As e-cigarettes gain popularity among young people and those trying to quit tobacco, you see more and more people using the battery-powered vaporizers in public. Without such a strong smell and very little smoke, you wonder if this method of “smoking” is safer than real cigarettes.
“It is like what happened in the 1940s, when cigarettes were actively marketed by tobacco companies to the public,” says Dr. Devereaux. “The actual data on the harms of cigarettes came out 20 years later and many patients regretted starting the habit in the first place.”
E-cigarettes are a recent invention, first developed in China in 2003 and later made available in the U.S. in 2013. The battery-operated device uses chemicals and other liquids to vaporize nicotine so that it can be inhaled.
“Unfortunately, long-term studies proving negative effects of e-cigarettes are still in progress with no real data available yet,” says Dr. Devereaux. “The body of evidence for the harmful health impacts of regular cigarettes is quite strong, since the product has been in use for decades.”
Dr. Devereaux confirms that e-cigarettes have many similar chemicals found in regular cigarettes that are linked with cancer formation, such as benzaldehyde. “No product should be smoked and many chemicals do lead to lung damage,” Dr. Devereaux adds.
Even worse is the lack of safety in the actual device. Recent reports of e-cigarettes have shown spontaneous combustion causing significant facial burns.
Although e-cigarettes contain fewer toxins and emit less smoke than traditional cigarettes, little is known about the true effects of secondhand smoke from e-cigarette vapor because it is not regulated by the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Just like regular cigarettes, e-cigarettes have the capability of causing a habit. “The popularity of e-cigarettes among young people may serve as a gateway to regular cigarette use and other products,” Dr. Devereaux says.
Others who use e-cigarettes as an alternative to regular cigarettes as a way to try to quit would do better to quit using tobacco products entirely.
The journal Lancet Respiratory Medicine recently published a study conducted by the Center for Tobacco Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco showing that people who use e-cigarettes as smoking cessation aids are 28 percent less likely to quit traditional cigarette smoking than people who do not use e-cigarettes.
While there is not enough data yet to completely compare cigarettes to e-cigarettes, Dr. Devereaux offers her opinion that current studies into e-cigarettes will produce similar results to those of the 1940s — that they are bad for your health and that if you currently smoke any kind of cigarette, you should quit.
Learn more about the smoking cessation courses Sharp offers around San Diego.