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Are E-Cigarettes a Safe Alternative or Just as Harmful?

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E-Cigarettes started to gain popularity around 2010 when the general population assumed they were a harmless alternative to tobacco smoking. Today, the use of electronic cigarettes, commonly referred to as “vaping” has exploded into a nationwide, and even international trend- especially in sober communities.

The assumption has been that with the removal of tobacco and smoke, users can get their nicotine fix with minimal damage. But with vaping being so new to our culture- there is little information or studies done to confirm this theory. Is vaping as safe as we assume it to be, or are there factors that make it no better than smoking a cigarette?

How E-Cigarettes Work

In 1963, Herbert A. Gilbert created the first e-cig, calling it “a smokeless non-tobacco cigarette” but it was never commercialized. Modern e-cigarettes were not patented until 2003, and since then they have expanded in style, design, and function.

The E-Cig works by heating liquid that’s infused with nicotine, which vaporizes the liquid at its boiling point creating a smokeless based inhalation. E-cigs can be purchased as a battery with a cartridge in which you put your own liquid in, or as a disposable stick that’s pre-filled.

E-cig juice, the liquid that gets heated- contains five main ingredients but can vary:

  • VG (Vegetable Glycerin) The Base makes up 80-90% of e-juice and is composed of 100% VG or a mix with PG. Common ratios are 100% VG, 50/50 PG/VG, and 80/20 PG/VG. It is widely used in all types of food and personal care products like toothpaste.
  • PG (Propylene glycol) Commonly mixed with VG as the base for e-juice. This is a solvent that’s used in all sorts of things. Along with being a solvent, it’s mainly known for its use in fog machines.  A higher PG mix e-juice will produce thicker clouds of vapor. However, PG can dry out your throat and even cause mild allergic reactions in some users.
  • Flavor 10%-20%. All the e-juice I’ve seen uses Food grade flavorings originally intended for baking or candy making.
  • Nicotine 0%-2.4% depending on strength. Any large supplier of e-juice is using pharmaceutical grade pure nicotine.
  • Distilled water is sometimes used to dilute if needed.

Since there is no burning involved in vaping, it theoretically should be safer than conventional cigarette smoking. Polyethylene glycol, the main ingredient, is FDA-approved and is used in many consumer products.

A 2013 study in the journal Tobacco Control found that the harmful chemicals in e-cigarettes occurred at levels 9 to 450 times lower than in regular cigarette smoke. On the other hand, the Food and Drug Administration found that the e-cigarettes studied “contained detectable levels of known carcinogens and toxic chemicals to which users could potentially be exposed.”


So What Are the Dangers?

The obvious dangers are inhaling unknown chemicals that aren’t meant to be in our bodies, but studies have shown specific adverse effects that short-term vaping has been known to cause. These include:

  • Increased Heart Rate
  • Lung Inflammation
  • Dizzy Spells
  • Dry Cough and Throat Irritation
  • Metal Contamination (in metal batteries)
  • Seizure
  • Chest Pain
  • Disorientation
  • Pneumonia
  • Increased Addiction to Nicotine (due to higher frequency of inhalation)
  • Dry Eyes
  • Nausea
  • IBS
  • Depression

All of the negative factors of vaping are also prevalent in smoking cigarettes, and mainly to a much lower degree. Only 46 cases of severe adverse effects have been reported because of vaping, and it’s unclear if e-cigs were the root of the issues.

Information on the effects of long-term vaping is unavailable as it is such a new market. As of right now, it is deemed safer than smoking cigarettes, but there is not enough information to actually label it a safe habit.

What is known is that the chemicals in vaping do cause damage to the healthy cells in the mouth and the lungs, and even slow down the healing rate of infections and damaged tissues. So it may be “better” than smoking, but it’s not a habit you should feel comfortable partaking in.

Vaping in Sober Communities

Vaping is extremely popular in sober communities but is often just a replacement crutch. It may not be as severe as alcohol or opioids, but nicotine is still a drug and a very addictive one. Those in sober communities should try to avoid being reliant on any substance, and use the coping skills learned in recovery programs to quit the nicotine habit-either tobacco or vaping. Addiction is a mindset and any form of addiction can play into the behaviors associated with it, so it’s best to put the vape down, or never pick it up.

The Consensus

It’s Complicated.

Truth be told, there just isn’t enough information on the product to label it safe or not. Based on what we know, it’s much less harmful than cigarette smoking, but it still poses a potential risk to your overall health. If you’re considering vaping, do some research and weigh the pro’s and con’s and decide if it’s worth it.

Recovery Is Possible

If you or a loved one is seeking sobriety, take the first step to creating a happy and healthy life.  With help from the professionals at Elevations Health, you can find a new life in sobriety through our drug and alcohol treatment facility. So call us today at 1-866-200-3224 and begin your journey to recovery the right way, with Elevation Health.

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