Questionable Safety of E-cigarettes
Questionable Safety of E-cigarettes
by Mackenzie Thompson
Life Saver, AMC
posted on Apr 20, 2014, at 9:49 pm
ELECTRONIC CIGARETTES, commonly known as e-cigs, are soaring in popularity throughout the U.S. 60% of Americans are now familiar with them, according to a recent study. These supposedly healthier alternatives are tobacco-free, battery-operated, and also permitted in non-smoking areas. However, these sleek gadgets do contain nicotine and other possible hidden dangers that might not yet be known or shared.
The e-cig produces an aerosol mist by vaporizing a nicotine-laced fluid containing propylene glycol and can come in an array of flavors. They are made to give the same appeal to the physical act of smoking, but do not expose the user or bystanders to the tobacco or consequent health risks. Tobacco, once burned, turns into a carcinogenic tar in the body. But just because these products don’t contain tobacco, does it mean that they are safe?
The answer to that question remains unknown and debated among public health experts. There are many concerns over the use of the e-cigs and their addictive nicotine. These include aiding in the return to an addiction to conventional cigarettes, acting as a gateway in young people to other tobacco products and drugs, or exposing people to unknown dangers.
Regulation over the electronic cigarettes are being considered by the U.S. FDA and the European Union. They must act soon, but the health hazards have not yet been absolutely discerned. They want to avoid possible health threats to the people, but they also do not want to discourage the use of them by people attempting to ditch the more dangerous tobacco products.
Chinese pharmacist Hon Lik created the current iteration of the electronic cigarettes in 2003 and they hit the market with a boom about seven years ago. The FDA attempted at regulating them as drug-delivery devices that “intended to affect the structure or any function of the body”. NJOY, the company making the e-cigs, sued them, defending their product by claiming that they were no different tobacco products in that manner. After taking it to court in 2010, the FDA wasn’t able to control the e-cigs and the sales continued.
Nevertheless, many questions concerning people’s health remained, most of which unaddressed. For instance, one of the ingredients, propylene glycol, is usually eaten in foods like cupcakes, sodas, or dressings, or used in hygiene products like deodorants, shampoo and soaps. It is not usually inhaled, so studies are being done to evaluate the activity and to find out if there are potential dangers. Sometimes something can be edible, but damaging to the lungs if inhaled; an example of this is flour. The federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry says they have “little information about what happens to propylene glycol in the air”.
Moreover, there is uncertainty about the vapor produced by e-cigs; some studies have shown the possibility of the presence of carcinogenic substances, tin, nickel, chromium and other heavy metals that can be hazardous to the lungs in large quantities. These metals are in the form of tiny particles called nanoparticles. These nanoparticles could travel through the lungs and have the ability to worsen diseases like bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma. Though it is not known for sure if the e-cig vapor is responsible for this.
Overall, there is much in question concerning the popular electronic cigarettes that are blasting their way to the top. Possible health risks to the smoker or bystanders along with regulations are being studied and debated among many researchers. Until then, take precautions and listen to your health advisor.
For more information, read the full article at Scientific American