Only a few years after they have reached the market, electronic cigarettes have divided the medical community over the long-term use of the product, despite a shortage of scientific research on their effects on human health. This fear among some doctors is not entirely unfounded because these devices contain nicotine, which is a stimulant drug with relatively high toxicity when ingested in big quantities and can cause addiction.
However, some doctors and experts all across de globe concede that the vapor released by these devices has far less hazardous health effects than tobacco smoke, while others argue that they are creating a new type of addicts.
Jonathan Foulds, who studies tobacco addiction at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, said that “E-cigarettes are at least 90 percent less harmful, and maybe much less harmful than that”. Burning tobacco products produce thousands of harmful chemicals, among which dozens are known to cause cancer and a device that can supply the daily nicotine fix for millions of ex-smokers without these perils can’t be demonized, because “It’s really the smoke that does the harm,” Foulds added.
Electronic cigarette vapor only contains few of the toxins found in tobacco smoke, with no carbon monoxide or tar as according to many exerts. It does contain nicotine, but this substance doesn’t appear on the cancer causing ingredients list. It does however contribute to heart disease, although it’s not the main contributor to heart disease that results from smoking. Nicotine is also perilous to an unborn child; this is why e-cigarettes do not represent a safe alternative for pregnant women, but for the average smoker “any cigarette replaced by vaping is probably a step in the right direction,” said Jonathan Foulds.
However, there are medical organizations that are worried about the long-term usage of the product and whether it is giving rise to a new kind of addiction. The biggest concern of establishments like the Pennsylvania Medical Society is that e-cigarettes represent a gateway to analog tobacco use, especially for young people. “They certainly do mimic regular smoking. They are a nicotine delivery device. Yes, it is lesser amounts of nicotine that is being delivered. But it is still nicotine. It is still an addictive type of situation.” Said Dr. Richard Bell, a recently retired lung specialist in Berks County. Also, “Whether e-cigarettes can safely help people quit smoking is also unknown, but with their fruit and candy flavors, they have a clear potential to entice new smokers.” according to the American Medical Association.
On the other hand, Professor Wagener from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and his team did a survey on 1,300 college students about their tobacco and nicotine use. From the 1,300 only 43 of them said their first nicotine product was an ecigarette (3.3%). Out of these, only one person admitted to have smoke real cigarettes afterwards.
“This study provides preliminary evidence that electronic cigarettes are not currently serving as a major gateway to cigarette smoking […] Of course, more studies of this nature, as well as longitudinal studies, are necessary to firmly answer this question. And importantly, this only reflects the current situation and things can change at any time. It is important that we remain vigilant and closely monitor youth electronic cigarette use over time” Professor Wagener concluded.
Still, more long-term studies are required in order to get the full picture about the effects these devices have on our health. However, the basic idea that is embraced by most scientists is that they are a lot safer than traditional tobacco products.