Don’t be an e-diot

Image:  www.ecigclick.co.uk

Image: www.ecigclick.co.uk

Gone are the days of packing in smoking by wearing a patch on your arm, chewing on some ridiculously overpriced chewing gum or just simply going cold turkey. Nowadays everyone is trading in their pack of smokes for an e-cigarette – the newest piece of quitting smoking paraphernalia.

It is estimated that around 2 million people in Britain are users of e-cigarettes, with around 700,000 of them using them instead of traditional cigarettes and the rest being made up of people who use a combination of the two.

There’s something about these devices that has really taken a hold of society nowadays and a £2 billion industry seems to have just appeared out of thin air (or smoke, if you will).

But, contrary to the popular belief that e-cigarettes are some kind of ‘miracle cure’ for the problems of smoking, things aren’t quite as simple as they first appear.

In no way do I want to suggest that e-cigarettes are not an improvement on the problems caused by smoking tobacco, but rather to explore the ways in which e-cigarettes may still be posing a threat to your health.

The most damaging health effects from smoking cigarettes comes from the inhaling of tar and other chemicals that are found in the cigarette smoke. E-cigarettes just provide the user with a dose of nicotine, completely removing these other threats. But nicotine is not without its own problems.

First and foremost, it is highly addictive. Users of e-cigarettes must be careful to select the correct nicotine strength and to ensure that they don’t overuse their device, otherwise it can be very easy to consume more nicotine than you previously did with cigarettes and to become even more addicted to it.

Aside from the health problems caused by nicotine, there have been many other concerns as to what chemicals are present in the act of vaping with an e-cigarette.

According to analysis by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the tobacco solution used in e-cigarettes contains harmful chemicals such as diethylene glycol, a component of antifreeze that’s toxic to humans and is banned in food and drugs.

Cancer causing chemicals such as nitrosamines have also been found in the liquid, alongside other toxic chemicals that the user might inhale.

The long term effects of e-cigarettes are a long way off rearing their ugly heads, so not much can be known for certain about how these chemicals will affect the users, but it doesn’t sound too promising.

The biggest problem overall with e-cigarettes is the lack of regulation. They are primarily a product whose sole purpose is to get its user addicted to a substance. There is no patent or meaningful regulations, so they can be advertised in any way that a company chooses, producing adverts that are eerily similar to those that came out back when positive cigarette advertising was still legal.

Plus, ever since it was made illegal to smoke cigarettes in enclosed public spaces in 2007, disgruntled smokers have been forced to smoke outside. Since this law doesn’t extend to the use of e-cigarettes indoors, it has become not an uncommon sight to see someone using theirs inside.

There is a fear that without proper regulation, the act of smoking (in its widest sense) will begin to become re-popularised. It has already been noted that 1/20 teenagers who have used an e-cigarette have never smoked traditional cigarettes before.

This may not seem like a large statistic at first, but it is important to understand that although they are safer than smoking tobacco, e-cigarettes themselves still do pose a threat to your health.

8 comments

  1. 6 May ’15 at 8:34 pm

    Andria Duncan

    Seems to me that the “e-diot” is whoever wrote this article. Or maybe just a greedy “public health” shill, writing whatever lies and garbage “public health” pays them to write. E-cigs are 95 to 99 percent SAFER THAN SMOKING and that is all I need to know, because without them, I’d never have quit smoking at all.

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    • Nice headline… good thing you weren’t writing about race or gender – wonder what the headline would have been then.

      I found lots of benefits from switching from cigarettes to vaping. There is actually good studies to show that it is the safer alternative, which you at least mentioned.

      Nicotine isn’t any worse then caffeine when it comes right down to it. Both carry some type of risk but most human beings with some intelligence learn about those risks if given some actual real context and without the scare tactics (ie: implying diethylene glycol is common in the liquid or someone is vaping basically antifreeze).
      For perspective I am sure a few women have killed their children – maybe for your next piece you can bias your writing about the dangers of women around kids. I guess it would be hard to collect your paycheck though because it would be obvious you have an agenda, didn’t do your homework well and your intent isn’t to educate or inform the public.

      My doctor is glad I have switched… I’m going to be an e-diot if that is ok with you as opposed to a cigarette smoker. Is that ok Liam? Can I be an e-diot.

      For everyone else: PG, VG, Nicotine and Flavoring (the components to the liquid) don’t cause cancer and are not toxic. It is hard to get good facts and actual perspective which is a shame. But like all consumer products – inform yourself, ask good questions and be responsible.

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      • Hi,
        First of all I just want to clarify for both you and Andria that this is a student publication and therefore we don’t actually get a ‘paycheck’ for our articles, so I would personally receive no benefit from using ‘scare tactics’.
        Secondly, the purpose of this article was not to dissuade smokers from swapping to e-cigarettes, but rather to suggest that there still may be some problems with using them. Although in a different fashion to you, I am also imploring the readers to “inform [themselves], ask good questions and be responsible” and not to willingly be ignorant of the dangers of a nicotine addiction.
        However, I do concede that the title may be slightly insensitive and offensive to some people such as yourself who have a different opinion than I do.
        Hopefully this comment will shed some light on what I was trying to do with this article.

        Thanks,
        Liam

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        • I don’t think you intended to be malicious or misleading, it is very easy to be misinformed about e-cigarettes as most media outlets simply regurgitate the information with the most sensational headline.

          First, nicotine is not the demon we’ve all been led to believe it is. More recent studies have shown that absent the other chemicals in tobacco smoke, physical dependence is extremely unlikely to develop. That’s not to say that smokers aren’t addicted to nicotine, but that never-smokers are unlikely to become addicted to nicotine when not consumed via tobacco smoke.

          As for potential for overdose, if you have ever had too much nicotine in your system, your body lets you know long before it reaches the level of toxicity. Nausea and dizziness are usually the first signs, and those are part of the body’s natural method of purging, which again, happens long before you reach toxic levels.

          In regards to other possible harmful ingredients, you should really look up more recent studies. The FDA study that you mention was done in 2009, on products that are no longer even on the market. There is a lot more information available now, you should look into it. A great place to start would be the CASAA.org website.

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  2. Just wanted to clarify, there has been a typo where the article says that 2 billion people in the UK use e-cigarettes. Clearly that is way above the entire population of the UK and it was meant to read ‘2 million people’. Sorry for the mistake.

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  3. What are these supposed “dangers of nicotine” that you are bleating about. From my extensive research nicotine has a very similar risk profile to caffeine when used in the doses found in eliquids. It is a mild stimulant, that poses little risk to the user, and no risk to bystanders, when used in the doses common in the liquid used in personal vapourisers.

    Diethylene glycol is not a common ingredient in the liquids used in vapourisers, what is a common ingredient is propylene glycol, you have made a mistake here and should correct your article, or are you just trying to scare people?

    There are many studies that have now been done on vaping, and as a student you would do well to educate yourself. A lot of work has been done by Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos, and you can find it by doing a simple google search.

    If you want to become another mouthpiece spouting garbage, then continue as you are, if you want to become a respected journalist, then do your research, before you start writing.

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  4. Independent labs have extensively tested electronic cigarettes and found no evidence of diethylene glycol. Electronic cigarettes contain propylene glycol that is safe for human consumption. Although propylene glycol is found in antifreeze, so is salt and water and no one claims that those are unsafe (to the contrary, they are essential to survival).

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  5. 25 May ’15 at 2:41 pm

    Nicolas Bourbaki

    With respect, I don’t think your arguments are valid. Sure, nicotine is addictive. So is caffeine, but we don’t feel a need to make this into a big public health issue. I guess it’s better not to be addicted to caffeine than to be addicted to it, all else being equal, but caffeine brings the benefit of increased alertness, and people generally consider that worth the addiction. Similarly, I’m not totally sure what benefit people get from nicotine but my impression is that it often makes people feel a bit happier and less stressed out, so it seems to me that that benefit could also be worth the addiction. Even if you don’t think it’s worth it, is it your place to decide that for other people?

    On the issue of presence of harmful chemicals, this seems uncertain and in any case, it doesn’t seem like it would be impossible to manufacture versions of e-cigarettes that don’t bring these harmful chemicals along with them.

    At the end you mention the fear that smoking in e-cigarette form will be re-popularised. Well, what’s wrong with that? It seems to me that you’re making the error I see a lot of people make when they talk about e-cigarettes. It’s an understandable error and I made it myself for some time. Traditional cigarette smoking caused lung cancer, due to tar inhalation. Therefore, traditional cigarette smoking needed to be discouraged. But since e-cigarettes weren’t around when this message became internalised in society, people internalised it just as “smoking (without qualification) needs to be discouraged”. Now e-cigarettes have come along, and you can smoke them without inhaling tar. So they don’t cause lung cancer, and as far as I can tell they don’t have any serious negative health effects at all. So the original implication fails to hold in the case of e-cigarettes; there is no justification for the belief that e-cigarette smoking should be discouraged. Yet people still have this internalised belief that “smoking should be discouraged” and continue to apply it to e-cigarette smoking, even though there’s no reason for it.

    Part of the problem is that people have been trained to have a kind of disgust reaction to smoking, as a result of this internalised message. Even I still find it unpleasant to be in the same room as somebody smoking an e-cigarette. But this disgust reaction no longer serves a purpose, and I think it can be un-learned.

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