We all know the devastating effects smoking cigarettes has on our health. Stained fingers and teeth and dry skin are just the outward effects of smoking, but what it does to the inside of your body is more malicious; even deadly. But could e-cigarettes be a viable alternative?
What Does Smoking Do to the Body?
When you smoke, you are literally inhaling thousands of harmful chemicals into your bloodstream, including carbon monoxide and arsenic, which is used in rat poison. More than a handful of these chemicals are carcinogenic, meaning they have the ability to cause cancer. The fact that they are dangerous is clear, but what exactly do they do to the body?
The Outside of the Body
Cigarettes cause the dreaded “smoker’s finger”, where the tar in cigarette smoke collects on the fingers, staining them a yellowish brown. In addition to this, the skin can lose its elasticity and colour, leading to a dull tone. Wrinkles can also appear around the mouth and eyes when you’re as young as in your thirties. Stained fingers and smelling of smoke isn’t desirable, but it’s hardly as harmful as what smoking does to the inside of your body.
Inside the Body
It’s inside the body that smoking really does the damage. What makes smoking so malicious is that much of the damage is invisible: you can’t see clogged arteries. However, there are visible effects, too. You might experience shortness of breath, coughs and colds, which could lead to asthma, or more fatal diseases such as pneumonia, lung cancer or emphysema. Half of the millions of those who smoke cigarettes die of smoking-related illnesses, with a massive 84% dying from lung cancer. Smoking also greatly increases the risk of a heart attack, with the carbon monoxide in cigarettes hindering the body’s ability to carry oxygen.
Are E-Cigarettes a Solution?
E-cigarettes have risen in popularity in recent years, but are they a healthier alternative to smoking? Despite their critics, public and health watchdogs say so. A report from the Royal College of Physicians stated that e-cigarettes should be encouraged as widely as possible as an alternative to smoking, and that they could significantly increase smoking cessation rates. Out of the 2.8 million e-cigarette users, a huge 2.7 million are current or ex-smokers and rely on using e-cigarettes as a quit-smoking tool.
Control of Nicotine Intake
One of the main benefits of e-cigarettes is that users can control the amount of nicotine they are absorbing. While addictive, nicotine is not what makes smoking harmful. Even caffeine in large amounts can cause a dependency, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad for you. The majority of e-cigarette starter kits are pen-like devices that come with refillable tanks, allowing you to choose your own flavour and nicotine level. Frequent smokers might find that they need a higher nicotine level at first; having too little could perpetuate smoking. But over time, users gradually decrease their level until they’re vaping on zero nicotine. This reduces the level of willpower needed to go cold turkey.
Not only are e-cigarettes proven to be 95% less harmful than cigarettes; they can help you save money, too.
Frequent smokers might find they vape more often, especially at the beginning. But with just 11% using more than 4 ml of e-liquid a day (that’s one refill of a standard 2 ml tank) a 10ml bottle will last at least 2.5 days. With bottles of e-cigarette liquid costing just a few pounds, even heavy vapers will save money that would have gone on costly, harmful cigarettes.
What’s in an E-Cigarette?
Despite findings that vaping is healthier than smoking, there have been concerns that e-cigarettes contain carcinogens. Unfortunately, this casts a negative light on the vaping industry, which has helped millions of smokers rid a habit that has been effectively killing them. What the media neglects to mention, however, is the fact that burning, rather than heating the liquid used in an e-cigarette, releases a chemical called acrylamide, the same chemical released if you were to burn a piece of food. Doing so creates an unpleasant taste, as if you were eating a burnt piece of meat or toast. This does not mean that you are inhaling dangerous chemicals, if you vape responsibly.
There are only two ingredients (plus nicotine, if you choose) in the liquid heated by an e-cigarette device. These are Vegetable Glycerin (VG) and Propylene Glycol (PG). VG gives e-liquid its taste, from cola and cherry menthol to tobacco flavours. PG is what produces the artificial smoke — a vapour composed of water — and is also present in a variety of other products, from baby food and cosmetics to asthma inhalers.
What’s the Public Opinion?
E-cigarettes have continued to be controversial because of their association with smoking. The majority of the public are still uncertain, and while they realise the benefits of e-cigarettes, they are scared by unsubstantiated stories in the media.
Quite shockingly, just 15% of the public believe e-cigarettes are healthier than smoking. This is due to a combination of factors — the main one being that e-cigarettes are largely misunderstood. Recent stories in the media have focused on e-cigarettes exploding. E-cigarettes contain a rechargeable battery, the same kind found in our mobile phones and tablets. When these overheat, they can explode. However, such circumstances are incredibly rare, and it’s just as likely that your phone will blow up as it is your e-cigarette will.
Ultimately, e-cigarettes are being backed by public health officials and doctors as a healthy and viable alternative to cigarettes. The confusion stems from accounts and stories not based on evidence, but the media can be a powerful influence. The studies that prove that 66% of vapers report improved respiration from using e-cigarettes are based on thoroughly conducted research by experts.
Giving e-cigarette users the ability to get nicotine without causing harm to others is no different to an individual being prescribed a nicotine patch. What is crucial for these people however, is that they are not left feeling like a patient with a problem. This alone gives e-cigarettes their appeal.