E-Cigarettes – A Better Alternative to Smoking?
Electronic cigarettes, e-cigarettes, have gained popularity in the past few years. While they are marketed as a safe alternative to regular cigarettes, are they really a good choice? Researchers are still studying the effects of e-cigarettes, and the fact they are very popular with tween make them a real concern for parents and anyone who is considering their use.
What are E-Cigarettes?
E-cigarettes are electronic devices which mimic the look and feel of a traditional tobacco cigarette. Although there are several designs, e-cigarettes all work in basically the same manner. Inside a metal tube is a battery, a heating element, and a cartridge. The cartridge holds the nicotine, liquids, and flavorings. You can purchase cartridges with or without nicotine, and in varying strengths. When you draw on the e-cigarette the end liquid in the cartridge is heating producing a vapor, the end glows, but no smoke is produced. What you see is water vapor which gives the name, vaping, to this popular form of smoking.
Cartridges come in many different flavors ranging from vanilla, chocolate, mint, and many others. You can purchase cartridges with varying strengths of nicotine. This is why some consider e-cigarettes an ideal way to cut down and stop smoking tobacco cigarettes. Some also consider e-cigarettes safer because there are not chemicals associated with burning tobacco, only water vapor produced by smoking an e-cigarette.
Are E-Cigarettes Safe?
While e-cigarettes have been popular for a little over a decade, researchers have been slow to study their effects on user’s health, and the long term effects will not be known for at least another 15 to 20 years. On one hand there is no smoke produced so you don’t inhale the dangerous chemicals associated with tobacco cigarettes. But on the other hand, nicotine is addictive and can cause health problems. Some studies indicate the glycol in the cartridges of e-cigarettes breaks down into formaldehyde over time. Formaldehyde is a toxic chemical which has been shown to cause cancer.
One of the biggest concerns about e-cigarettes is their popularity with teenagers and tween. Since e-cigarettes are so new on the market, the long term health risks are not known. Using e-cigarettes by teenagers and tween may also introduce them to smoking tobacco cigarettes putting them at risk for all of the health concerns tobacco causes.
For now, the general consensus is that e-cigarettes are a safer choice than tobacco cigarettes, but they are not without health concerns. If you are considering using e-cigarettes be aware that you are still at risk for becoming addicted to nicotine, and the presence of formaldehyde is a real concern. While e-cigarettes produce water vapor, and not smoke, they are not without potential health risks.