Are E-Cigarettes Safe?
There are a large number of websites discussing the safety of e-cigarettes. Most of them cite one major source for products trials, the FDA, as their sole source. The problem is that citing just one organization as their source is a problem all by itself. The FDA has published studies that are meant to discourage the use of e-cigarettes. They continue to attack vendors for marketing e-cigarettes as a tool to quit smoking, even though e-cigarette vendors stopped doing this a long time ago.
So, are e-cigarettes safe? Let’s discuss this question. Although there is no absolutely certain answer, we’ll tell you what we know so far.
The Challenge With E-Cigarette Safety
As alluded to earlier, the biggest challenge in determining the safety of e-cigarettes isn’t finding the studies. Rather, it is validating the authenticity of the organizations and groups who put out those studies. It’s hard to trust any organization that potentially has interests besides the safety of the consumer as their number one priority. That goes equally for the vendors of e-cigarettes as it does for the FDA.
The former, vendors and affiliates, have an obvious interest in selling you their products, so it’s likely that they’ll only say positive things about e-cigarettes. The latter, the FDA, is usually under an outstanding amount of pressure from the big pharmaceutical and tobacco companies, both of whom have an interest in maintaining profits.
So, Are E-Cigarettes Safe?
While we already know a number of the risks and advantages that e-cigarettes pose over traditional cigarettes, it’s our honest opinion that there’s a lot we don’t know yet. E-smoking has a whole catalog of unknowns that will require years of trials and scientific research to both uncover and fully understand.
We do know that the consumption of nicotine isn’t as safe as foregoing it completely, which is why many experts will recommend to not smoke at all. Our advice on the matter is that if you’re able to stop smoking or haven’t started smoking yet, then don’t start e-smoking. Nicotine is powerfully addictive and you’re best off never using it at all.
For everyone else, the information we present in this article is meant with the idea of e-smoking as an alternative to smoking regular cigarettes in mind. We’re also not health experts, so we’ve done the same thing you can do: researching e-cigarette safety while taking the information with a grain of salt.
The Safety of E-Cigarette Chemicals
It’s well-documented and understood by almost everyone that the main threat regular cigarettes pose are the thousand-item laundry lists of dangerous chemicals contained within them. Carcinogens can cause cancer, carbon monoxide affects your respiratory system’s effectiveness and it’s also well known that cigarettes can lead to heart disease and high blood sugar.
E-cigarettes are different from cigarettes in the fact that they don’t contain as nearly as many of those chemicals.
Here’s what most e-cigarettes contain:
- Propylene glycol and/or vegetable glycerin
As far as the ingredients in e-cigarettes go, two lack the proper long-term studies required to know for certain if they’re safe to use for an extended period of time: propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin. While they’re both substances used commonly in food and cosmetic products and in things like smoke machines, no one has studied in-depth the effects of inhaling higher concentrations of these chemicals. That makes it one unknown for e-smokers to keep in mind.
The Known Risks of Nicotine
Nicotine is another of the ingredients in e-cigarettes. It’s a substance that has been studied at length.
In 2007, the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey published a lengthy press release stating that nicotine was “far safer” when used by itself as a replacement than continuing to smoke cigarettes. The interesting part of this press release was where they noted that it was still safer even if the former smoker had to continue relying on nicotine to prevent themselves from picking cigarette smoking back up again.
Dr. Jonathan Folds, one of the experts responsible for putting this press release out, stated that nicotine replacement items like lozenges and patches don’t cause “cancer, emphysema or heart attacks, even for smokers who already have heart disease.”
On the other side of the fence, it’s an established fact that nicotine is a highly addictive substance. Once you begin ingesting it, it may be nearly impossible to stop. So don’t start smoking or e-smoking if you’re not already a smoker.
It’s also standard precaution for pregnant or nursing women, diabetics, immune-deficient people and people undergoing chemotherapy to stay away from nicotine. If you fall into any of these categories, we recommend to speak to your doctor before considering e-cigarettes.
The Safety of E-Cigarettes on Airways
Early in the year 2012, CHEST, the official publication of the American College of Chest Physicians, published a study documenting the effects of e-cigarette vapor on the airways of users. They found that it can cause inflammation and restrict pulmonary function in just five minutes of use. The study only remarked on short-term effects — it wasn’t conducted with the goal of determining whether e-cigarettes are safe for long-term use.
The problem with this study is that it used subjects who didn’t smoke and therefore lacked the same conditioned bodies that a former smoker might have to cigarette smoke. There was also no comparison to harmless vapors like water vapor.
Chemicals Contained in Atomizers and Cartomizers
One of the unknowns concerning e-cigarettes that most people tend to overlook are the components used to construct atomizers and cartomizers. Those materials can include steel, aluminum, cotton, glue, solder and even fiberglass. Unfortunately, no one has taken a closer look at the risks that using these materials in a high-heat process may have on the human body.
It doesn’t help that the leading producers of e-cigarette components are in China, a country whose reputation is somewhat spotty when it comes to manufactured products.
It’s our personal advice that you regularly replace your atomizers and cartomizers to reduce the risk of inhaling any harmful components while keeping the vapor production of your e-cigarette as efficient as possible. We think it may be likely that the heating coil, which wears down during prolonged use, is where any danger in these components could be.
Just How Safe are E-Liquids?
Another thing to factor in when trying to discern if e-cigarettes are safe involves the ingredients of e-liquid and the safety standards that the companies put on their manufacturing processes.
Let’s focus on e-liquid itself before looking at the manufacturing process. The best way for e-liquid companies to make customers trust in their products more would to be to make a move to publish all of their ingredients on the label. Some companies have already begun to move in that direction.
That brings us to the potential problems incurred during the manufacturing process of e-liquid. Most companies that make e-liquid are located in China, which brings a number of safety concerns to mind. For example, some buttery-flavored e-liquids were found to contain diacetyl. While you can safely consume this chemical in moderate amounts, it’s only safe when eaten and should never be inhaled.
For the maximum amount of safety, it’s our recommendation that you only purchase your e-liquid from companies with strict safety guidelines. Ensure that they’re transparent about their ingredients and the concentrations of said ingredients to ensure that your e-liquid is as safe as possible.
E-Cigarette Batteries Exploding
The last concern for safety when it comes to e-cigarettes revolves around the battery used to operate the atomizer or cartomizer. When that battery overheats, it can cause a violent explosion that can put not only you at risk but also those in the immediate vicinity.
Recently, there was a story about a man in Florida to whom this happened. His e-cigarette’s battery exploding caused severe injuries to his mouth. The caveat to this story concerns the battery he was using. It’s likely that he was using a six-volt “mod”, which is a potentially hazardous and unofficial modification to an e-cigarette that uses two three-volt batteries in a series.
Our findings concerning e-cigarette battery stacking is that it can be very dangerous. That’s why we make a habit of avoiding the topic in our e-cigarette reviews. If you don’t need the extra vapor that mods like these can provide, then you’ll find that buying your e-cigarette batteries from a reputable vendor will allow you to e-smoke safely and without the risk of a battery explosion.
To this day, we’ve yet to see a single brand implicated as being at a higher risk for battery explosions than any other brand. This should make you wonder about the reports of e-cigarette battery explosions, as it did us. The risk is still there, but it’s as nominal as the risk you take when you use your laptop, mobile phone or any other device with high battery demands.