‘Smoking kills’ is a phrase we hear and see all the time – in TV adverts, on cigarette packaging, from overly worried mums. But over the last couple of years, a new invention seems to have changed the game: electronic cigarettes. And their popularity cannot be denied, considering there are around 2.6 million vapers in the UK.
However there is a big debate about them: are they really healthier for you? As with everything else, there are up- and downsides to smoking e-cigs, and these are some of the most common ones:
1. E-cigs save you money: Within the last 20 years, the average price for a pack of cigarettes has tripled. Smokers pay around £8.50 today for 20 cigarettes, while a comparable amount of e-cigarette liquid only costs £2. Even though e-cigarette starter packs are around £45, vaping will work out far cheaper than smoking in the long run.
2. Sociability increases through using e-cigarettes: Having to ask people to come outside in the cold with you for a smoke, noticing them wrinkling their noses… being a smoker in a group of non-smokers can be a bit of a pain. E-cigarettes make social events a lot easier, as they can be used inside and have a less pungent smell.
3. They can be healthier than traditional cigarettes: E-cigarettes that do not contain nicotine prevent vapers from nicotine poisoning. Also, they avoid causing the well-known ‘smoker’s lung’ and the tickling coughs that accompany long time smokers. Additionally, E-cigarettes produce far fewer toxic carcinogens than traditional cigarettes. For this reason, they are more environmentally friendly, too.
4. As a quitting aid, they can be effective: For those smokers who want to completely get rid of their addiction, e-cigarettes can work wonders. According to several studies, they are as effective as nicotine patches in many cases. Many smokers switch from traditional cigarettes to e-cigs containing nicotine, and then later reduce the percentage contained in the liquid.
1. They are just not the same: Even though vaping is supposed to be as stress relieving as regular cigarettes, many smokers find that the lack of nicotine in e-cigarettes reduces the calming effect. Also, the smell of the latter might not be as alluring and their taste is simply not as satisfying.
2. E-cigarettes are a gateway-drug for many people: E-cigs are more socially accepted than traditional cigarettes. One negative consequence of this is that addictive habits are promoted to the youth. Precisely because they are cheap, social, allegedly healthy and quite trendy, e-cigarettes attract especially young non-smoking people and often tempt them to try regular cigarettes as a next step.
3. They might be healthier, but still not medicine: Yes, e-cigarettes probably bear less risks than regular cigarettes. But that does not change the fact that they still contain toxins that can spark tumour-growth. It is often neglected that the liquid nicotine contained in e-cigarettes is an even more dangerous substance than tobacco leaves themselves. It is arguable whether the only very small amount of liquid needed moderates the danger. What is more, as e-cigarettes are a novelty on the market, there might be several more side-effects that have not yet been discovered.
4. Batteries of e-cigarettes can explode: There is always a certain risk for a battery to explode. But when this battery is in striking distance of your face, the potential consequences are way more hazardous. You would have to be extremely unlucky for an e-cigarette explosion to happen to you, but people who did experience it suffered from severe injuries to their mouth, hands and teeth.
In a nutshell, it is inadvisable for non-smokers to start vaping. It bares some serious risks, and it is likely to lead to smoking regular cigarettes. For people who are already in the habit of smoking cigarettes, e-cigarettes might be a less harmful alternative. But in the end, their up- and down-sides probably balance out. Some prefer traditional cigarettes, others the electric variation, others again prefer some fresh air… each to their own.
Image: LINDSAY FOX [Flickr]