Why are E-Cigarettes Dangerous?

The popularity of common cigarette substitutes is growing, and more people are starting using e-cigarettes. Although these are advertised as a safe alternative to tobacco, it appears that vaping is really dangerous, and this assumption is backed by a variety of scientific evidence.

Image Credit: mauro_grigollo / istockphoto.com

In what ways do smoked cigarettes and e-cigarettes differ?

Conventional cigarettes, which are notorious for their ability to kill 480,000 smokers a year, are lethal because they give off noxious gases if burnt. These gases are hydrogen cyanide and carbon monoxide. Yet the cigarette constituent that contains the most carcinogens is the tar. Tar is found in cigarette smoke as small particles of a gummy substance.

Compared to regular cigarettes, the electronic version is less harmful, as it is difficult to find a product that is just as lethal: smoking cigarettes takes more lives annually than firearms, car accidents, drugs, HIV and alcohol combined. Unlike conventional cigarettes, e-cigarettes do not contain tar. However, it seems to be their only significant advantage over regular cigarettes, because the e-liquid used in it also consists of substances which can harm you.

What is so bad about e-cigarettes?

Despite the fact that electronic cigarettes are quite a new thing, the body of evidence suggesting it is dangerous to use them is growing.

A team of investigators from John Hopkins University has recently reported that the vapor inhaled and exhaled by those who use electronic cigarettes contains toxic metals, including chromium, nickel, lead, zinc, arsenic and manganese. It is worthy of note that there are almost no metals in the liquid in the dispenser, but the metals appear in the vapor after it is heated by a metal coil. The researchers suppose it is the coil that is to blame: it leaks metals when heating the liquid, and high concentrations of toxic substances get into the vaper’s lungs, i.e. the person smoking from the vaporizer.

The only thing in the study for which the researchers cannot find an explanation is what the source if arsenic is, as it is not contained in coils.

Another reason why the tobacco alternative is still bad is that the overwhelming majority of e-liquids contain nicotine, which means addiction remains.

Vaping causes the immune system to react, and its response leads to inflammation in lungs. The mechanism behind it is that when the immune system detects some foreign substances have entered the body, they have to be attacked. According to scientists, it can happen even if you inhale pure vapor in which there is no nicotine.

Yet these are not the only dangers lurking in e-liquids: contrary to what manufacturers of e-cigarettes claim, they do not seem to help quit smoking, and quitting rates are dropping. Besides, most electronic cigarettes are flavored, and such a variety of fruity and sweet flavors is there to draw in the young. It means that the target audience of the e-cigarette promotion is teens, and starting inhaling nicotine at a very young age is associated with even worse consequences.

Another reason why vaping is dangerous is that the device itself can be faulty: in rare cases, batteries in the device malfunction, and the user can burn his or her hands, face or other body parts. Other injuries are also possible.

One more concern is that fruity flavors attract not only teens, but also toddlers and kids. The rates of poisoning by inhaling, swallowing or just touching e-liquids have skyrocketed.

All this means a couple of grisly warnings on e-cigarettes and e-liquids wouldn’t hurt.

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