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 a nicotine fix. Instead, it heats up liquid nicotine and turns it into vapor. The vaporized nicotine looks and feels like tobacco smoke, but it comes in tons of flavors and it doesn’t produce the toxic chemicals, tar or ash.
The Chemical Make-Up
Along with nicotine and added flavoring, the liquid that’s used in most electronic cigarettes is made up of propylene glycol (PG) and / or vegetable glycerin (VG) – chemicals that are used in many of the products that we consume and in the cosmetics that thousands of us wear on our skin. In fact, they’re 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 – including inhalation in medical devices. Other than rare incidents where people report allergic reactions, it’s track record is strong with little or no side effects.
In addition to propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin is used by many companies as a base ingredient in their e-liquid. VG is derived from vegetable plant oils and is considered a safe and natural alternative. Since it has slightly different taste and performance qualities, companies may choose to use VG over PG, or combine the two together to take advantage of each of their benefits.
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. Here is some additional research:
- 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. Studies seem to suggest that there are very few risks, but it will take years of additional research to understand the long-term impacts of inhaling vaporized nicotine. (UPDATE ON THE LATEST VAPING REGULATIONS)
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. Are e-cigarettes safe? Maybe the question should be… are they safer? We think the answer is ABSOLUTELY YES!