A question that always seems to arise when the subject of e-cigarettes comes up is, “are they safe?” The short answer is yes… we think so. Unlike traditional cigarettes, an ‘e-cig’ doesn’t require tobacco smoke to provide user’s with a nicotine fix. Instead, a heating mechanism heats up liquid nicotine and turns it into vapor. The vaporized liquid tastes and feels like real tobacco smoke, but it’s odorless and doesn’t produce the harmful chemicals, tar or ash.
The Chemical Make-Up
Along with water, nicotine and added flavoring, the liquid that fills the cartridges of most electronic cigarettes is made up of propylene glycol (PG), a chemical that’s used in many of the foods we eat and in the cosmetics that thousands of us wear on our skin. In fact, it’s used in so many consumer products that it would be impossible to list them all. An organic compound created in laboratories, propylene glycol has been thoroughly tested and approved by the FDA for a variety of purposes. Other than a few rare cases where users reported allergy-type side effects, it’s track record is strong.
In addition to propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin (VG) is another compound used by many e-cig companies. VG is derived from vegetable plant oils and is considered a completely safe and natural alternative. Since it has slightly different taste and performance qualities, many companies stick with PG, while others choose VG and the rest use a mixture of the two in various combinations.
New Product With Limited Testing
With all the obvious benefits, common sense may tell you that electronic cigarettes are safe, but the truth is, there’s been no ongoing testing to evaluate the long-term effects of inhaling nicotine vapor. Back in 2009, the FDA analyzed 18 cartridges provided by two popular brands (NJoy and Smoking Everywhere) and found trace amounts of toxic chemicals in several samples. Although the evidence was inconclusive and studies later proved that the toxins were insignificant, it did draw attention to the fact that the industry is completely unregulated and there may be questions about the content of some products. This means choosing reputable suppliers with USP certified ingredients is vital.
Since the FDA findings in 2009, a variety of scientific studies have shown favorable results for electronic cigarettes. A study published by BioMed Central Public Health in 2011 concluded that cigarette smokers could substantially decreased their cigarette consumption without significant side effects by using e-cigarettes, and a 2012 study published by the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco concluded smokers who switched from smoking tobacco to electronic cigarettes reduced their exposure to harmful toxins while maintaining similar levels of nicotine. In study after study, researchers are finding significantly less chemicals in electronic cigarettes than tobacco. More studies:
- 2013 Study by Tobacco Control – Toxins in electronic cigarette vapor found to be 9 to 450 times less than tobacco cigarettes and may significantly reduce exposure.
- 2013 Study by Drexel University – Chemicals found in e-cigarette pose no health concerns.
- 2012 Study by Indoor Air – Compared electronic cigarette vapor to tobacco smoke and found significantly less volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
- 2012 Study by CleanStream Air – Evaluated the effect of second-hand vapor and found no detectable amounts of toxic substances or carcinogens.
- 2012 Study by Inhalation Toxicology – Determined there was no apparent risk to human health from electronic cigarette vapor emissions.
Some Are Calling for More Oversight
Although electronic cigarettes are currently unregulated in the United States, there’s been mounting pressure to regulate the industry – requiring more testing and additional oversight. While the studies seem to suggest there are very few risks, virtually all of the components are being produced in China and quality is a major concern for some critics. This has inspired companies such as EverSmoke and V2 Cigs to provide U.S. based assembly and testing. Others, such as Apollo, Blu Cigs, and Halo are producing all of their liquids in the United States with USP-approved ingredients.
With their recent introduction in 2007, electronic cigarettes are a new and controversial product that are sure to keep sparking debate. No one is 100% sure about the long-term effects, but from our perspective, e-cigarettes are a much safer option than smoking tobacco. By reducing most (if not all) of the cancer producing carcinogens, it stands to reason that any potential side effects of e-cigarettes are much less severe than smoking tobacco-based products. Are e-cigarettes safe? Maybe the question should be… are they safer? We think the answer is an ABSOLUTE YES!