The question has been asked numerous times, but all you’re left with is mixed results. Some claim electronic cigarettes are the best choice when looking to quit smoking, while others try to paint them red. After countless queries flooding search engines, you’re still left wondering, are electronic cigarettes bad for you? Let’s set the record straight.
Let’s first list what is used in an electronic cigarette. There are typically 4 main ingredients that make up the the liquid solution that is used with electronic cigarettes. Many call this liquid based solution, e-liquid. This e-liquid consists of Propylene Glycol (PG), Vegetable Glycerin (VG), Nicotine and various Flavorings. Now that we know what comprises e-liquid, let’s break it down even further.
Propylene Glycol: If you asked what Propylene Glycol is, many people don’t know that PG comes in more than one formulation, so when the question is asked, it would need to be clarified to which formulation is meant. Now the question becomes, does it matter which formulation of PG is used, since it’s used in everything from brake fluid to snack foods?
Another answer: It does and it doesn’t. Propylene Glycol is a form of mineral oil, an alcohol produced by fermentation of yeast and carbohydrates. This gives it the designation of carbohydrate when used in foods. Since it comes in many grades, PG has been used for a selection of various uses. Industrial grade PG is used as an active ingredient in engine coolants and antifreeze; airplane de-icers; polyurethane cushions; paints, enamels and varnishes; and in many products as a solvent or surfactant. However, it should be stated that PG was only added to anti-freeze to replace Ethylene Glycol. It had become a problem because dogs often lap up puddles of anti-freeze.
The form most relevant to this article is the pharmaceutical grade. This is a a much less concentrated form of PG and therefore less problematic. That being stated, this is the grade that is used in products that are either ingested or enter the body through an application to the skin. This less problematic grade is more commonly used as a solvent in oral, topical and injectable drug products as well as in foods. In addition, Propylene Glycol is also a potent germicide.
For Electronic Cigarettes, Propylene Glycol is commonly used as a base to the e-liquid solution. It is also said that the PG helps intensify flavor, as well as throat-hit.
This clear, orderless liquid has the consistency of syrup. It easily dissolves when in water and is a good solvent. Vegetable Glycerin is derived from extracted glycerol fats from plant oils such as palm and coconut. With that said, it is commonly used as a base for pharmaceuticals and other household items. Glycerin is also a good addition to moisturizers because it can capture moisture from the air. It has a relatively short shelf life and should be stored in a cool, dark place.
An example of uses for Vegetable Glycerin, keeps hair hydrated, helps heal injuries, softens dry skin and even helps skin cells mature properly (helps control skin disease).
For Electronic Cigarettes, VG sadly has a short shelf life, which is why e-liquid in bottles should always be stored in a cool, dark place. On the other hand, the great thing about VG is that it helps produce more vapor than PG, due to its thick volume and ability to capture moisture from the air.
Nicotine: Highly toxic, nicotine is a potent parasympathomimetic alkaloid found in the nightshade family of plants. It is made in the roots and accumulates in the leaves of the plants. It functions as an antiherbivore chemical; therefore, nicotine was widely used as an insecticide. Nicotine is also more commonly used in tobacco cigarettes, which has slowly increased at an average of 1.78% per year between the years of 1998 and 2005.
Though nicotine is usually perceived as something bad, it also has its better traits as well. Such as improving attention, rapid information processing, lessening of tic frequency, improvement in learning, reaction time and problem solving. And, even more importantly – despite the absence of change in memory functioning, Alzheimer’s disease patients have significant perceptual and visual attentional deficits which are improved by nicotine.
Flavorings: Flavor is defined as a substance that gives another substance flavor, altering the characteristics of the solute, causing it to become sweet, sour, tangy, etc.
Flavorings focused on altering the flavors of natural food product such as meats and vegetables, or creating flavor for food products that do not have the desired flavors such as candies and other snacks. Many types of flavorings are focused on scent and taste.
For Electronic Cigarettes, many e-cig companies use natural and organic e-liquid flavorings. The great thing about using flavors in e-liquid is that you have many options to suit your personal taste.
Tobacco cigarettes contain more than 4,000 chemicals and 51 of them are known to be carcinogenic. A carcinogen is something that causes cancer. Sadly the list goes on, here’s a few for example: carbon monoxide (car exhaust), arsenic (rat poison), ammonia (cleaning products), hydrogen cyanide (gas chamber poison), sulfuric acid (car batteries) and many more.
While we can’t exactly say that electronic cigarettes are good for you (studies are currently being conducted), we can say that when compared to tobacco cigarettes, it is much less harmful.