What You Need To Know About E-Cigarettes

E-cigarettes, or electronic cigarettes, have grown increasingly popular throughout the U.S. in the past decade. But many Americans are still confused about them. Are they safe? Do they really help smokers quit smoking? And what exactly is in that billowing vapor cloud?

Here is the essential information you need to know about e-cigarettes and how they affect your health:

  1. What Is an e-cigarette?

    E-cigarettes — also known as e-cigs, vapes, vape pens, and e-hookahs — are rechargeable, battery-powered devices that heat liquid nicotine cartridges to produce vapor that imitates traditional cigarette smoke. E-cigarettes come in a range of different shapes and sizes. They can either look like a conventional cigarette, or like a pen, pipe, or even a USB memory stick. There are currently over 450 brands of e-cigarettes on the market and the nicotine cartridges come in thousands of different flavors.

  2. What ingredients are in the vapor?

    While the liquid cartridges contain a substantial number of ingredients, there are four main ones: nicotine, flavoring, propylene glycol (PG), and glycerin. PG and glycerin are both liquids that are FDA-approved for safe use in both food and drugs. PG is used to make artificial smoke or fog, and glycerin has numerous moisturizing and lubricating properties.

  3. Are e-cigarettes addictive?

    Quite possibly, although research is still being conducted. E-cigarettes don’t contain tobacco, but they do have plenty of nicotine — the property in tobacco that has been proven to be addictive. For this reason, many experts are inclined to believe that e-cigarettes are just as addictive as traditional cigarettes.

  4. Do they help people quit smoking?

    Maybe. Some people think e-cigarettes could help lower nicotine cravings in those who are trying to quit smoking. But e-cigarettes are not on the list of FDA-approved quit aids — which includes the nicotine patch, nicotine gum, or certain prescription drugs — and there’s no conclusive evidence on e-cigarettes’ effectiveness for quitting smoking long-term.

  5. Do they decrease the likelihood that young people will smoke cigarettes?

    No. In fact, they’re likely to do just the opposite. Recent medical studies have shown that there is strong evidence to support that e-cigarettes act as a gateway to traditional cigarette smoking among teens.

  6. Are e-cigarettes less harmful than traditional cigarettes?

    Most likely, for two main reasons: e-cigarettes don’t contain tobacco or involve combustion. The tobacco that tobacco companies use in traditional cigarettes includes a myriad of dangerous additives that make the product taste a certain way. Another key difference is that tobacco is burned and inhaled as smoke, while e-cigarettes simply heat up liquid nicotine to turn it into a vapor. The act of burning, and the byproducts of smoke, can be far more harmful than the vapor. But for now, not enough data exists on the safety of e-cigarettes or how the health effects compare to traditional cigarettes.

  7. Is second-hand vapor smoke dangerous?

    Experts aren’t sure. Studies have shown that e-cigarette vapor does release nicotine and toxins into the air, but certainly not in the same quantity, or with the same danger, as the toxins in traditional cigarette smoke (like carbon monoxide, a byproduct of burning tobacco). But since the long-term health effects of exposure to these secondhand chemicals remains unknown, e-cigarettes are banned in most indoor public settings.

  8. What are the long-term health effects of e-cigarettes?

    Again, experts are not entirely certain. More research needs to be done in order to discover not only the long-term health effects of e-cigarettes, but also how those compare to the long-term impacts of smoking cigarettes. However, experts do believe that since e-cigarettes contain nicotine, users may face the various circulatory system risks associated with nicotine, such as increased blood pressure, risk of stroke, and coronary disease.

Check out Scripps Affiliated Medical Groups’ extensive collection of articles and discover all the health-related guidance you need to stay informed and in great shape.

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