Are e-cigarettes safe? That is a very good question, and it turns out we just don’t know the answer.
In its highest-rated show for a decade, the Golden Globes drew fire for “glamorization” of e-cigarettes. Just as old Hollywood did for traditional tobacco, perhaps new Hollywood will make e-cigarettes cool, despite the fact that they may be dangerous.
Promoted as Healthy
You’ve likely seen the advertisements promoting e-cigarettes as a healthier alternative to smoking tobacco cigarettes. The claim is that e-cigarettes don’t contain the same harmful chemicals as tobacco cigarettes. In the words of Craig Youngblood, president of the InLife e-cigarette company, “In our product you have nicotine or no nicotine, PEG [propylene glycol], and some flavoring. In cigarettes you have nicotine, PEG, and 4,000 chemicals and 43 carcinogens.”
E-cigarettes are also promoted as a way for smokers of traditional cigarettes to transition away from smoking altogether, though this has not been thoroughly studied. In addition, e-cigarette marketers say that this alternative doesn’t expose people to harmful secondhand smoke.
May Be Dangerous
On the other hand, there are some very serious causes for alarm when it comes to e-cigarettes. It’s worth remembering that tobacco cigarettes used to be promoted as healthy.
E-cigarettes are a potentially purer nicotine delivery system. We don’t know exactly how the nicotine transmission compares between e-cigarettes and traditional cigarettes, but it is possible for e-cigarettes to contain a much higher level of nicotine than traditional cigarettes.
Nicotine is itself potentially dangerous. It’s addictive, and it has cardiovascular and neurological effects.
Finally, there are other potentially dangerous chemicals in e-cigarettes. A recent study found that the vapor from e-cigarettes contains more than trace amounts of heavy metals from the cigarette itself, including tin, silver, iron, nickel, and aluminum. Most of these were in equal or higher concentrations than in cigarette smoke. The study noted that the fluid in the cartridge was toxic to human cells.
At this point, the FDA is trying to regulate e-cigarettes so that they can compel manufacturers to study the health effects of their product. Until that happens, it’s a case of “Let the buyer beware.”