Are E-Cigs Bad? Debunking the Common Myths About Vaping

Mar. 13, 2017
by Vaping Guru

Vaping isn’t safe. E-cigs are bad for you. They’re as harmful, or even more, as tobacco cigarettes. Chemicals produced from e-cigs have a connection in the cause of some cancers.

Phew. That’s scary!

You’ll find these and many other similar claims propagated by the so-called gurus and even some scientific studies. The American government and FDA portray e-cigs as a huge threat to our next generation. Overall, they’re trying to put in place rules that will nearly decimate the whole vaping industry.

But the million-dollar question is: are these claims 100% true and genuine or is there a hidden agenda behind these studies. On the whole, are big tobacco companies are funding many of these studies?

All these conflicting claims and contrasting studies have got Americans confused. However, there was a recent poll by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. This poll shows that Americans are split evenly into two groups, one that thinks e-cigs are safer than the tobacco cigarette, while the other group has the opposite opinion.

If you’re confused, need not worry. The rest of this guide will try to find out the answer, look at scientific shreds of evidence, and debunk the myths clouding the vaping industry.

First Thing First – Nothing is 100% Safe

If you’re concerned about your health, the only thing you should inhale is fresh air. Period!

E-liquids, even if they are comparatively safer than tobacco, are not entirely free of hazards. Far from preaching what’s right or wrong, we should note that each addiction that interferes with one’s life is harmful. Let’s not forget that most e-liquids contain at least some percentage of nicotine, which is one of the most addictive drugs under the sun.

But hey, even the healthiest foods that we eat are not 100% safe. Coffee alone has more than 20 known carcinogens and overall seen as a highly addictive stimulant.

Okay, let’s go back to our original question, are e-cigs bad. Instead of giving a yes/no answer, let’s consider the studies and claims made by professionals on both sides of the aisle and see who makes more sense.

Studies That Claim E-Cigs Are Bad and Their Critical Analysis

Several scientific pieces of research claim that e-cigs are hazardous, and we aren’t even talking about tobacco companies or pharmaceutical companies that fund some of the research. Obviously, they don’t want people to stop smoking.

 Formaldehyde Found in Aerosol 

In Jan 2015, New England Journal of Medicine published a peer-reviewed letter by five researchers from the Portland State University. It claimed that when vaped at high voltages, aerosol contains formaldehyde, which is a known carcinogen. However, when vaped at low to mid level of voltage, formaldehyde wasn’t found in the vapor.

The study also seems to claim that heavy vapors are at least 15 times more susceptible to cancer because of formaldehyde consumption than smokers. This study raised eyebrows, and several newspapers toed this line.

Critical Analysis: Although this is one of the most impressive studies against e-cigs, there’s one major flaw in it. Nobody vapes at such ridiculous high voltages, because you’ll get the burnt taste every vaper hates. On the other hand, the same study confirms no sign of formaldehyde if you set the vaporizer to the normal voltage level.

 E-Cigarettes – A Gateway for Teens Into Smoking 

The results of a survey published in Journal Pediatrics in 2016, claimed that teenage kids who had never smoked but had vaped were at least six times more likely to try tobacco cigarettes as compared to hose teenagers who had never vaped either.

Critical Analysis: While this survey apparently seems scary, but ironically, the stats published by CDC show the exact opposite of this claim is true. Consider these stats. In 2015, 24% teenager had tried a vape in 2015 which was a significant surge from the last year. But at the same time, only 11% of teenagers had smoked, which is the lowest we have seen in the past few years.

 Diacetyl and Lung Disease  

Diacetyl is a known harmful chemical and is also considered to be one of the major causes of the disease called popcorn lungs (if you’re wondering, the medical name is bronchiolitis obliterans). The only cure for this disease is a lung transplant. Some studies have tried to establish a link between e-liquids – that use diacetyl for flavoring – and popcorn lungs.

Critical Analysis: This can be a solid concern, but there isn’t enough evidence behind the claim that e-cigs do cause this disease. On top of that, not all the e-liquids contain the hazardous chemical.

Studies That Claim E-Cigs Are Not Bad and Their Critical Analysis

Now let’s talk about the claims for e-cigs and try to scrutinize them.

 E-Cigarettes – 95% Safer Than Tobacco Cigarettes  

The most popular argument that has come for e-cigs was in a 2015 report published by Public Health England. The report claimed that vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking. They built an argument on the fact that there is no tar, neither several other hazardous chemicals in the vapor that we see in tobacco.

Critical Analysis: Published by the most prominent health professional of the UK, this is pretty hard to refute. The only concern here could be that we don’t have long-term data. Have they jumped the gun? We don’t know yet.

 “Vaping – 60% More Effective Than Any Other Cessation Technique” 

Since vaping not only simulates smoking but also offers a very similar sensation, a research report published back in 2014 found out that it’s 60% more effective than any other technique available on the market.

Critical Analysis: While the claim makes a lot of sense, but there is no guarantee that vaping is 100% successful and a smoker will not go back to smoking tobacco after having tried vaping.

 A Potent Harm Reduction Approach  Another recent report published in April 2016 by Royal College of Physicians says that vaping seems to be a very robust harm-reduction strategy for smokers who want to kick their addiction.

Critical Analysis: Again, we will have to wait until we have enough credible data that spans over at least a couple of decades to see how vaping impacts a vaper’s body and how effective it is in cessation in the long run.

My Two Cents

Let me confess, being an ex-smoker-turned-vaper, I might be a little biased towards vaping, but I have tried to put forward the most compelling arguments from both sides in an impartial manner. Now you can make out whatever you want from this discussion, but if you want to know my opinion, here it is.

There are two things that we need to keep in mind whenever considering any scientific study or research about e-cigarettes. Most of these financed studies are by big tobacco companies or pharmaceutical companies. One makes money by selling tobacco; the other takes your money by selling you cessation products. Moreover, the government makes a lot of money through taxation on tobacco products.

If you read the last paragraph between the lines, you’ll know my take on the discussion.

Known Hazards of E-Cigs

Even if we assume that e-cigs are exponentially safer than tobacco cigarettes, we can’t ignore they have certain side-effects and downsides.

Nicotine Addiction

Most e-liquids contain nicotine, which is habit forming and one of the most addictive drugs on the earth. Some health professionals rate it even higher than heroin and crack. Most e-liquids contain nicotine, so even if there is any harm reduction, you’ll still have an addiction to nicotine.

On the bright side, most e-liquids also allow you to choose nicotine strength in them. Thus, can be a great aid if you want to gradually reduce your nicotine intake and eventually start living a nicotine-free life. And let’s not forget that it’s not the nicotine part that makes cigarettes lethal, it’s the tobacco part.

No Long-Term Data

However, no long-term data is one of the real major concerns. Humans are always afraid of the unknown, and the long-term impact of vapor on the human body is still pretty much unknown. Vaping caught limelight just a few years ago, and we still have to wait several years to see how our body reacts to the long-term use.

Low-Quality Products

In my opinion, this is the biggest concern that we can easily avoid by opting for well-known brands that care about their reputation. You’ll find a ton of manufacturers on the market, many of them care about nothing but their profits. They will lower the quality of the products – be it e-liquids or vaping gear – to increase the profit margin.

Overall, it means several hazards such that e-liquids might use low-quality flavorings instead of food-grade flavorings. Also, a vape might have plastic parts that can combust at high temperatures and release unwanted toxins into the vapor, and so on.

In short, cheap is not always affordable. A product that will last long and will offer a better, healthier vaping experience is a better pick than an inexpensive one that won’t last long or, if worst comes to worst, can cause you many times more regarding doctor bills.

Some Other Hazards

Here are some other risks that come with e-cigs.

  • Battery explosions. Luckily, these are very uncommon, with a probability of one in a million, but still possible. Far less than what we saw in the case of Samsung Galaxy Note 7. Moreover, this doesn’t have to do with the e-cigs itself, rather with the batteries. You can avoid or further lower the chances of it happening to you by choosing good-quality batteries, using only the recommended charger, not carrying loose batteries in your pocket, and not overcharging or over-discharging the batteries.
  • Nicotine poisoning. Consequently, can be a concern if you have kids or pets. Always store your vaping gear and e-liquids in a safe place where kids and pets can’t reach.
  • Allergies. High PG e-juices can cause certain allergies. If you experience any such allergies, try switching to a high VG e-juice and also consult your doctor.
  • Side effects. These can appear when you first start vaping. Aerosol has the quality to absorb water molecules from the surroundings, which can leave you dry mouth and dehydrated. Early side effects also include dry mouth, dry skin, itchiness, dizziness, allergies, and canker sores. The good thing is that they don’t usually last long. Overall, you can reduce side effects if you are drinking plenty of water and staying hydrated. If they don’t go away after the first few days, consult your doctor.

Conclusion

So, are e-cigs bad?

Well, we’ve laid everything on the table we know so far, you’ve to figure out the answer for yourself.

You should take most of the researches and studies with a grain of salt because the vaping industry is still in its infancy and science has yet to come up with concrete findings. But let me repeat one key takeaway from this guide. If you do vape, don’t compromise on quality and always choose high-quality products from well-known brands. And if you are new to vaping, keep your body well hydrated so you can get past the initial side effects.

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