We all have seen those sleek metallic devices that look like cigarettes, emitting a sweet sickly smell, mostly in the hands of youngsters. E-cigarettes are the new cool thing on the block, they are said to be a healthier alternative to conventional smoking that doesn’t leave behind any residue and is touted to be odorless. E-cigarettes were introduced as a means to help quit smoking but over the years have developed a following of their own and have gained popularity dramatically. Yet expert opinion remains divided on the long-term impact of e-cigarettes on health. So are e-cigarettes safe? How can they harm our health? Let’s find out.
Most of the e-cigarettes contain nicotine, the main culprit in tobacco responsible for addiction. This makes e-cigarettes equally addictive as traditional cigarettes. Apart from being highly habit forming nicotine also increases the risk of insulin resistance, diabetes mellitus, atherosclerosis and lung cancer. What’s more concerning is that e-cigarettes contain nicotine in form of liquid cartridges also known as “juice” which is toxic when ingested or absorbed through the skin. Any accidental ingestion of such liquids by children can be fatal.
2) Popcorn lungs:
E-cigarettes contain diacetyl, a flavoring agent used in popcorns to compliment the buttery taste. Harmless when ingested, diacetyl can cause serious damage to our lungs when inhaled. Breathing in diacetyl fumes causes bronchiolitis obliterans, also known as popcorn lungs. It’s scarring of the tiny air sacs in the lungs which leads to narrowing of the airway. Symptoms of this include coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. What’s more concerning is that this condition is irreversible and once your lungs have been subjected to diacetyl fumes the damage is permanent.
Formaldehyde is a by-product, produced when e-liquid is heated on the coil. E liquids contain propylene glycol compounds and when they come in contact with heating coil they produce formaldehyde or other derivatives of the carboxyl aldehyde group. Formaldehyde is categorized as a carcinogen and can affect our body negatively at even small doses. With the growing trend of e-cigarettes, there has been an evolution of techniques to get more thick smoke. This is done by heating liquids at very high temperature. This leads to a production of formaldehyde in higher concentrations making fumes more toxic.
4) Gateway to smoking:
The biggest irony of e-cigarettes is that they were introduced as a method to quit smoking but in many cases have ended up as being a gateway to tobacco addiction. According to a study teenagers who used, e-cigarettes were 4 times more likely to develop tobacco addiction. Moreover, due to unregulated market and no standard guideline, there is an unrestricted access to e-cigarettes without any warning or age limit. This makes them more dangerous than traditional cigarettes.
E-cigarettes are the new trend and are here to stay. But masking them as a safe smoking alternative has only led to a rampant increase of user base and following. It’s time we opened our eyes to the harmful effects of E-cigarette smoking and acknowledge them as a health hazard.