The media coverage on the exploding e-cigarette deflected public attention from the significant risks of smoking electronic cigarettes. Manufacturers invest hundreds of millions of dollars to make the products look attractive and tame, but when you open the cigarette and examine the composition of its ingredients, you see that it includes compounds with the potential to really harm one's health, and not only the smoker.
This article highlights updated research on the subject and several doctors' opinions to understand how great the risk is.
The vapor can melt resins and remove varnish
Most smokers don't know what's in the vapor-liquid in the electronic cigarette. Many know that it contains nicotine and flavoring agents but do not which toxic ingredients are in there.
One substance is acetaldehyde, a toxic substance that in high concentrations dramatically increases the risk of cancer.
Next is toluene which is used to dissolve artificial resins, paints, ink, varnish, rubber, etc. Toluene is also used as a starting material for explosive TNT and plastic materials such as polyurethane.
Also, electronic cigarettes contain familiar substances which are harmful. A study published about a year ago at Johns Hopkins University found high and toxic levels of 15 heavy metals including nickel, chromium and lead in the liquid that surrounds the heating coil in the electronic cigarette and in the spray emitted from it. Findings were collected from cigarettes from various different companies and received from 56 users.
Are your kids sometimes having spasms or seizures? It might be due to e-cigarettes
The FDA published a study showing a link between the risk of seizures and the use of electronic cigarettes, mainly among teenagers and young adults.
In fact, every week new scientific evidence and updated reports are published that link electronic cigarettes to serious health risks. The FDA study shows that electronic cigarettes are now suspected of causing convulsions among teenagers based on reports from the field.
Also, a study conducted in the USA based on findings of an extensive national survey initiated by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that electronic cigarettes may increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
The study, carried out by the School of Medicine at the University of Kansas, included 410,651 adult American subjects aged 18 and over. Results showed an electronic cigarette smoker has a 40% higher risk of developing angina pectoris or coronary heart disease, a disease that damages arteries that supply blood to the heart, compared to subjects who didn't use electronic cigarettes.
Does smoking e-cigarettes help one quit smoking regular cigarettes?
The answer is still not clear-cut. British health organizations are on the side of electronic cigarettes as a means of withdrawal. A 2017 study funded by Cancer Research UK showed that significantly lower levels of toxins and cancer-causing substances were found in the bodies of people who switched to electronic cigarettes instead of regular cigarettes for a period of at least six months.
On the other hand, Ehud Abrahamson, an addiction rehab expert and founder of the Abrahamson Institute, pointed out that a US study with 13,000 participants highlighted the fact that trying to quit cigarettes by smoking another product, including electronic cigarettes and vaping products, isn't effective and even leads to the opposite result.
The study, led by John Pierce, a professor of family medicine and public health at the University of California San Diego, indicated that among ex-smokers who tried quitting cigarettes using another type of tobacco or nicotine product, including an e-cigarette, only 41.5% remained "clean" during the second follow-up test. In other words, their chance of successfully quitting e-cigarettes was 8.5% lower.
The Abrahamson Institute also points out that the "clean" appearance and the absence of tobacco deceive users, since it doesn't help smokers detoxify, but rather e-cigarettes are a way for young people to start smoking.
According to him, in a study based on more than 17,000 smokers aged 14-30 who answered questions regarding their use of electronic cigarettes and regular cigarettes, the main finding is that 30.4% of those who have used electronic cigarettes have also tried smoking tobacco, compared to only 7.9 percent of those who didn't use electronic cigarettes at all - almost four times as many.
In fact, e-cigarette use has been found to be a higher risk factor for starting to smoke regular cigarettes even when compared to cigarette smoking by parents, friends and siblings.
There's a risk of irreversible damage, even from a single puff of an electronic cigarette
A study published in Radiology found that using an e-liquid vaporizer can cause damage to the user's blood vessels, even if they only inhaled the vapor once.
The study was designed to test how vaping affects blood vessels and changes in blood flow in the femoral artery in the leg after using one vaping cigarette. To test the changes, trial participants were given an MRI. The imaging was done twice: Once before and then after participants inhaled the liquid vapor from the e-cigarette tank.
The link between smoking an electronic cigarette and the development of attention disorders in teens
Electronic cigarettes contain nicotine, just like regular cigarettes. Nicotine is an addictive substance at any age, but according to Prof. Ben-Ami Sela from the Department of Molecular Genetics and Biochemistry, Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, exposure of teens to it is even more serious because during adolescence the brain is particularly sensitive, so nicotine can cause addiction, attention disorders and mood disorders (e.g. depression).
Beyond affecting the brain, nicotine affects other functions such as blood pressure and heart rate. All of these can become long-term problems.
An article published in Science Report stated that 50 milligrams of nicotine must be in an electronic cigarette container in order for the effect to be like inhaling nicotine in regular cigarettes. Yet due to inadequate supervision, e-cigarettes are sold in Israel with much higher nicotine rates.
Passive exposure to e-cigarette vapor is very dangerous
There's a belief that electronic cigarettes don't have a negative effect on those who are next to smokers. In practice, many studies state that exposure to electronic cigarettes may cause the passive smoker to absorb copious amounts of nicotine, depending on the size of the container containing the liquid.
The Cancer Society states that known toxic and carcinogenic substances were found in electronic cigarette vapors, and passive exposure to these substances emitted during smoking may cause health problems, including damage to the respiratory system and the heart.
Also, it was found that exposure to smoking electronic cigarettes can lead to the absorption of nicotine in an amount significantly exceeding the absorption of nicotine from clean air. This is significant enough to endanger those vulnerable to the effects of nicotine like children and women of reproductive age.
Impairs blood flow to the fetus
An electronic cigarette can cause damage to the fetus during pregnancy. In a literature review of 91 articles regarding e-cigarette smoking during pregnancy and its effect on the fetus, it was shown that the level of nicotine consumed by electronic cigarette smokers is equivalent to that consumed by regular cigarette smokers.
It's also noted that the use of nicotine during pregnancy reduces the weight of the fetus by almost 50% and the size of the fetus (measured from the tip of the head to the tailbone) by almost 30%. Also, the use of nicotine during pregnancy resulted in a decrease of over 65% in blood flow to the fetus.