As with any new technology, especially those which involve the ingestion of substances normally foreign to the human body, the true long-term effects can’t possibly be known until many years have passed, often decades in fact. The evidence around the dangers of vaping is no different, and it will take a long time before we truly see the results of the only really accurate test out there, the real world test on real humans en masse, over a prolonged period. Standard procedures like testing on rats in a laborotory, as Doll and Hill did with tobacco, (badly I should point out! See Here), or testing humans with surveys about habits and health effects over short periods like 1-5 years, is simply not a very useful or effective way of testing anything. It remains the best test we can do over such a short term however, and as such it becomes the scientific norm to do so, regardless of the fact it can be extremely misleading.
However, we can at least do some intelligent guesswork, and coupled with any scientific evidence which is currently available, we can begin to make some fairly well-informed choices for ourselves with what little (but valid) information we can glean from all available sources.
I must stress that these choices are completely down to the individual. You make your own choices, nobody else can tell you what to do, and I don’t aim to do so here either. We all live and die by our life choices. I ride a motorbike. I don’t think I have ever read a study on how much I increase my death risk by doing so, I am sure it would frighten me somewhat if I did, perhaps that’s why I don’t! I enjoy it. I believe and feel strongly that motorbikes are dangerous generally speaking but in my own hands, I feel I can prevent many of the risks which lots of bikers don’t care about, for instance stupidly high speeds, wheelies, careless road positioning and lack of some simple but ‘advanced techniques’ which I paid to learn to increase my safety as much as possible. So for me, I ride a bike, it’s dangerous, but I make it as safe as I can without ruining the fun altogether (getting rid of it and letting my wife spend the proceeds on shoes!)
So, I think it is best to start with the bad stuff, mainly so I know I am making people fully aware of the negative arguments I am currently aware of. I do not take any responsibility for another person’s actions, and this includes all of you reading this. You are all adults (if not then please leave the site now) and what you do is your own business, I make no recommendations to vape, or to do anything else with your life!
E-cigarettes are a way of delivering nicotine. Nicotine is a neuro-toxin. And yes, I did say TOXIN. Taking nicotine is basically taking poison, and poisons are bad news, in case you didn’t know that already!
So, what more positive arguments can I come up with? Well, it is not my intention to try to promote nicotine regardless of the delivery method, since I am not setting out to harm people’s health, and any nicotine is harmful to health. When we compare e-cigs with traditional tobacco cigarettes, that is when I believe the picture begins to look more favourable for vaping. If we compare vaping to not smoking at all, then of course it is better to do the latter, I would hope most people knew that before reading this!
Tobacco is known to contain a multitude of harmful chemicals, poisons, and materials which are inherently dangerous to human health. Compared to that, the risks of taking nicotine on its own via a device which does not burn any tobacco, suddenly look pretty darn safe. I am not saying they are, just that they appeared that way to me when compared with the tobacco I used to smoke by the kilo per month sometimes.
However it should also be noted that, unlike what some of the e-cig manufacturers will have you believe, there are other chemicals inside and some of these are also poisonous and/or carcinogenic, i.e. can cause cancer.
The FDA vaping study is another place to obtain scientific information about the health risks. Some say that it is somewhat hypocritical how the FDA jump all over vapers, but seem to have no problem watching billions being made by the tobacco companies for many decades. I don’t see this as an unfair viewpoint at all, big business goes hand in hand with government so it is no surprise to me to see this institutionalised hypocrisy!
The American Journal of Preventive Medicine conducted a study into vaping which is well worth reading for yourself. They concluded:
“Findings suggest that e-cigarettes may hold promise as a smoking-cessation method and that they are worthy of further study using more-rigorous research designs.”
So when used as an alternative source of nicotine, replacing a habit as harmful as tobacco smoking, there are arguments suggesting e-cigs have some promising attributes. But if someone I knew had never smoked, and was considering taking up vaping with using e-cigs, my advice would be strong and loud: “DO NOT DO IT!”
Many vaping websites talk endlessly about the evils of tobacco, and the apparent new good guy in town: our beloved e-cig. But I am firstly not convinced it’s quite that clear cut, and secondly no matter how much better vaping may or may not be, there really are some definite health risks associated with vaping. Therefore I feel it is important that I do highlight some of the known risks of vaping, especially since I seem to get quite a high proportion of readers who are totally new to this game 🙂
Risks for the Heart
It is fairly well proven that nicotine itself is damaging to the heart. Since e-cigarettes contain nicotine, it goes without saying that those heart risks must extend to vaping as well as tobacco smoking.
Whilst there are no proven studies showing a direct risk of cancer caused by vaping (to my knowledge as of Jan 2016), it seems quite definitive that there are some chemicals used in e-cigs which are in some way carcinogenic, i.e. they can cause cancer. It is up to the individual to assess just how carcinogenic these chemical elements are and take a decision on its merits. For me, the great majority of man-made chemicals are carcinogenic, even materials used in household carpets, varnish, paints, cosmetics, clothing and more. Therefore it is not enough to just find out if our new toys contain carcinogens, but you must look deeper and decide if the risks are enough to worry you or not. Everyone’s threshold for risk is different, and as such it will always be an individual choice, just like it was with tobacco for so many people. I should point out that in 2015 vapourised e-liquid was found to “contain free-radicals similar to those found in tobacco“, so again it is so important to stay up to date on this kind of news as I do. It changes almost monthly.
This is an ingredient of vehicle anti-freeze liquid, and it is a known toxin. It is present in e-cigarettes and it can cause health problems upon inhalation, hence it is one of the most talked about risks of vaping. Diethylene Glycol (or other similar compounds such as Propylene Glycol or Vegetable Glycerin) is used to produce the vapour from these devices.
E-cigarettes also contain other compounds called nitrosamines. Nitrosamines can cause cancer and are generally considered unhealthy. I am not aware of how much risk there is from using e-cigs as regards nitrosamines, but it is very likely that there is a risk to health if the device should break or be taken apart by the user and if the internal components are handled.
This is the final compound I think deserves a mention when considering the health effects of smoking electronic cigarettes. Tetramethylpyrazine is supposedly capable of causing brain damage in humans. However it is also true that this compound is found in a huge number of common everyday items and many foods. For example eggs, meats, peanuts, whiskey and many more. Therefore, much like the other health dangers of vaping, you have to scratch beneath the surface before jumping to a decision as whilst something can on the one hand appear worrying, it can also be misleading and should you wish to avoid this chemical completely in your life, you should virtually stop eating, or certainly move to organic only diets, and even that would almost certainly not avoid Tetramethylpyrazine altogether.
One final note -the vaping industry could pose a huge threat to the absolutely enormous business of tobacco. Tobacco companies have been in bed with regulators and governments (especially US and UK) for decades, and that isn’t about to change. However the electronic cigarette was invented by a Chinese man, and I doubt he is in bed with those same organisations.
Therefore it doesn’t surprise me in the slightest to find many large organisations such as the FDA acting like they enjoy scaring the general public with every possible health risk they can come up with about electronic cigarettes. In the mean time many western governments continue to make billions a year on taxation (both corporate and personal/retail) thanks to the continued use of traditional tobacco products by millions of people, all of whom face ill-health and/or an untimely death for their profit-generating addiction to heavily processed commercial tobacco.
You only have to take a look at the disgraceful history of Aspartame in the US, the disgusting cover-up involving Donald Rumsfeld, and the whole sorry story where health came a very distant second priority to the health of US citizens, to realise that profit is what makes the world go round, not health.
E-cigarettes are a massive threat to a huge business, so as far as I am concerned it is anything but a surprise to find it is under attack regularly in the news. This certainly does not mean vaping is safe, but it does mean that there may be some powerful people out there trying to scare you away from doing it, just in case it helps reduce your spend on tobacco cigarettes, which of course it will!
The decision is of course for you to make, nobody else. But I hope this article has given you some things to think about when considering what effects e-cigs may have on your health, if you choose to use them.