Amid unproven criticisms against e-cigarettes, Public Health England has published an independent review in late 2015 that concludes the use of e-cigarettes as less harmful than smoking. This came just a month before the results of a new study was released, stating that e-cigarette vapor contains very insignificant amounts of volatile compounds.
Additionally, more and more researches are being launched and concluded, debunking myths related to the use of e-cigarettes.
On the other hand, recent statistics show that as the number of people who use e-cigarettes rises, smoking cessation rates have drastically improved. In fact, 2014 National Health Interview Survey states that 13% of smokers who quit previous year, reported daily use of e-cigarettes.
Such phenomenal advancements in the search for answers to whether e-cigarettes are harmless and effective are good news to the world. Alternatively, is it?
While there is still a need to conduct studies on this matter, the absence of clear evidence to prove anti-e-cigarette claims is enough to say that vaping is, indeed, a less harmful option. Personal experiences and testimonials likewise confirm that health risks related to smoking are notably reduced when one switches to vaping.
It is by these facts that we advance our support for the e-cigarette industry and technology in helping smokers quit harmful combustion and toxic chemicals. Whereas it is undeniably best to quit without the use of nicotine replacements, but it’s easier said than done. Thankfully, with the use of e-cigarettes as an alternative, there is hope for those who are unable to do so.
In our six years of helping smokers quit tobacco and nicotine altogether, we have seen people try and fail and become hopeless at some point. We stand witnesses to how smokers try very hard and make use of all resources available to help them quit, yet in the end return to smoking just because they crave for the simple act of holding a cigarette in their hand. And we have been with people who successfully turned their backs from cigarettes after finding ‘paradise’ in these truly innovative devices.
This is the reason why we are taking a stand for the benefits of using e-cigarettes in reducing harm among smokers, amidst plenty of controversies that surround the industry.
The Never-Ending Battle Against Tobacco
Cigarette smoking has been around for more than a hundred years. With the first commercial cigarette being manufactured in 1865, its use has become more and more prevalent in the succeeding years. While a decline in smoking rate has been recorded since 1965 and has reached an all-time low this year, this cancer-causing habit is still a huge battle for many Americans and people from all over the world.
At present, there are an estimated 40 million adults in the US who smoke cigarettes. Youth smoking data state that 9 out of 10 current adult smokers started when they were minors. Every day, there is more than 3,800 young people who are 18 years old or below try smoking for the first time. Every day, an additional 2,100 young people are hooked on cigarettes and become daily smokers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The reasons behind these statistics are no longer a secret to the concerned community. Huge tobacco companies are still able to market their products excessively and target certain demographics, especially low-income and less-educated groups.
Despite the many efforts that nearly all governments of the largest countries are launching to help their constituents quit smoking effectively, these notorious tobacco cigarette manufacturers can sell their products in millions.
In England, NHS Stop Smoking Services data show that their efforts in supporting smokers who want to quit are still on the short end. In 2013 to 2014, 586,337 people set their quit date through the NHS Stop Smoking Services, and only 51% of this number were able to quit successfully. Although this success rate is a great start, it is, in fact, down by 19% from the previous year, which makes a two consecutive year downturn in this particular data.
In the US, there are quitlines in every state where a 1-800 number awaits those who need help in quitting smoking. In Indiana, the Indiana Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Agency reported in 2009 that 33% of participants were successful in abstaining from smoking after 13 months. Although quitlines are found to be helpful in increasing overall quit rates in the country as compared to leaving this challenging task to individuals alone, something clearly needs to be done to make smoking cessation programs more efficient.
On the other hand, tobacco cigarette addiction is simply difficult to overcome. With more than 7000 toxic chemicals emitted by a lighted cigarette, there is simply no easy way to escape the tormenting withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting. Easy to say but hard to do, fighting the cravings when they get to you, especially when you have just had your last stick within 72 hours ago, is a battle that is won with determination and the right support.
The Battle Against Medical and Recreational Marijuana
We think that our major concern is cigarette smoking, but the rise of medical marijuana use has alarmed parents in all corners of the world as well. Marijuana smoking has been around for thousands of years, and its history dates back to 2737 BC. At that time, it was used as a treatment for many different illnesses as part of Chinese traditional medicine. It was in 1967 when Marijuana significantly became popular in the US. In the following years, it was taxed, banned, sold in black markets—but never abolished.
Today, the medical use of marijuana has been revived, commonly for the treatment of pain. In some places, recreational use is still allowed, but limited in terms of quantity and location. Marijuana ban still exists in the majority of states in the US, mainly because it is considered an addictive drug. There are plenty of issues that involve the use of this plant, including its harmful effects on the lungs especially when smoked.
While marijuana use, particularly the introduction of Cannabinoids (CBD) in the body has been suggested and proven as beneficial to human health against certain illnesses, the method by which it is extracted from the plant is a subject of an ongoing debate. Smoking is considered a method of using Marijuana plant as a treatment for pain and other illnesses, but it involves combustion, and here is where the problem lies.
The American Lung Association states that any material, whether marijuana, tobacco, paper, or wood, releases toxic matters and carcinogens when burned. Additionally, marijuana that undergoes combustion produces “many of the same toxins, irritants, and carcinogens as tobacco smoke.”1-3
When Marijuana is smoked, it releases the intoxicating chemical called Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which, when delivered by the bloodstream to the brain, promotes the production of dopamine. Smoking marijuana makes the user feel this pleasurable experience more quickly, as compared to ingesting the plant. To get more out of every ‘puff’, marijuana users tend to inhale longer, and hold the smoke in their lungs. This means that more carcinogens and toxins are absorbed by the body.
The risks of marijuana smoking are not limited to respiratory diseases such as lung cancer and chronic bronchopneumonia. It also results in a weak immune system, making the smoker prone to other viral and bacterial infections. Addiction to marijuana and the consequent overuse of the plant also poses different neurological risks, although there is a need for further studies to conclude this information.
The United Nations states that more than 3.8% of the total population of the whole world use marijuana, which totals to 158.8 million people. Apart from respiratory diseases caused by smoking marijuana, the use of the plant is also accountable for 242,200 emergency room visits in the US in 2005. It is likewise the second most prevalent substance that causes fatal car accidents in the country.
The breakthrough in scientific studies that prove the health benefits of marijuana use is certainly something to celebrate, but the method by which it is practiced should be taken into consideration at all times. The medical benefits of the plant do not automatically suggest that smoking marijuana is totally harmless. In fact, the latter only nullifies the former. If anyone should want to use marijuana for whatever purpose without the negative effects mentioned above, then there should be an option to use it without burning the pot.
Traditional Methods for Quitting
Both tobacco and marijuana smoking are, undoubtedly, among the top reasons for lung-related illnesses and avoidable deaths. Fortunately, worldwide statistics have shown that smoking cigarettes, on one hand, has been declining the past couple of years. Marijuana smoking, on the other, is likely to go down as well.
Reasons for the decline in smoking have been largely discussed in many different venues, including online news websites and medical forums.
As mentioned earlier, quit-lines sponsored by different government agencies have been found to contribute largely to the overall quit smoking success rates for varying demographics, with women as the most prevalent group to participate.
Support groups for quitting smoking are also widely available, presented in formal and informal settings. Joining support groups are encouraged to ensure that a comprehensive approach for tobacco addiction is applied. Cognitive-behavioral therapies are equally suggested to nicotine addicts, just as to addicts of marijuana or any other prescribed or non-prescribed drug.
There have been constant legislative efforts to limit tobacco marketing, selling, and use, such as the implementation of the Tobacco Control Act of 2009 which banned candy or fruit-flavored cigarettes that appealed largely to young people.
Taxes are now at a sky-high rate at $5.90, making every pack of cigarettes more expensive than ever. In some states like New York, a pack of cigarettes costs $12.85 on the average. A heavy smoker who smokes a pack a day will spend over $4,690 on cigarettes alone per year. With a minimum wage of $8.75/hour, a heavy chain smoker who works part-time for a couple of hours each day and consumes two packs of cigarettes will find it very hard to come by, let alone buy his stack of cigs.
Smoking cessation tools are everywhere. The US government supports the use of NRTs, and this has even led to the recent news regarding the link between Chantix and the higher quit rates in the country. Chantix, a drug from Pfizer that costs around $5 each, is an infamous name that is also linked to severe side-effects, including death.
NRTs apparently increase the chances of quitting smoking by 50-70 percent and are found to work even without counseling and other support techniques being practiced today.
However, the same tool is known to increase the risks of having a heart attack, among many others. While there are different forms of NRTs in the market that are sold today (inhalers, patches, gums, and sprays), many people are not comfortable using them. Using NRTs without mindfully following the instructions or prescription may also mean severe headaches, vomiting, and other side effects that make smoking cessation withdrawal all the more difficult.
An Innovative and Effective Alternative
Then come e-cigarettes—the latest advancement in the decade-long effort to find a healthy alternative to smoking. Smoking e-cigarettes, more commonly referred to as ‘vaping’, mimics the feel of cigarette smoking while avoiding intolerable levels of nicotine withdrawal (without the other 7000 toxins and carcinogens found in cigarette smoking and marijuana combustion).
Recent statistics show that a considerable part of cigarette quitters become daily vapers. This introduces the idea that the simultaneous increase in the number of vapers and decrease in the number of cigarette smokers are highly related. The recent increase in teen smoking rates is also attributed to the ban on e-cigarette sales to minors.
Even when there are still people or entities that are trying very hard to make e-cigarettes look bad, there is still no evidence that proves these devices as harmful and dangerous. Experts recommend further studies that will cover the long-term effects of vaping, and many organizations, independent and not, are conducting these studies for public use. In contrast, an independent review by PHE has estimated that e-cigarettes are, in fact, 95% less harmful than tobacco smoke.5
While there has been a decline in smoking rates in the past decades, there are still millions who are unable to quit successfully or are not planning to quit at all. Cigarette smoking is still the primary reason people die prematurely in the US and the UK. Carcinogens and toxins derived from combustion of tobacco and marijuana are still, and always will be, health risks.
The rise of electronic cigarettes and their consequent variants play a major role in reducing, if not eliminating, the health risks related to lighting your favorite tobacco or joint. Many people are in need of help to successfully quit the habit but are unable to find the most suitable alternative that will make their endeavor easy.
Not all people are comfortable with using NRTs. Many smokers suffer from relapse due to the inability to fight off post-quitting cravings, including oral fixations and the feeling of relaxation that one gets from smoking. E-cigarettes address these kinds of issues and offer options that make them even more effective in supporting smoking cessation.
The goal to help more people quit cigarettes can be achieved at a better rate with the use of e-cigarettes as alternatives. Even without blatantly planning on cessation, a smoker can try vaping and find it as pleasurable as smoking, only without the harms that the latter is notoriously popular. A study has also found that there is no such thing as ‘second-hand vaping.’
The promotion of e-cigarettes as smoking alternatives does not serve as a gateway to smoking. This has been debunked by a survey conducted by Action on Smoking and Health, which showed that a very diminutive amount of non-smokers become regular vapers, as opposed to the number of ex-smokers who switch to vaping.
E-cigarettes are not targeted at minors. As a matter of fact, the majority of regular vapers are over 25 years of age. The variety of flavors of e-liquids being offered can be viewed as a way to suit different predilections among those who want to quit smoking but are unable to.
As for marijuana use, vaping provides a safer, no combustion means of using the plant, especially for medical purposes. Through the use of a heating coil that heats up the dry herb to produce vapor, the user does not nullify the benefits that one can get from CBD chemicals. For recreation purposes, the THC is delivered into the bloodstream free from the other thousands of chemicals that can similarly be found in smoking tobacco.
Last but not the least, the common misconception about e-cigarette safety is a matter of common sense. All devices that make use of electricity and batteries can explode—when used inappropriately. This is exactly why vapers, new and experienced, are always reminded to use the correct charger and power settings within the recommended limits.
These, along with the many reasons why smoking cigarettes are considered a deadly habit, are more than sufficient to make e-cigarettes as a healthier, less-harmful alternative to analog cigarettes. There is nothing, at present that proves otherwise, and it is safe to say that e-cigarettes are an effective and innovative way to quit smoking successfully.
Electronic Cigarettes vs Tobacco Cigarettes
Taking a quick look at the table below that contains the chemicals contained in e-cigs and traditional cigarettes will give you a clear idea of why we support the e-cigs.
|Chemicals found in e-cigs||Chemicals found in tobacco cigarettes|
|Nicotine, Propylene Glycol, Vegetable Glycerol, Food grade chemicals for flavoring (provided you choose a reputable vendor)||Acetaldehyde, Acetone, Acrolein, Acrylonitrile, Ammonia, Benzene, Butadiene, Butyraldehyde, Cadmium, Carbon Monoxide, Catechol, Chromium, Cresol, Crotonaldehyde, Formaldehyde, Hydrogen Cyanide, Hydroquinone, Isoprene, Lead, Methyl Ethyl Ketone, Nickel, Nicotine, Nitric Oxide, Phenol, Polonium, Propionaldehyde, Pyridine, Quinoline, Resorcinol, Styrene, Toluene|
Interestingly, most chemicals found in e-cigs have little to no harm, plus most brands allow you to choose the amount of Nicotine. The only thing you have to make sure is to choose a reputable brand that only uses high-quality, food grade chemicals. On the other hand, cigarettes are packed with dozens of chemicals, and almost all of them are extremely hazardous.
- Tobacco cigarettes cause 480,000 American deaths every single year (including deaths from secondhand smoking) 5
- E-cigarettes are actually 95% less harmful than cigarettes.6
- On average, vaping is 40% less expensive than smoking. 7
- 8% of the population doesn’t realize that e-cigarettes are much less harmful than smoking. 8
- According to an infographic published in The Guardian, cigarettes are responsible for the highest relative harms of nicotine. The score – based on certain criteria that involved mortality, morbidity and financial loss – for different products are: cigarettes: 99.6, small cigars: 66.6, pipe: 22.2, and e-cigarettes: 3.4.
It is every human’s right to access better health, and, therefore, the ability and chance to quit any addiction that poses any threat to the human body. It is everybody’s right to know that e-cigarettes are not ‘as bad as cigarettes’, and are, in fact, a product of technological advancement aimed at providing a healthier alternative for those who find comfort in every puff of cigarette smoke.
In short, e-cigs are the most successful and the safest smoking cessation product available on the market as of now. Therefore, instead of putting roadblocks in front of further adoption of a technology that actually works, more effort is required to look closely at its details and figure out how it can be improved. This can actually lead us to a smoke-free world.
- Tashkin DP. Effects of marijuana smoking on the lung. Ann Am Thorac Soc. 2013;10(3):239-247.
- Moir D, Rickert WS, Levasseur G, et al. A comparison of mainstream and sidestream marijuana and tobacco cigarette smoke produced under two machine smoking conditions. Chem Res Toxicol. 2008;21(2):494-502. doi:10.1021/tx700275p.
- Novotny M, Merli F, Wiesler D, Fencl M, Saeed T. Fractionation and capillary gas chromatographic—mass spectrometric characterization of the neutral components in marijuana and tobacco smoke condensates. J Chromatogr A. 1982;238:141-150. doi: 10.1016/S0021-9673(00)82720-X
- Hoffmann D, Brunnemann KD, Gori GB, Wynder EL. On the Carcinogenicity of Marijuana Smoke. In: Runeckles VC, ed. Recent Advances in Phytochemistry. Springer US; 1975:63-81.