Electronic Cigarettes Vs. Real Cigarettes
There is a huge debate right now about electronic cigarettes and whether or not they are actually safer than the regular tobacco-filled type. On one hand, a lot of people are saying that E-cigs are actually not that much different from smoking regular cigarettes because they have been shown to contain ‘some of the same toxins and carcinogens’ as their tobacco-filled analog counterparts.
At closer inspection, however, it becomes fairly obvious that statements like this cannot be taken at face-value. Those who support electronic cigarettes say that they are ‘a much safer and cleaner alternative to traditional tobacco products’, and that they contain only small traces of chemicals that could be construed to be dangerous.
But safety is not the only difference to consider. There are also functional differences and price differences as well. In the end, all of these things need to be considered before one can truly see how different electronic cigarettes are from real ones.
First, let’s discuss safety. There is no secret about the fact that tobacco use is related to many dangerous health risks. Smoking accounts for at least 30% of all cancer deaths in the US. Worldwide, tobacco use causes 6 million premature deaths each year. The smoke that is released by the burning of tobacco leaves contains over 7,000 different chemicals.
Over 60 of these are known to cause cancer, making them especially dangerous. Some of the chemicals that are found in tobacco smoke include tar, cyanide, benzene, formaldehyde, methanol, acetylene, ammonia, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen oxide. Tobacco smoke also contains nicotine, and while this is described as a ‘harsh chemical’ by cancer.org, it is not in itself generally known as a cancer-causing agent.
Electronic cigarettes, however, contain far fewer chemicals and harmful additives. No tobacco leaves are burnt when E-cigs are used. Instead, they produce a vapour plume that harmlessly dissolves into the air after being created. The e-liquid that is atomized to create this vapour generally contains nicotine, and varies in strength from about 36 mg per milliliter of e-liquid to zero, depending upon what type of e-liquid is purchased. Even if nicotine is consumed regularly through E-cigs, however, the amounts consumed generally do not exceed amounts delivered through nicotine patches or lozenges.
Besides these, two more main ingredients generally found in E-cigs are glycerin and propylene glycol. These two substances are usually regarded as harmless. In the United States, these substances are found in hand sanitizer, toothpaste, asthma inhalers, and various other cosmetic and pharmaceutical products. Nitrosamines are sometimes found in trace amounts in E-cigs.
These are known carcinogens, but are present in E-cigs at levels comparable to those found in nicotine patches, and far less than levels found in regular cigarettes. Other ingredients like cadmium, nickel, and lead may also be found in E-cigs, though they are in amounts so small that they are considered, for all intents and purposes, to be non-toxic. In fact, a 2011 study in the Journal of Health Policy even said this about E-cigs…
“Few, if any, chemicals at levels detected in electronic cigarettes raise serious health concerns… A preponderance of the available evidence shows ‘e-cigarettes’ to be much safer than tobacco cigarettes and comparable in toxicity to conventional nicotine replacement products.” (From an article posted by washingtonpost.com.)
There is also a significant cost difference between electronic cigarettes and the traditional tobacco-filled type. Buying e-liquid refills for rechargeable E-cigs and vaporizers is much less expensive than buying new analog cigarettes in the long run. Of course, getting started with E-cigs requires a bit of an up-front investment because the user will need to buy chargers, batteries, and cartridges to get started… but this cost is negated later on by lower running costs. E-cig users can expect to spend about 70% less than those who choose to continue using tobacco… indicating a fairly significant cost difference between the two.
E-cigs and analog cigarettes are definitely different, but E-cigs come out on top on almost every front. They are safer, cleaner, cheaper, and also legal almost everywhere. In the UK, it is still legal to smoke them in most pubs, in most restaurants, and pretty much everywhere else, while analog cigarettes have long since been banned from most public places.