The first modern e-cigarette was invented in 2003 by Hon Lik (a Chinese pharmacist). Since their introduction to the world in 2004 the use of e-cigarettes has exploded. It is now a multi-billion dollar worldwide market. In many cases marketed as a way to stop smoking or even a safer alternative to smoking there is now growing evidence to show that it is not as safe as previously thought.
For those unfamiliar with what any of this (or those generally living under a rock) an electronic cigarette or e-cigarette (JUUL) is a handheld electronic device that simulates the feeling of tobacco smoking. A liquid is heated to generate an aerosol, also known as a “vapor”, that is inhaled. The action is commonly known as vaping. The liquid can be made out of any number of things including nicotine, propylene glycol, glycerine, and other flavorings.
While the long term effects of e-cigarettes are unknown, on the surface they appear safer than tobacco cigarettes. This is due to the fact that the majority of toxic chemicals found in tobacco smoke are absent in e-cigarette aerosol. Chemicals that are present are usually below 1% of the corresponding levels in tobacco smoke.
Recent studies, however, are shedding light on some of the potentially dangerous effects of vaping. One such study from the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that people who vape every day may double their risk of having a heart attack compared with people who do not vape or smoke. Daily cigarette smoking on the other hand triples the risk. “Dual users,” (people who use both) are at most risk. This group of people faced five times the risk of a heart attack. More concerning is that dual users make up a significant proportion of overall vapers.
Researchers have also found that the aerosol particles that people vape have some of the same toxic metals and metallic elements found in conventional cigarettes, including cadmium and nickel, as well as other potentially dangerous substances such as arsenic, chromium, and manganese. They suspect that this is due to the way the heating coils are made – which leak these chemicals and metals under high heat. Consistently inhaling high levels of these metals has been tied to health problems in the lungs, liver, immune system, heart, and brain, as well as some cancers.
Less serious but more commonly reported adverse effects include throat and mouth irritation, vomiting, nausea, and coughing.
Undeniably though vaping seems like it’s here to stay! Pages dedicated to vapers (who perform tricks) have hundreds of thousands of followers and while smoking overall is falling with teens, vaping numbers are on the rise.
Let us know your thoughts about vaping in the comments below!