E-cigarettes: Are e-cigarettes harmful to your health?

E-cigarettes: Are e-cigarettes harmful to your health?

Can e-cigarettes be an alternative to traditional cigarettes? Electronic cigarettes are advertised as healthier, as a means of smoking cessation or even as a non-smoking cigarette. But is it really “healthy smoking”? What are the advantages of “vaping”, and what are the risks of the e-cigarette? Here, you can find out how harmful e-cigarettes are to your health and how studies evaluate them.

What are e-cigarettes?

E-cigarettes are also known as vapes or steamers. These are battery-operated, small devices inside which a liquid (liquid) is heated at a button or by drawing. This creates a vapour that is inhaled when smoking. The liquids are available in different flavours, with or without nicotine.

In contrast to regular cigarettes, no tobacco – and with it the 70 carcinogenic or harmful ingredients such as tar – is burned, but nicotine is vaporized. This means that no tobacco smoke is produced; instead, when smoking an e-cigarette, you inhale the vapour of the liquid, which contains nicotine and water, glycerin and propylene glycol, as well as artificial flavours and often preservatives.

The liquid of the electric cigarette is in a replaceable capsule and is distributed by an atomizer in the mouthpiece; with every puff on the e-cigarette, a heating element (vaporizer) is activated, which causes the nicotine liquid to vaporize. To make the e-cigarette look as accurate as possible, some e-cigarettes also have a small LED light modelled on the cigarette embers.


E-cigarette to quit smoking?

The manufacturers of electronic cigarettes sometimes advertise them as a breakthrough in smoking cessation. The e-cigarette is said to be the panacea for anyone wanting to quit smoking. The nicotine dose can be reduced further and further so that sometimes there is even talk of “non-smoking cigarettes”. Sometimes, it is also claimed that the e-cigarette is recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a means of smoking cessation.

The WHO, on the other hand, not only denied this statement but also clarified its point of view that there are far from enough studies on electronic cigarettes. Various studies on the benefits of e-cigarettes for smoking cessation come to conflicting conclusions. E-cigarettes are not currently recommended as a smoking cessation tool.

Switching to e-cigarettes could have a positive effect on health if there is an extreme nicotine dependency and attempts to stop smoking have failed several times. In that case, vaping could be less harmful to health than smoking cigarettes – however, the long-term health consequences cannot yet be estimated. Experts also criticize that switching to e-cigarettes is not the same as quitting smoking; after all, it only replaces one addiction for another – including the physical addiction and the rituals. A complete cessation of smoking is, therefore, always preferable.

Alternating use of e-cigarettes and conventional cigarettes, on the other hand, is considered to be particularly harmful, as even more toxins are absorbed overall.

E-cigarette as a gateway drug?

Experts warn that e-cigarettes are more likely to encourage smoking than to get rid of nicotine addiction. Children and young people in particular, but also occasional or non-smokers, are lured by flavours such as apple and chocolate – in reality, this only makes it easier to start smoking conventional cigarettes. The nicotine gets into the brain almost as quickly with the e-cigarette as with the conventional one. This means that electronic cigarettes also have a high potential for addiction.

A large-scale comparison of more than 800 studies found clear indications that e-cigarettes can tempt young people and young adults to smoke and that they then reach for conventional cigarettes more often. 1


Is smokeless smoking healthier?

In Germany, e-cigarettes are primarily available online and in particular stores. Providers often state that electronic cigarettes contain only a few harmless flavours in addition to nicotine.

Chemists from the US Food and Drug Administration discovered this is not true. In one case, among the unspecified pollutants was the chemical diethylene glycol, which was also used as an antifreeze and was contained in the gas from a cartridge. In addition, the scientists detected carcinogenic nitrosamines in half of the products examined, as well as other potentially harmful substances in the majority of cases. 2 From a scientific point of view; warnings are often given in particular about the carcinogenic effects of some flavorings and the toxic effects of the carriers glycerine and propylene glycol.

Although experts suspect that the e-cigarette is, in fact, less harmful than the normal one, there is still not much comprehensive research. A British study concluded that long-term use of e-cigarettes is significantly less harmful to health than long-term use of conventional cigarettes. 3 This is also confirmed by a study by Public Health England, which classifies e-cigarettes as 95 per cent less harmful. 4

Experts, therefore, assume that e-cigarettes are healthier than conventional cigarettes in some respects but not healthy. Even e-cigarettes without nicotine can be harmful to your health. That is why the benefit of “damage reduction” compared to the health damage caused by conventional cigarettes is highly controversial.

Risk of arteriosclerosis no lower

A study by the University Medical Center Schleswig-Holstein was able to show that the “more effective” nicotine intake when smoking e-cigarettes compared to conventional cigarettes even increases some of their side effects. In the study, participants in the study experienced an increase in systolic blood pressure for 45 minutes after smoking an e-cigarette containing nicotine, compared to only 15 minutes after smoking a conventional cigarette. The heart rate was also increased for longer after the nicotine-containing e-cigarette. 5

Both side effects are regarded as accelerating factors for the development of arteriosclerosis.

Additives prohibited

For e-cigarettes containing nicotine, the regulations of the Tobacco Products Act have been applied in Germany since May 20, 2016. In principle, a maximum dose of 20 milligrams of nicotine per millilitre of liquid applies to liquids. A liquid may contain a maximum of 10 millilitres. Refill containers may also hold a maximum of 10 millilitres. Additives such as caffeine or vitamins that suggest a health benefit are not allowed. Other additives are prohibited due to possible health risks or are under close observation.


E-cigarette: Other side effects

In addition to the substances that are not known, which enter the body through e-cigarettes and cause allergic reactions in some people, users of e-cigarettes also complain about headaches or dizziness from time to time. The new entry is challenging for many people regarding dosage. Irritation of the respiratory tract, dry cough and damage to the lung tissue are also possible consequences of vaping.

Although there are gradually more and more clinical studies on e-cigarettes, no statements can yet be made, especially about the long-term effects. Also, regarding the long-term damage caused by passive smoking of e-cigarettes, no statements can be made at this time.



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