Smoking cigarettes has been shown to impact all the body’s major systems – cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive – and lead to many forms of cancer. Smoking causes one in five deaths in America, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). With this in mind, there is a strong push to quit (or there should be).
There are numerous ways you can quit smoking, from therapy to hypnosis to wearing a nicotine patch. But one means of quitting smoking that’s on the rise is simply switching one evil for another. We’re referring to e-cigarettes, and as their popularity grows among smokers and non-smokers alike, the negative health effects of these devices continue to come to light.
Largest consumers of e-cigarettes reportedly are the United Kingdom, with 2.6 million users of e-cigarettes. Nearly half a million of them switched from regular tobacco use. Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) reported that 22 percent of e-cigarette users say that switching from tobacco to e-cigarettes is a way to quit the habit.
Further studies, however, are starting to show that users who switch aren’t quitting at all. Worse still, e-cigarettes now pose their own health risks which are nearly as bad as tobacco smoking. E-cigarettes have become another trendy bad habit for kids, teens and adults.
E-cigarettes versus traditional tobacco: Do they really live up to the hype?
As we’ve mentioned, smoking can take a serious toll on your health. Tobacco use has been linked to the following diseases and illnesses:
- Heart disease
- Effects on reproduction and erectile dysfunction
- Reduced immune function
- Respiratory diseases and infections, such as pneumonia
- Vision problems like cataracts or vision loss
- Cancer – liver, lung, throat, kidney, bladder, colon.
The health effects of smoking are serious, so it’s no wonder people are trying to quit. And although e-cigarettes are billed as a safer alternative, they come with their own risk.
E-cigarettes are available in assorted flavors and can contain nicotine as well. Research presented at the American Thoracic Society international conference revealed that these flavors can have toxic effects on the user’s lungs. Five different flavors were used on cultures of human lung cells to study their effects. Results showed the flavors decreased the cells’ abilities to perform and reproduce.
Because we know that the ingredients in cigarettes are harmful to the body, we know that people should not smoke. But we don’t know if the chemicals in e-cigarettes’ liquid flavors will have lasting negative effects on the body. But a body of research continues to grow showing serious threats.
A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine revealed, when at high voltage, e-cigarettes produced large amounts of formaldehyde – more so than normal tobacco cigarettes. This has the potential to raise cancer risks by five times greater than tobacco cigarettes.
Further, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health uncovered that when mice were exposed to e-cigarette vapor they had a decrease in ability to fight off bacterial and viral infections. Meaning, e-cigarettes have the potential to weaken our immune systems.
Debate on “e-cigarettes safe or not?” continues, but we’re seeing more evidence against them as a health risk.
E-cigarettes help overcome traditional tobacco addiction? Minimal proof…
A strong selling point for switching from tobacco cigarettes to e-cigarettes is the thrust to quit smoking. Because e-cigarettes appear to be safer, people think they are not causing as much damage to themselves by switching. But can e-cigarettes really lead to kicking the habit?
The research is mixed on this one, with some revealing that there is some success in quitting smoking but in other cases there isn’t. For example, one British study showed that among those who wished to quit, those who used an e-cigarette had a 60 percent higher likelihood of quitting.
On the other hand, a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine revealed that e-cigarettes don’t lead to quitting. In this study participants were identified as wanting to quit by using an e-cigarette. The study in Britain only examined those who wished to quit. Methodology, then, can play a role in the effectiveness of determining whether e-cigarettes are an effective means to quit smoking.
One thing is for certain, though: Quit smoking! Although there isn’t a clear-cut answer of e-cigarettes’ effectiveness to quit smoking, the product’s popularity shows people do have a desire to quit and are trying out different means to make it happen.
If the desire to quit is there, that will ultimately determine a person’s success rate in actually doing so.
E-cigarettes are not free from regulations
Due to lack of information with regard to health consequences from e-cigarettes, the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not have many regulations in place on e-cigarettes. FDA continues to hold conferences and workshops in order to obtain more information about e-cigarettes so that further regulations can be put in place.
Currently the FDA regulates e-cigarettes deemed therapeutic, cigarettes, tobacco cigarettes, roll-your-own tobacco and smokeless tobacco. A proposal for further regulation of all e-cigarettes has been put forward.
As you can see, there aren’t definitive answers when it comes to e-cigarettes, especially regarding safety. They are new to market and it will take time for us to fully understand the health consequences. But we do know the liquid vapor makes e-cigarettes something foreign which you are letting into your body – that alone comes with its own threat.
If you are looking to quit smoking, there are many options available, without trendy gimmicks like e-cigarettes. Government agencies now have hotlines and resources for you to get the help you need to quit. And speak to your health care provider. With assistance, you can find a cessation program that is best suited for you to ensure success.
Smoking is harmful, no matter what it is. It is truly better to be safe than sorry, so avoiding all types of smoke is a smarter choice than switching out your options.
As a doctor who specializes in smoking cessation and pulmonary medicine, whenever I hear of a patient trying to quit smoking using a method that is dangerous or ineffective, I’m going to speak up. People need the right information, tools and all the help they can get to kick the habit.
Do you remember how old you were when you had your first cigarette? Maybe it seems like a distant memory, and now that you’re older there seems to be no point in quitting –but there is! No matter how long you’ve been smoker, it’s never too late to quit and start reversing the damage that’s been done.