From our sister blog, questions with one of our experts on what’s known about e-cigarette safety. Although e-cigarettes do not have all the known carcinogens of traditional cigarettes, not enough is known to call them a “safer” alternative. Read more.
To Vape or Not to Vape?
We’ve got thee questions for our expert about the supposed safety of e-cigarettes
For the last 50 years cigarette smoking has been on the decline due in large part to aggressive advocacy by health professionals about the risks associated with smoking tobacco, and a once ubiquitous habit has become taboo. Quickly replacing tobacco cigarettes are electronic or e-cigarettes and “vaping” is the new inhaling. E-cigarette availability and popularity are at an all-time high, especially among teens and young adults, with claims of e-cigarette safety driving the trend.
But are e-cigarettes really safe? Recent reports of liquid nicotine poisoning beg to differ and much remains unknown about whether or not inhaling the vapor from e-cigarettes is safer than inhaling smoked tobacco.
We’ve asked John Pierce, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Family and Preventive Medicine, Moores Cancer Center director for population sciences and expert on tobacco cessation three questions about the relative safety of e-cigarettes.
Question: What, if anything, is known about the health effects of nicotine delivery from e-cigarettes versus traditional tobacco cigarettes? Are they, as advocates and tobacco companies suggest, safer?
Answer: There is no question that a heavy smoker who stops using cigarettes and switches to e-cigs will have a reduced risk of lung cancer. However, it is not at all clear that e-cigarettes will not introduce a new health risk to the person who has never smoked or whether it will be a safe alternative for the occasional smoker.
Q: Is there any evidence that it’s easier to quit smoking by shifting to e-cigarettes?
A: No, the evidence that is available suggests that e-cigarettes are not an effective smoking cessation device. The question is how difficult will it be for heavy smokers to substitute e-cigarettes for their regular cigarettes.
Q: How much nicotine from e-cigarettes is released as vapor, potentially to be inhaled by others? Does the vapor represent less of a health threat than secondhand smoke?
A: Plenty. Currently, there is very little standardization in e-cigarettes and lots of potentially harmful chemicals have been measured in it. The first study to report on this did so last December. There is no science that supports allowing e-cigarettes to be used where cigarettes are prohibited.
Image source: The Mercury News