Are e-cigarettes harmful or useful? Critics see her as a gateway drug, proponents as a helpful means of smoking cessation. What’s right? An overview of the advantages and disadvantages…
- 1. Not all liquids contain nicotine
- 2. Steam is not necessarily better than smoke
- 3. Vaping may help in weaning …
- 4. … or even when entering the nicotine addiction
So what to do?
About 3.7 million Germans used to smoke e-cigarette in 2017, according to estimates. For her opponents, she is considered a devil’s stuff that seduces nonsmokers, for her advocates as a good way to get rid of real cigarettes. What’s right? Is e-cigarette harmful or an alternative? Unfortunately, this question can not be answered so easily. The Federal Center for Health Education (BzgA) and the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) warn of health risks. Also because there are so far no long-term studies on the consequences of steaming. The UK Department of Health, on the other hand, estimates that e-cigarettes are 95 percent less harmful than traditional smoldering sticks. Four facts about the advantages and disadvantages of e-cigarettes:
1. Not all liquids contain nicotine
An e-cigarette usually consists of four main components: an electric nebulizer, a rechargeable battery, a mouthpiece and a small tank. It contains the liquid that is evaporated when smoking, the so-called liquid. It is mainly composed of a fogging agent (propylene glycol or glycerin), water, ethanol, nicotine and various flavorings.
The dosage of nicotine may vary, partly the liquids are completely free of it. Since April 2016, e-cigarettes and liquids have also been subject to legal regulation. This applies uniformly to the countries of the European Union. The maximum permitted nicotine concentration in the liquids is therefore 20 milligrams per milliliter. Heavy smokers consume about ten milliliters a week. By comparison, conventional cigarettes have an upper limit of one milligram per cigarette.
2. Steam is not necessarily better than smoke
For most models, the user pushes a switch, activating the heating element in the nebulizer. The heat evaporates the liquid in the tank. This process takes place at relatively low temperatures, often reaching about 150 degrees Celsius. On the other hand, a cigarette burns at several hundred degrees – according to studies, significantly more toxins than when evaporating.
However, this does not mean that the white vapor is completely harmless: In some aerosols, substances such as formaldehyde or acetaldehyde have been detected. These are known as carcinogens – substances that can excite cancer. According to the DKFZ, “especially with long-term use, a risk of cancer can not be ruled out”. In the short term, the vapor can cause respiratory irritation and possibly inflammatory reactions in the bronchi. Some of the flavors trigger allergies.
3. Vaping may help in weaning …
An analysis by the University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf on consumer behavior and the motives of e-smokers shows a clear picture: Almost 85 percent of users use the electrical alternative to quit smoking, about 75 percent, in order to reduce their consumption. A 2014 study from the UK showed in a representative sample that individuals who use an e-cigarette to quit smoking are approximately 60 percent more likely to succeed – compared to smokers who instead use nicotine replacement products such as patches and chewing gum or stop altogether without help wanted to. In the UK, the e-cigarette has therefore long been recognized by health authorities as a smoking cessation option.
German authorities do not yet express this recommendation. The BzgA points out that the data on the safety and use of e-cigarettes in smoking cessation is insufficient. In addition to possible damage to health, there is a risk that the body’s dependence on nicotine-containing liquids will be maintained.
4. Or Even When Entering the Nicotine Addiction
E-cigarettes are sometimes quite harmless; Flavors like apple or vanilla make the steam more attractive than biting cigarette smoke. Critics fear that the E-devices could seduce non-smokers to consume, especially children and adolescents. Since 2016, there is therefore a new youth protection law that prohibits the sale of e-cigarettes to minors as well as the sale of other tobacco products. However, there is no evidence for this so-called gateway hypothesis, ie steam devices pave the way to the right cigarette, as the Hamburg scientists write in their study analysis.
So what to do?
Whether the electric or the classic cigarette is less harmful, so far no final verdict can be made. Long-term results on the health effects of steam are missing. But one thing is for sure: Who does not smoke, definitely lives the healthiest.