Are e-cigarettes safe? An objective approach

Share on:
Image of Are e-cigarettes safe? An objective approach

Whether you're a smoker trying to make the transition towards e-cigarettes or a vaper who wants to be well informed, I'm positive you've read at least one terrifying article by now about the dangers of e-smoking and how these devices might actually turn out to be even worse than their tobacco counterparts. If you also take into account the several reports in the media about exploding mods and people ending up in the hospital with severe burns caused by malfunctioning batteries, as well as the constant ban on the use of these devices in public, you're suddenly left to believe that you're better off smoking combustibles and shouldn't have to face the numerous 'risks' posed by vaping.

ego type batterySo, are e-cigarettes safe or is this just a myth in which we all vapers believe just because we like our mods so much that we don't want to stop using them? The simple answer to this question is both 'yes' and 'no' but it all depends on a few key aspects. I'm no doctor and I can't make any health claims, but there are scientific studies which show that e-cigarettes are up to 95% safer than regular tobacco analogs and this is because of a very simple aspect – with ecigs there is no combustion to generate thousands of nasty chemicals and the e-liquids are only made with a few ingredients, many of them also used in the food or pharmaceutical industry. So they are safer than standard tobacco cigarettes, but at the same time they do contain a few chemicals that are not naturally present in the air we breathe, so in a case of a non-smoker, vaping would probably expose the user to some risks – but most likely the same as living in a polluted city. However, the number of non-smokers that try and stick with e-cigarettes is minimal, so I decided to discuss the problem more from a former smoker's point of view.

I've been a smoker for many years, I started when I was in high school just to hang out with the cool kids and ended up going through more than a pack a day in college. Soon after I got my first job, because of all the stress and deadlines I reached nearly two packs a day and that's when I first started to notice the harmful effects of smoking. I was catching colds more frequently, I lost a considerable amount of weight, I was coughing to the point of feeling sick in the mornings and I was admitted to the hospital twice with severe bronchitis in a single year. I ended up spending more than a third of what I was making on cigarettes and associated products as well as on healthcare and pharmaceutical or cosmetic products to hide some of the effects (teeth whitening gels, breath refreshments, deodorants, creams etc.)

My apartment and car were smelling like old ashtrays and one time I nearly set the house on fire because I didn’t put out the cigarette bud properly. I often found myself reflecting on how my life had been like if I didn't start smoking. I felt really disappointed with my lifestyle and I was desperate for a change, so like many of you out there, I decided to ask my doctor for a prescription for some nicotine patches and gum, in an effort cu cut down on the number of smokes.

These nicotine alternatives did the trick for a while and I was able to reach 12-15 cigarettes daily, however I started experiencing stomach problems from the gum and I still had that nasty oral fixation. I tried everything from going cold turkey as a new year's resolution to throwing the whole pack after smoking a single cigarette, just to stop me spending more money on them. Nothing seemed to work and I was feeling more and more like one of those addicts you see in the movies who's too weak to quit.

However, one day, one of my colleagues came to work with an electronic cigarette, and despite enduring serious mocking and silly jokes for over a week, he still used it until finally was able to give up on the nicotine. Puzzled by his achievement I wanted to know more about these devices and after spending a few days researching online I finally decided to spend around $50 on an e-cigarette starter kit.

But after the first few puffs I was pretty disappointed with it, because it didn't taste like the brand of cigarettes I was used to, however I decided to give the ecig a chance to work and pretty soon I was a part-time vaper. I say part time because I only vaped at home, while at work still used traditional smokes. I remember using 36mg nicotine cartomizers, and now that I think about it, it's a lot compared to today's standards, but cig-a-likes were modest devices back then, that barely produced a decent amount of vapor and throat hit.

After a few months I decided to switch my two piece cig-a-like kit for an eGo vape pen, which came with a bigger battery and a clearomizer for e-liquid. Despite the initial price tag of $80, it was costing me less on the long run, and the fact that I was able to use e-liquids it gave me the freedom to experiment with more flavors. I finally found something similar to the taste I was used to and I started taking the ecig to work on a regular basis. Soon I was smoking only 3-5 cigarettes daily and I already started noticing some improvements on my health and lifestyle.

I was constantly reading about these products and the technologies behind them, and soon enough I was ready to make a financial effort and spend a considerable amount of money on my first mechanical mod and RDA (rebuildable dripping atomizer). This device totally revolutionized my perception about vaping and it helped me finally kick my smoking habit. The vapor production, flavor and throat hit were incredible and it was back then that I decided to start this review site and help smokers make the switch.

The first week after I smoked my last cigarette I noticed a couple of side effects. I was coughing a lot, south beach smoke eliquiddespite not using tobacco and I felt like I was having the flu. What I didn't know was that my lungs were cleaning themselves and that my body was getting rid of all that tar and chemicals once and for all. A few days later I noticed an improvement on my sense of smell, and with also came my appetite. Everything felt more delicious than usual and I was hungry most of the time. I felt full of energy and I slowly started jogging a few miles each morning. I was still coughing but I didn't felt as tired all the time and this gave me a different perspective on my priorities. I've never felt more alive and I started enjoying going for long walks, visiting new places and made numerous new friends.

I was still vaping, but my body figured out that it was a totally different process in comparison to smoking and reacted accordingly. I was taking fewer sick days at work and I was way more resistant to colds, especially in the winter time. I gradually lowered my nicotine intake from 24mg to 18mg, then 12mg and finally reached 3mg. I no longer cough in the mornings and I feel as natural and normal as any of my nonsmoking friends. Vaping has helped me cut down and eventually quit tobacco for good and it totally revolutionized my current lifestyle.

The reason I've shared my story with you to give you a perspective on what effects these e-cigarettes  might have one one's lifestyle and how they affected me. I've been vaping for nearly five years now and not a single time did I notice something wrong with my lungs, heart or any other part of my body because of ecigs or e-liquids. I did get vaper's tongue a couple of times, I chocked on vapor when inhaling too hard and accidentally burnt my lower lip (minor burn) when I forgot to put the top cap on my RDA, but nothing out of the ordinary. All my yearly tests came out more than OK and I feel healthier than ever.

Sure, there are no long term studies on the health effects of e-cigarettes, because they have been introduced on the market around a decade ago. However, personally I didn't hear of anyone developing a serious illness linked to vaping or being rushed to the hospital due to complications of using ecigs.

Does this make e-cigarettes safe? Of course not, this just means they are a lot safer than tobacco and using them you do accept certain risks. But to understand these risks we must first understand how an e-cigarette works.

Any ecig or vape mod consists of an internal battery, an atomizer and the e-liquid. When you press the firing button, current from the battery heats up the resistance in the atomizer, which in turn vaporizers the e-liquid into inhalable clouds. There is no combustion, so the risk of hazardous chemicals produced by burning is minimal. On the other hand we do have the e-liquid and understanding its components it crucial to getting an objective understanding of the whole process and learning to ignore hysterical media reports.

An e-liquid is made out of two separate components – the base and the flavor, so we need to individually analyze each of them to shed some light on the whole e-cigarette safety topic. The base consists of vegetable glycerin (VG), propylene glycol (PG), nicotine and sometimes distilled water. Both VG and PG are also used in the food and pharmaceutical industries and, in small doses – like the ones found in e-liquids – are very well tolerated by the human organism. VG is responsible for the amount of vapor and PG is responsible for the amount of flavor a certain e-liquid can deliver.

VG and PG are also used as antifreeze in other industries, but as a non-toxic alternative. So if someone tells you your ecig contains antifreeze, it's probably true but not the harmful type that's used in the automotive industry. Also the type of nicotine is identical to the one found in tobacco cigarettes, so there are no reasons to worry.

So if the e-liquid base poses no threats, then it has to be the flavor, right? Well, again it depends on the perspective. E-liquids use food flavorings for taste, but some of these food flavorings contain small traces of potentially harmful substances like diacetyl, acetyl propionyl and acetoin. Diacetyl is probably one of the most feared because it has been linked to a severe respiratory condition called bronchiolitis obliterans or 'popcorn lung'. This condition has been witnessed on people working with artificial butter flavorings in popcorn factories and this is why it's referred to as 'popcorn lung'.

To have a chemical that might cause a potentially fatal illness in your e-liquid is serious business, and if we are to listed to the media we should probably throw away all of our diacetyl containing e-liquids to the trash. Don't get me wrong, it's a good idea to know which e-liquids contain traces of hazardous chemicals and manufacturers shouldn't hide lab results from consumers but the thing you need to understand is that these chemicals are also found in tobacco smoke, in concentrations from 10 up to 100 times higher. This is something that the media fails to mention and something that can be checked in various already performed cigarette smoke studies. And because 'popcorn lung' is not linked to cigarette smoking, where the concentrations of these chemicals are a lot higher, chances are the minute traces inside e-liquids are tolerated by our organisms.

So, in conclusion, vaping cannot be considered more harmful than smoking but it does pose certain risks, especially since we don't have enough information on the long term effects on the human body. However, when compared to fresh air it can be considered harmful since it does contain chemicals that are not naturally present in the atmosphere, so if you're a non-smoker who wants to experiment with vaping, I do recommend you think twice.

Posted by Dave Allan

dave profile pic
Former pack-a-day smoker, I discovered electronic cigarettes back in 2011. Since then vaping has slowly turned into my hobby and my full time job. I’ve tested hundreds of e-cigarettes and mods across the years and constantly used my knowledge and experience to help others make the switch. I’m passionate about technology, I enjoy reading and I love big flavorful clouds.


Leave a Comment