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According to Action on Smoking Health (ASH), 10 million adults in the UK smoke. Amazingly, this equates to around one sixth of the total population. And surveys reveal that around two-thirds of those current smokers would like to quit.
For those concerned about the cancer-causing effects of tobacco smoke, e-cigarettes that provide a healthier alternative to smoking are becoming ever more attractive. However, for some, there remains doubt over whether these devices are truly safe.
Here we address some of those concerns in a bid to examine the truth about electronic cigarette safety.
What are electronic cigarettes?
In order to truly examine their safety, first, we all need to understand exactly what e-cigs are.
Electronic cigarettes generally seek to imitate the look of traditional cigarettes. They consist of a battery and a cartridge that contains an atomiser and an e-liquid solution that contains nicotine.
When someone inhales from an electronic cigarette, the atomiser heats the e-liquid solution, which then turns it into a fine mist or vapour. The vapour is then inhaled into the user’s mouth and lungs, and the liquid nicotine therein is absorbed into the user’s bloodstream. This process is commonly known as ‘vaping’.
So, is vaping safer than traditional cigarettes?
Nicotine is highly addictive, and it is this substance that keeps smokers hooked to traditional cigarettes. However, nicotine does not kill. It is actually the toxic cocktail of chemicals that are created when tobacco burns that are responsible for ending the life of two out of every three smokers early.
Therefore, the lack of tobacco found in e-cigarettes has led many health professionals to conclude that e-cigs are a much healthier way of enjoying a nicotine hit.
What do these health professionals say?
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Professor John Britton, chair of the Tobacco Advisory Group of the Royal College of Physicians, told the BBC:
“If all the smokers in Britain stopped smoking cigarettes and started smoking e-cigarettes we would save 5 million deaths in people who are alive today. It’s a massive potential public health prize.”
Furthermore, in 2013, 50 scientific experts signed a letter to the World Health Organisation (WHO) in which they described vapour products as:
“Among the most significant health innovations of the 21st century — perhaps saving hundreds of millions of lives.”
What about the negative reports about e-cigs in the newspapers and other media?
It’s true that in recent months there have been numerous stories in the press suggesting that some e-cigarettes could release more cancer-causing chemicals than traditional cigarettes.
One of the most frequently cited pieces of research in such articles was published by The New England Journal of Medicine and is entitled Hidden Formaldehyde in E-Cigarette Aerosols. This piece of research was used as the basis for a widely publicised article in the Daily Mail that stated that daily use of e-cigarettes could release more formaldehyde than smoking 20 cigarettes.
On closer inspection, however, the headlines might not be as newsworthy as they make out.
For one, the study used a machine to run an e-cigarette battery at different voltages and to create varying levels of vapour. When the e-cigarette in the study was run at the highest voltage, it did create formaldehyde. However, when it was tested at a lower voltage – akin to that used by most human vapers – no formaldehyde was actually found.
Second, the research was created by using one type of ‘tank-style’ e-cigarette. Therefore, the test was not representative of the entire and extensive range of e-cigs that actually exist on the market.
As an electronic cigarette vendor, you would say that, wouldn’t you?
As a company in the business of selling electronic cigarettes, you are right to think that we have something to gain by suggesting that negative headlines about e-cigs are in some way misleading.
However, we’re not the only ones to have come to the same conclusion. In fact, Cancer Research UK has also gone on record to suggest exactly the same thing.
Plus, this article published by Wired highlights the fact that this research didn’t take into account actual vaping habits – but it was nonetheless reported widely in the media as a new health hazard for e-cig smokers.
Are there any harmful chemicals in electronic cigarettes?
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As previously mentioned, there have been numerous studies that have found some e-cigarettes to contain harmful chemical such as formaldehyde, as well as acetaldehyde and acrolein.
Yet a recent study by Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos, a renowned cardiologist and leading e-cigarette and vaping researcher, suggests that these chemicals are all found at much higher levels in traditional cigarettes. In fact, the research states that the level of these chemicals found in e-cigs is 30 to 250 times lower than tobacco cigarette smoke.
For this reason, Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos suggests that vaping is 95% safer than smoking traditional cigarettes.
That said, the lack of regulation around electronic cigarettes means that companies don’t have to reveal what they put in their e-liquids. For this reason, you should always look to buy e-cigarettes from a reputable vendor.
I am concerned about the reports of electronic cigarettes exploding
Over the past two years, there have been around 100 fires reported because of exploding e-cigarette chargers. This, of course, has generated some concern. In most cases though, fire chiefs report that such fires are caused by people using the wrong chargers for their devices.
It’s simple: if you use a charger that is not compatible with your electronic cigarette, and too much electrical current is supplied to the battery, your device could overheat and explode.
Therefore you should only charge your electronic cigarette with the charger provided. In addition, you should always be careful not to overcharge the battery, which can also cause it to overheat and sometimes explode.
Are electronic cigarettes safer in terms of passive smoking?
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The effects of passive smoking in relation to traditional cigarettes is well publicised, and it’s the main reason the smoking ban was introduced throughout the UK in 2007. But is there such a thing as a passive vaping?
In a bid to answer this very question, several scientific studies have been conducted. For example, research published in Inhalation Toxicology, which is a peer reviewed medical journal that concentrates on respiratory research, compared the pollutants created by traditional cigarettes and e-cigs.
The results for exhaled cigarette tobacco were predictable in that it was deemed to pose a significant risk to health. On the other hand, exhaled vapour from electronic cigarettes was found to produce very little exposure to harmful chemicals.
In fact the research concluded that, ‘for all (the potentially harmful) by-products measured, electronic cigarettes produce very small exposures relative to tobacco cigarettes. The study indicates no apparent risk to human health from e-cigarette emissions based on the compounds analysed.’
Are you ready to join the vaping revolution?
So vaping is better for you than smoking, and it’s better for the people that are around you too. As one of the oldest electronic cigarette companies in the UK, our aim is to help make your switch from smoking to using e-cigs as simple as possible.
That’s why our electronic cigarette starter kits include everything you’ll need to get started, including an e-cig, a charger, case and refills. So if you want to swap traditional cigarettes for a healthier hit of nicotine, grab an iCig Electronic Cigarette Starter Kit today
Alternatively, if you need more information before making the switch from traditional cigarettes, you can refer to our guide: Everything a Beginner Needs to Know about Electronic Cigarettes.