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Are Electronic Cigarettes Safe To Smoke?

Updated on January 11, 2012

Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigs, as they are sometimes known, have been on the market for a few years now. They have the dual purpose of enabling a smoker to get their fix of nicotine without inhaling the various carcinogens that are in tobacco products, but are electronic cigarettes safe to ‘smoke’, or can they cause harm to health too?

With the recent smoking ban in the UK, and of course, this has been in force in much of the US for some time too, many smokers have been compelled to suffer both the cold, and the indignity of having to stand outside of a pub, like a naughty schoolboy behind the bike sheds.

E cigarettes have helped with this. Some landlords have also banned them, despite the fact that there is no smoke produced and therefore no risks of second hand lung damage. Most though, have accepted that smoking an e cigarette is as much the prerogative of a customer as choosing what to drink.

But are electronic cigarettes safe ? Well, from the point of view that no smoke is inhaled and no cancer causing carcinogens either, they are a definite improvement, from a health perspective, to tobacco. However, one key reason that people do continue to smoke is an addiction to the nicotine in tobacco. Because of this, and the knowledge that these people will be the main consumers of their product, e cigarette manufacturers have ensured that the ‘smoker’ of an e cigarette (or e-cig) will continue to get their hit of nicotine.

Of course, for most people that smoke them, this is the main benefit, and if this was omitted from the e-cigs, there is little doubt that sales would plummet.

Are Electronic Cigarettes safe as they Contain Nicotine?

But is nicotine really that harmful or are electronic cigarettes safe to inhale?

There is a school of thought that argues that without the actual smoke; people are likely to inhale more of their e cigarettes. This has potential health implications as it would increase their intake of nicotine. In high doses, nicotine is a poison which affects the nerves. It is also highly addictive, many argue more so than even heroin, which may surprise many.

Even if taken in relatively high doses, nicotine can cause nausea and vomiting and even small doses have been shown to cause a rise in blood pressure, which can, of course, lead to strokes or heart attacks.

Perhaps most surprisingly is that nicotine itself has been linked to a number of cancers. Whilst the carcinogens in tobacco smoke are the primary cause of cancer from smoking, it now appears that nicotine has a role to play in it too. This does of course mean that those using nicotine replacement gum or patches are also still at risk.

So, whilst smoking an e cigarette in preference to a normal tobacco cigarette is definitely better for your health; it would be false to answer ‘are electronic cigarettes safe to smoke’ with a resounding yes. It seems, as many have argued, that giving up smoking altogether is the best option; but that is a different story altogether!


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