Here are three things you may not know about electronic cigarettes:

They are highly addictive.

  • Research shows that e-cigs contain variable amounts of nicotine that are rarely labeled accurately. A single puff of vape can have a concentration of nicotine seven times higher than that of a tobacco cigarette!
  • Nicotine is widely known to be extremely addictive, especially to the developing brain of adolescents, who can become nicotine-dependent within just a day of use.
  • Teens who vape are six times more likely than those who have never vaped to later begin smoking conventional cigarettes.

They are biologically toxic.

For curious adults, as well as youth, vaping comes with serious risks. Research has shown that e-cigs can release significant amounts of toxic metals like lead, chromium, manganese, and nickel in their vapors, which are then inhaled. Exposure to these metals has been linked with serious health consequences including cancer, brain damage, and respiratory disorders.

They are not statistically helpful for quitting conventional cigarettes.

  • There is zero consistent evidence that using e-cigs help smokers quit. In fact, a study of over 1,800 tobacco smokers showed a significant association between individuals’ e-cig use and “unsuccessful quitter” status, quite the opposite of their intended use.
  • There is evidence that e-cigs may decrease the likelihood of a smoker successfully quitting. In one study, e-cig users were significantly less likely to be tobacco-free seven months after their first vape, compared with other smokers who attempted quitting without first using e-cigs.
  • Because of this, researchers worry that the proliferation of e-cigs is distracting smokers from proven, safe methods for quitting tobacco.

Given the risks, e-cigarettes cannot be considered a healthy alternative to traditional cigarettes.

At best, they are an untested solution that will need decades of research before it can be considered safe for use — and initial findings do not look promising. At worst, they are chemical cocktails equally as dangerous as tobacco cigarettes with the possibility of being significantly more addictive.