E-cigarettes: Less Exposure to Toxins, But Not Toxin-Free
A recent research study that analyzed the vapor from various e-cigarettes validates the many claims that they are far safer to puff on than regular cigarettes.
The study’s authors report that e-cigarettes significantly lower a smoker’s exposure to the tobacco-specific toxins studied. This does not mean, however, that e-cigarettes are risk-free.
E-cigs contain few toxins, do not harm the heart
The research was done in Buffalo, N.Y., at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute. The researchers found that the vapor from e-cigarettes contained toxins but at levels nine to 450 times less than in cigarette smoke.
Another small study from the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center in Athens, Greece, concluded that using e-cigarettes does not harm the heart. The research compared the heart rate and blood pressure of tobacco and e-cigarette smokers.
Long-term effects not yet known
Despite these research outcomes, there are still concerns about the unknown long-term health effects of using e-cigarettes.
There are also issues of product quality and other concerns e-cigarette users need to be aware of:
- One small study found that using e-cigarettes can compromise short-term lung function. It is not known whether the change in lung function will have accumulative ill-effects.
- At present, there is no way for e-cigarette users to know exactly what is in the product they are using. The products and packaging are unregulated.
- The FDA studied the cartridges of 18 different e-cigarettes in 2009. The findings were mixed. One cartridge was carcinogen clean, five other cartridges contained known cancer-causing particles, and one product had traces of diethylene glycol, a highly toxic substance. Other substances that may be linked to cancer were discovered in 13 different cartridges.
- Regulating e-cigarettes is problematic. If they are not sold as therapeutic quit-smoking aides, they are not required to meet the same standards as products such as nicotine gum or patches. However, the FDA’s hope to regulate them as a sub-category of tobacco products will undoubtedly meet strong opposition.
There will be some controversy over the safety and regulation of e-cigarettes for several years. Meanwhile, it has been determined that they are, in the short-term, much less harmful to our health than their paper and tobacco ancestors. They also satisfy a smoker’s craving for nicotine and psychological need to have something in hand and mouth.