Television commercials advertise them. Celebrities endorse them. Electronic cigarettes—also known as e-cigarettes or e-cigs—have become popular as a safe alternative to smoking.
Problem is—there’s no evidence to back up this claim. In fact, in recent years, poison centers have reported an increase in emergency calls related to electronic cigarettes and their main ingredient, liquid nicotine.
While experts figure out exactly what electronic cigarettes do to your body, these facts will help you determine what’s true and what’s false in the e-cigarette debate.
What’s an E-cig, Anyways?
E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices often designed to look like regular tobacco cigarettes. Instead of tobacco, e-cigarettes are filled with liquid that contains nicotine and other chemicals. When that liquid is heated it turns into vapor that can be inhaled.
E-cigarettes are often sold in convenience stores and gas stations. Brand names include Njoy, V2, and blu.
Fact #1: E-cigarettes Are Still Addictive
Many e-cigarette devices use cartridges that contain liquid nicotine. These “e-liquids” are a big safety concern. Tiny amounts can cause vomiting, seizures, and can even be lethal when absorbed or ingested.
Fact #2: They Contain 31 Harmful Chemicals
Medical researchers have identified at least 31 toxic chemicals in e-cigarettes, some of which can cause cancer. Studies show a teaspoon of highly diluted “e-liquid” is enough to kill an adult. Studies have also shown the nicotine directly damages the heart, boring holes in the muscle walls and increasing the risk of heart disease.
So, how are marketers getting away with claims that these things are good for you when medical research shows otherwise? Because e-cigarettes are just beginning to be regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.
Fact #3: You May Not Know What You’re Smoking
E-cigarettes are still relatively new and the long-term health effects are still unknown. Starting in August 2016, the FDA ruled it would begin regulating e-cigarettes using the same standards as tobacco products. However, it will take a couple of years for when the new regulations to go into effect. This means that nicotine levels and “e-liquid” ingredients will vary widely from product to product, and for the time being, there is no proof that these ingredients are safe. Once regulated, e-cigs will be required to show what their ingredients are and any risks associated with them.
Fact #4: They Aren’t Proven to Help You Quit
Although some smokers have found that e-cigarettes helped them stop or cut back on tobacco use, the FDA has not approved e-cigarette use as a tobacco cessation method.
E-cigarettes promote the habit of getting a nicotine fix by inhaling from a cigarette-like device. Experts warn that this can lead to nicotine dependence and even initiate cigarette use in previous non-smokers.
Plus, users don’t always know how much nicotine they’re getting when they decide to “vape.” This can actually worsen the addiction, and make it harder to stop smoking.
Fact #5: They’re Banned on Base
Though the FDA hasn’t officially cracked down on e-cigarettes yet, the Army certainly has. E-cigarettes have the same restrictions as tobacco and are prohibited in all Army workspaces [PDF 67.57KB].
Soldiers who violate the electronic cigarette policy are subject to punishment under Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Bottom line: Be wary of claims that e-cigarettes are healthy. They contain harmful chemicals that could do long-term damage to your body.