It’s natural to want to compare e-cigarettes to traditional cigarettes; however, comparing something to one of the deadliest consumer products ever made will always make that product look better by comparison – even when it’s not. There is a lot of misinformation out there about how harmful vaping may be, and the possible bad effects of secondhand vape smoke. One of the most commonly used statistics by the Vaping Industry is from a Public Health England report published last year claiming that e-cigarettes were 95% less harmful than traditional cigarettes. After the report’s release however, both the Lancet and British Medical Journal discredited the report for a couple of reasons: (1) weak methodology, specifically, that the claim was based on one study and merely represented the opinions of the authors, and (2) a conflict of interest with one of the authors who received funding from an e-cigarette distributor. However, there are numerous scientifically sound studies that show the chemicals in e-cigarettes are associated with cancer, respiratory and heart disease. 1 2 This also means that second hand smoke from vaping may not be as harmless as we have been led to believe.
Here’s what we know so far:
- E-cigarettes expose users and bystanders (through secondhand vape smoke) to harmful chemicals, including at least 10 that are on California’s Proposition 65 list of chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm. 3 4 5
- The ingredients in e-cigarette e-juice, like propylene glycol and flavoring agents, are known to cause inflammation of the respiratory system, which plays a role in the development of cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Many chemical flavorings, like diacetyl, 2,3-pentanedione, acetoin, and cinnamaldehyde, used to create e-juice flavors like Hot Cinnamon Candies, Banana Pudding, watermelon, pomegranate, and Cherry Crush, cause a number of serious respiratory illnesses. These chemicals have also been shown to damage DNA, which has raised concerns about potential cancer-causing effects. 6 7 8 9 10 11
- The fine and ultra-fine particles in e-cig aerosol result in many harmful health outcomes meaning not only the vaper but also innocent bystanders may be being subjected to harmful effects of vaping. Even short-term exposure can cause irritation of the throat and eyes, give you a cough, and make you feel dizzy. It may even trigger an asthma attack. Vaping causes short-term inflammation in your lungs similar to regular cigarettes. Nicotine-free vapor may cause even more inflammation. Another study found that e-cig aerosol decreases immune system response, and increases susceptibility to flu and pneumonia in mice. And antibiotic-resistant MRSA bacteria are harder to kill after being exposed to the particles in e-cig vapor. These particles affect your heart, as well; they can cause constriction of the arteries, and could lead to a heart attack. 12
- E-cigarettes also typically contain nicotine, a highly addictive neurotoxin. The nicotine in e-cigarettes is derived from tobacco, just as the nicotine in conventional cigarettes, and many people don’t realize that it’s a dangerous chemical that is as addictive as heroin. The lethal dose of nicotine for a grown adult is only 50-60 mg. Some e-cigarette brands market the ability to mix your own e-liquid, where one would handle liquid nicotine leaving their skin at risk to exposure to the chemicals in the liquid. This is very dangerous. Additionally, the effect of nicotine on teenagers is troubling. Because teens are going through a critical period of brain development, their brains are especially vulnerable to the toxic effects of nicotine. 13 14 15 16 17