Are E Cigarettes Dangerous?
By Lindsay Fox Posted on February 1, 2013
The supposed dangers of e-cigarette are sadly amongst the most commonly-reported aspects of the innovative technology. However, this isn’t the whole story. The omissions in media and FDA reports into e-cigarettes have led many people to ask the question: are e-cigarettes dangerous? The notion that they’re dangerous is on extremely shaky ground, and when compared to tobacco cigarettes they are virtually angelic. Reducing the 5,000-plus chemicals in tobacco cigarettes (which includes an array of carcinogens) to a mere handful of well-studied, safe ones is obviously beneficial, yet misunderstandings with regards to their safety are still common.
Nicotine is Not Dangerous
Nicotine only suffers from guilt by association. The fact that nicotine is the most well-known component of cigarette smoke leads people to assume that it’s actually a dangerous substance. It’s actually relatively similar to caffeine, and has been referred to as “very safe drug” by the Royal College of Physicians in London. A study which placed rats in chambers full of vaporized nicotine over a two year period indicated that consuming pure nicotine doesn’t increase the likelihood of cancer. One of the most regularly-cited dangers of e-cigarettes has been contradicted by both medical experts and experimental data.
The Nitrosamine Problem
In 2009, the FDA analyzed several e-cigarettes from two different manufacturers, and found that around half of them contained nitrosamines. These are a natural product of the tobacco plant and are known carcinogens (cancer-causers). The levels of these were left out of official reports, for arguably underhanded reasons. Researcher Dr. Michael Siegel has shown that the levels of nitrosamines detected are extremely similar to FDA-approved nicotine patches and over 1,000 times less than you would find in a tobacco cigarette. They are often found in any nicotine extracted from tobacco, and at the levels reported the risk is absolutely minimal.
More from the FDA
The same analysis also detected diethylene glycol, a chemical which is sensationally stated to be a common component of anti-freeze in media reports. However, independent reviews of other products haven’t found the same chemical, and the effects of inhaling it as a vapor have been studied in rats, only finding evidence of mild irritation. It’s been suggested that the FDA had a bad, poorly regulated sample, and also pointed out that cigarettes also contain the chemical. Studies have also shown that a user would have to smoke 750,000 cigarettes containing the chemical to inhale a lethal dose. If the choice is between cigarettes, with diethylene glycol and all of the other harmful chemicals, and e-cigs, where just one has been found to contain small amounts of diethylene glycol, the answer is obvious.
The three main arguments used to classify electronic cigarettes as potentially dangerous are all hugely flawed. A final, very important point is that the potential dangers of e cigarettes shouldn’t be measured against nothing; it should be measured against tobacco cigarettes. For people unable to quit smoking through traditional methods, switching to something safer is the only viable option. Even though more research is required into the potential dangers before firm statements can be made, it is unfeasible to state that electronic cigarettes are anywhere near as dangerous as tobacco cigarettes.
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