There’s already been quite a lot of research into electronic cigarettes. Despite what opponents and politicians would have the public believe, we already know quite a lot about what’s in the devices — more, in fact, than we know about the contents of tobacco smoke. Now that the market has taken off and tipped $1.7 billion in the US in 2013, it seems likely even more research will be happening.
So far, research has found a lot of promising tidbits about electronic cigarettes. They’ve already proven themselves better than most smoking cessation options. Even when quit rates are the same between e-cigs and more traditional cessation treatments (like patches), those that don’t manage to quit entirely tend to cut down on their smoking much more significantly when using electronic cigarettes. As well, the few harmful constituents found in e-cig vapor occur at such low levels that instruments can often barely detect anything and it’s believed these constituents pose no long-term risk.
Based on some of the subtext we’ve read and whisperings we’ve heard, here’s three things we believe will eventually turn out of be true about electronic cigarettes.
They aren’t as addictive as tobacco cigarettes. The tobacco industry has had more than a century and a half to perfect the addictive qualities of tobacco cigarettes. It’s no secret that countless additives are included to fast track addiction to smoking. For instance, tobacco companies presumably added ammonia to their cigarettes to reduce the ability of a user’s lungs to keep nicotine out of their system.
So far, many surveys of electronic cigarette users are finding that the ability to cut e-cig use, nicotine content of e-cigs they do use, and even quit vaping entirely is much easier than with cigarettes. It even seems that individuals that didn’t smoke but who start using electronic cigarettes can quit using the devices whenever they want. Opponents of the devices complain that e-cigs risk turning users to a life-time of nicotine addiction. This may simply not be true — at least as long as the contents aren’t heavily altered by companies looking to improve the addictive quality of the devices.
There are some short-term negative health effects caused by e-cigs. Electronic cigarettes are not 100% harmless. That said, a few short-term side effects for a few particular people are not nearly as bad as a life-time decline into poor health and eventual death by smoke. We’ve noticed however that there are still a few small side effects for some users. The most common tends to be for people allergic to or possessing an intolerance for propylene glycol (a normally safe and common e-cig ingredient). Some individuals experience a reduced resistance to respiratory colds and sores in the throat and mouth.
It’s likely within the next 2 to 3 years, we’ll have a laundry list of possible side effect — almost all of which are based on the individual chemistry of the person and the e-cig cocktail in question. Still, these side effects are likely to be short-term, easily avoided, and mild in nature.
However, a nearly zero-risk electronic cigarette is in reach. With more research comes more knowledge of where what little risk does exist comes from — and how to avoid it. Experiments testing the totals of various harmful constituents of electronic cigarette vapor are finding that no e-cig is identical to any other. It seems for every e-cig that has a minuscule amount of one particular harmful constituent, there is another e-cig with absolutely none of that same constituent.
This suggests that with the right attention to detail on both the chemical make-up of e-liquid and electronic parts of the electronic cigarette, the average e-cig could go from 99% less harmful to 99.99% less harmful. It may not sound like much of a difference, but when considering a life-time of use might still occur (in place of actual smoking), this could be astronomical.
Knowledge is power.