Are E-Cigarettes Dangerous?

By Lindsay Fox Posted February 1, 2013

Using an Electronic Cigarette


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 electronic 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.


SEE ALSO: Top 20 Rebuttals to Win an E-Cig Debate


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.


SEE ALSO: Top 10 Studies on Nicotine


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.


SEE ALSO: Do You Need to Worry About the Nitrosamines in E-Cigs?


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.


E-Cigarettes: Dangerous or Safer Alternative?


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.


Share your thoughts: Do you think e-cigarettes are dangerous or a safer alternative to smoking cigarettes?


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  • breezypeasy

    But what happens when you smoke to much are you gonna get nicotine poisoning? What about the reports of pneumonia?

    • goober

      What about the reports of LUNG CANCER from tobacco. I think they can cure Pneumonia.

      • Rosemary Miskulin

        We’re not talking about “tobacco” here. We’re discussing nicotine. Duh!

    • James Wilson

      The pneumonia rumors are mostly false. I say mostly because I do see it maybe being possible with cheap cigalikes. Still there could be many other factors to blame for the few rare cases that have occurred. Such as going outside in the cold without a coat. Perhaps they have to work in a freezer a lot at their work. Going in and out of that could also cause it. It is just easier for people to point the blame at e-cigs without any real proof then it is to actually prove e-cigs are causing it. Just look at how many people vape now and have not gotten pneumonia.

      As for nicotine poisoning. It is really an odd thing. You can chain smoke like crazy but not get it. At least I never did. But perhaps all those thousands of extra chemicals somehow prevented it. It really is hard saying. With vaping it is possible. Especially early on when someone first starts vaping. Many people don’t know what level of nicotine they should even use to start with. So many start too high. To add to that there are many who don’t know when to stop vaping. Nicotine is absorbed as a slower rate and differently with e-cigs then cigs. Cigs it is just lung absorption and your body actually absorbs it much more quickly. With e-cigs, the nicotine is absorbed from tissues in your mouth, nose and lounges. It also absorbs it slower. So you don’t feel the immediate effects. So people early on still keep on vaping expecting they will know when they have had enough when they haven’t really learned when they have enough. So when they start ODing, they will experience small cramps. I have been through this myself. Unlike some people out there, I had done research before hand and had read about this and knew what it was. So I just put down my vape for a while. I have also recently decreased my nic amount some. Not because I wanted to either. It is just that my body can’t take as much nic as it once did. From what I have heard from other vapors who were ex-smokers,. this is a common thing. For a lot of us, it seems our bodies adjust to naturally try to ween us off nicotine. Even though I have no plans of completely giving up nic, i expect by this time next year I will be down to 2-6mg nic. When I first switched over I was vaping anywhere from 18 to 36 mg. I just stepped down to 12 mg. I think with my next order I may even need to go less. It is actually kinda funny. When I smoked, the more I smoked the more I cigs I wanted and the heavier the need I felt for nic increased. Though I know now that was likely just cause of the extra chemicals. With vaping, my need for nic is actually decreasing. I am even finding myself vaping less then I did when I first started vaping. Nic ODing cramps are almost a thing of the past now too. I say almost cause on a very stressful day I still find myself vaping a lot and sometimes a bit too much. Naturally it leads to that. But when it happens I set my vape down. lol.

      To anyone considering switching to e-cigs from cigs do it. No I am not talking about the crappy cigalikes. Switch to a good one. Also do your research before hand so you know what to expect and stuff. Going in blind is a bad idea.

      • Rosemary Miskulin

        Weather does NOT cause illness…germs and weak immune systems do.

  • heybert17

    The FDA says they are bad, the e-cig marketers say they are safe, I don’t see any conflict of interest here on either side. And we all know corporations have never lied to us to get us addicted to something unsafe before.

    • James Wilson

      Well Big Tobacco makes some of the crappier cigalikes. Mostly to try to get us to go back to tobacco. Good thing I don’t use those and I gave up smoking after 14 years thanks to vaping. The thing is Big Tobacco and Pharmaceutical companies are pushing for tougher regulations as well. They fear they will lose money cause of e-cigs. So you got their lobbyist bribing and pressuring public officials and the FDA to make tougher regulations and get them to spread the false rumors that go around. It doesn’t help that those in the government also see taxing the stuff as a chance to make a bunch of money off it itself. Those on the anti-vaping side are consumed by greed and care nothing for the actual people themselves. A lot of the people fighting against them on the pro-vape side are vapors themselves who have actually noticed their health getting better after switching over. Those on the pro-vape side also want better proper research done as well. We agree that needs to be done. Their really jumping the gun trying to tax and regulate it as much as they are. Hell their trying to put it in the same category as cigarettes when it isn’t.

  • tjake13

    Is this the same FDA, that gets lucrative jobs from cigarette companies?

    • James Wilson

      Yes it is.

    • Scott Murphy

      What is your source for that?

  • Steve Hammond

    Nicotine is not dangerous? HORSESHIT!!! Nicotine is a strong vasoconstrictor and can increase the likelihood of heart attack and stroke. Most especially in people with arteriosclerotic disease or are prone to clotting. It can also increase blood pressure and is is also a strong neurotoxin. It is also extremely addictive.

    • James Wilson

      Are you aware that the majority of test done on the effects of nicotine are done on nicotine in tobacco? There hasn’t been much done on nicotine by itself. That yes it can be dangerous and it is possible to OD. But when vaping you will know when you have had too much. You will start getting cramps. At that point you just put down your vape and let it settle and your fine. Pure nicotine of course by itself if dangerous. There is no argument on that. But how it is now in e-juice it isn’t that bad and far safer then cigarettes. Hell the nicotine is the least deadly thing in a cigarette. Also caffeine itself can be dangerous and bad for you as well.

      • Scott Murphy

        More rationalizations. All of the credible research contradicts what you say. I am sorry, but as a scientist myself, I place far more credence in the research than someone who is obviously vested in this most dangerous of habits.

        • James Wilson

          There hasn’t been a lot of credible research even done on nicotine by itself. In the past it has been done most on nicotine mixed with tobacco. I am all for more credible research. It needs to be done. It needs to be done on nicotine, nicotine in e-liquids, e-liquids by themselves without nicotine, on the vaporizers as a whole, on the temperatures and conditions of stuff being released when the wicks heat up, what effects the temps have on the juice and yes even on the coils themselves. A lot of research needs to be done. What research that has been done shows short term usage of e-cigs is not dangerous. But more does need to be done. We need to get research going on the long term effects. We need the research to be as unbiased as possible. If you recall there was a time when research supposedly claimed cigarettes weren’t harmful and then years later the claims was of course changed to tell the truth. Part of the problem is it has to do where the money is flowing from. Those that are against it are going to push for things to try to prove they are deadly. Some even want to prove their deadlier then cigs. They might even hide findings that show the opposite. The same could be said from someone on the other side of the coin. The ones researching this need to remain as neutral as possible and let the fact tell the truth. I am not a scientist myself. But based on my personal experience, since I have switched from cigarettes to a vaporizers, my breathing has improved, i have more energy and overall I think my health has improved. I am by no means saying this is good for me. But it isn’t as bad for me as cigarettes. There are people going around out there saying this is worse for you then smoking cigarettes. Based on my own personal experience it isn’t. There are lots of people out there who can tell you the same thing. Of course I can already tell your not unbiased when it comes to this. You have made up your mind that vaping is the most dangerous of habits. Though I would argue that those hooked on meth, crack, heroine and other hard drugs are on a much more dangerous addiction and habit then I am. I’d even argue those are more dangerous then cigarettes. As a scientist you shouldn’t just make up your mind on vaporizers until al the facts are in. I am really glad your not in charge of this research. Who know how much you would screw it up or not report because of your biased attitude towards vaping.

          • Scott Murphy

            Honestly I don’t give a sh** one way or another. It is your body, if you want to put it in peril, that is certainly your decision I am a clinical microbiologist also with a Masters in Public Health so I have been around the healthcare arena for about 25 years. Nicotine is a VERY POTENT vasoconstrictor. You don’t have to OD on it to place yourself to in significant physical peril. If you have any pre-disposition to forming thrombi and use a potent vasoconstrictor, you place yourself at great risk of ischemic events, either neuro- or cardio in nature. Also, if you suffer from atherosclerosis, diagnosed or not, and use a vaso constrictor, you again place yourself in increased peril of ischemic events. Rationalize it all you want, but using nicotine in ANY FORM, places yourself in several times higher risk of ischemic events. The American Heart Association has been saying this for years. I think they have FAR more credibility than you.

            As for your claims about the harmful effects of cigarettes, the US Surgeon General began posting statements that cigarette smoking was harmful to your health in the mid SIXTIES. That was over 50 years ago. That’s the funny thing about medicine, it does not come down from up high, it takes many years of research to document pathologies. Again, rationalize it all you want, but each time you “vape” you are rolling the bones pal, and one day you are going to come up “snake eyes”. The medical research BEARS THAT OUT.

          • James Wilson

            All that information on nicotine comes from studies on nicotine with tobacco. There haven’t been many on nicotine by itself. Also here is some information on a recent study done.


            I never said nicotine was harmless I am just saying their haven’t been enough studies on it by itself to prove how deadly it is for you in e-cigs. More studies need to be done. The only thing clear really is it seems better for people then cigarettes. Hell many recent studies on e-cigs have been showing that much. As well does the personal experiences of who have switched from smoking to vaping.

        • Rosemary Miskulin

          Are you sure you’re not vested in the “anti-everything-but-what-I-do” movement sweeping our country?

          • Steve Hammond

            Are you sure you are not vested only in claims that it is not? How do you breathe with your head in the sand?

  • StoopidMunkee

    Look at me. =)

  • Bob

    E-cigarettes contain 10 times the carcinogens of regular tobacco

    • gomer

      Your a dumbass.

    • Guest

      That is a false rumor being spread by those in the medical community. It was started by higher ups who are against it. In particular by those in the pharmaceutical industry. The main reason their against it is the same reason as tobacco companies are wanting stronger regulations. They fear e-cigs will cause them to lose money. The sad thing there is there are many nurses and Drs buying into these false rumors as well.

    • James Wilson

      More proper research is being done on this. But to get those levels they
      describe you would have to overheat the coil to the point where the
      juice would not only burn but it would be completely unvapable. Also there is some questions as to just how accurate and biased that research was.

      • Frank Orcutt

        If ejuice is so dangerous, Then why do firefighters (I’m a disabled firefighter) use the same liquid for fire safety houses?

    • Rosemary Miskulin

      You’re nuts. Have yourself committed.

  • jim bob

    Smoke weed

  • James Wilson

    More proper research is being done on this. But to get those levels they describe you would have to overheat the coil to the point where the juice would not only burn but it would be completely unvapable.

  • Rosemary Miskulin

    Another uninformed, dumbass