Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, are the latest trend in smoking. They go by a variety of names including “vape pens”, “electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS)” or “e-cigs.” Some look like traditional cigarettes or cigars and some look like flash drives or other common items. Whichever name they go by or whatever form they take, are they really any healthier than traditional tobacco products?
What are E-Cigarettes?
E-cigarettes come in a variety of forms, but most all contain three of the same elements: a battery, a heating element and a place to hold a liquid. They produce an aerosol by heating a liquid that usually contains a flavoring and chemicals, including nicotine, the same addictive drug found in traditional cigarettes. The users inhale the aerosol into their lungs. e-cigarettes can also cause secondhand smoke to people nearby who inhale the aerosol when the user exhales.
What is in the Aerosol?
It can be difficult to definitively know what is in the aerosol of an e-cigarette. Some have been marketed as containing no nicotine, therefor claiming to be a safer alternative to cigarettes. Subsequent studies however, have disproved such claims. The aerosol that users breathe when smoking e-cigarettes contains substances that could be potentially harmful. These include:
- Ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs
- Flavorings such as diacetyl, which is a chemical that has been linked to a serious lung disease
- Volatile organic compounds
- Other chemicals that can be linked to cancer
- Heavy metals including nickel, tin and lead
What are the Health Effects of E-Cigarettes?
Because e-cigarettes are a new trend, long-term effects on user’s health is still relatively unknown, but here’s what we do know:
- Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which has well-documented negative effects on health, is known to be highly addictive and can be extremely detrimental to the development of the child if used during pregnancy.
- Though e-cigarettes generally contain fewer chemicals than traditional cigarettes, they still contain many substances that can harm the body including cancer-causing chemicals that reach deep into the lungs.
- E-cigarettes can also cause accidental injuries. Children and adults have been poisoned by swallowing, breathing or absorbing e-cigarette liquid through their skin and eyes.
Are E-Cigarettes Healthier than Traditional Cigarettes?
Yes, but they are by no means healthy. Studies thus far show they contain fewer toxic chemicals, but they still contain many substances linked to cancer.
If you are a long-term heavy smoker, ages 55-77, our Lung Check screening program may be right for you. To learn more, call the Community Cancer Center at (319) 558-4876.