The Shocking Things They Never Tell You about E-Cigarettes

Man smoking an electronic cigarette

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Have you seen the fairly new phenomenon known as E-cigarettes yet? Or are you one of the thousands who are using them thinking that they are safer than regular cigarettes? E-cigs have become hugely popular, especially since, for the time being anyway, there are really no regulations on them. This means kids and teenagers can use them. Although they were originally intended to be a last ditch effort for smokers to quit their habits, they have quickly turned into a “hip” means of smoking and not bothering others with secondhand smoke.

With almost 500 brands and about 7,000 flavors available for sale, it’s obvious that E-cigs are here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future.

But are they really all that safe? Are they as harmless as breathing in steam, as some people have stated?  Despite their popularity, there are numerous questions that need to be answered and things you should be aware of before you take up this habit. Let’s take a look at what E-cigs actually are and what their use means to your health.


What is an E-cigarette?

  These are small, battery operated inhalers that contain a cartridge called a cartomizer, along with an LED light on the end that lights up when you puff on the E-cig. It’s meant to completely imitate a cigarette so smokers get the feel of a cigarette without actually smoking one. The battery is rechargeable and the cartridges are available for sale at almost any location that sells regular cigarettes.


Are they regulated by the FDA or any other agency?

  No. Although the FDA is considering a proposal to stop the sale of E-cigs to minors, at this time there are no regulations and no other restrictions in the works.


What is vaping?

  This is the act of inhaling on the E-cig. The battery heats the water, turning it into vapor, which the user then inhales.

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So vaping on an E-cig is better than smoking, right?

Well, this is the tricky part. Although many companies will tell you that vaping is completely harmless (don’t forget, they are trying to sell you something) the truth of the matter is, no one really knows. Even though they have been sold in the US since 2007, scientists and doctors know very little about long term health effects. Short term studies do show that they might be safer than smoking regular cigarettes, as the level of chemicals they contain are a fraction of what is in a normal cigarette, but they still contain dangerous substances.

E-cigs do contain nicotine, but they don’t contain tobacco.  Since they don’t contain tobacco, as traditional cigarettes do, then that means they also don’t contain many of the ingredients that tobacco has, such as arsenic and vinyl chloride, but some of the brands tested do contain formaldehyde and propylene glycol (which is anti-freeze), both of which are known carcinogens. Read more about bitter truth of smoking.

Nicotine is also addictive and habit forming. This is something manufactures rarely tell you. Trying to ditch the E-cig habit will cause you many of the same problems that quitting regular cigarettes presents, such as feeling anxious, depressed, irritable, and restless. They can be dangerous for those with heart problems and can cause harm to your arteries over time.

Proponents will tell you that the biggest danger with cigarettes is the smoke and, since E-cigs don’t burn, that there is little or no danger, but is that entirely true?

With huge advertising budgets from manufacturers, and celebrity endorsements, E-cigs could make smoking “cool” once again. This might make people who have never smoked decide to start if they believe that these inhalers are harmless.

Nicotine affects the development of the brain in children and teenagers. Some of these E-cigs have candy flavors, like bubblegum and cherry, which can make them very appealing to youngsters. Unfortunately, mom and dad, they also don’t leave that tell-tale tobacco smell on their hair and clothes, so it might be next to impossible to know if your kids are vaping.

The World Health Organization has stated that E-cigs should be banned indoors, as they might emit chemicals in the vapor that are just as dangerous as normal cigarettes.

Now, it’s obvious that, for those who are heavy smokers and who have found it impossible to quit, smoking an E-cig will give them far fewer contaminants than regular cigarettes. It’s similar to those who are addicted to heroin and switch to methadone. Although methadone is not safe, it’s certainly better than heroin.


SEE ALSO: E-cigarettes: The answer to tobacco?


For those who have never smoked, however, getting started means becoming addicted. E-cigs are not a healthy choice, especially for children. You would never allow your children to chew nicotine gum or use a nicotine patch, so why would you allow them to smoke E-cigs?

If you don’t smoke, don’t start vaping. There are no health benefits to this practice and there are some short term risks we know about. There might be long term risks we don’t know about yet.

If you smoke and are trying to quit, E-cigs should be a last resort. Nicotine patches and gum seem to work well because you don’t imitate the smoking behavior as you do with vaping.


M. Brad Drummond, MD, MHS, Assistant Professor, Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Michael Siegel, MD, MPH, professor, Department of Community Health Sciences, Boston University School of Public Health.

American Lung Association: “American Lung Association Statement on E-Cigarettes.”

American Thoracic Society: “Policy Position on E-Cigarettes,” “The Electronic Cigarette.”

Bullen C, The Lancet, Sept. 8, 2013.

Fairchild, A.L. New England Journal of Medicine, Dec. 18, 2013.

National Institute on Drug Abuse:Tobacco/Nicotine Addiction.

The Partnership at “Study Linking Nicotine and Heart Disease Suggests E-Cigarettes Not Safe for Heart.”