To commemorate Star Wars Day, and because I am a massive nerd, I decided to write this post about the negative aspects of electronic cigarettes â€“ the Dark Side of Vaping, if you will.
This may seem like a strange move for someone who not only owns an e-cigarette business but has written many blog posts passionately advocating the health advantages of using these smoke-free products.
Well, here’s the thing. A sizeable chunk of the positive things that I or anyone else writing in the vaping space have to say about electronic cigs have to do with how blatantly superior using them is compared to smoking tobacco cigarettes.
Thatâ€™s not exactly hard, as there arenâ€™t a lot of things worse for your health, social status and economic prosperity than smoking. Not letting the Wookiee win or attacking when the other Jedi has the high ground, maybe.
But what if tobacco cigarettes had never been invented? Or someone was thinking of trying vaping but had never smoked before? Looked at in that light, e-cigarettes arenâ€™t all rainbows and fuzzy little Ewok babies.
With the exception of The Empire Strikes Back, there are precious few things that can be classified as 100% good – electronic cigarettes included. To claim otherwise is to destroy objectivity, credibility, and rational debate around these revolutionary devices.
Government policymakers and anti e-cigarette lobbyists are alreadyÂ doing that quite well enough without any help from me.
So letâ€™s get to it: here are the top 3 reasons why you shouldn’t useÂ an electronic cigarette.
Reason 1:Â It’s Probably Not Good for Your Lungs
The ingredients in e-liquid (the stuff that goes inside e-cigarettes and is turned into vapour) areÂ water, food-grade flavouring, and a base of propylene glycol (PG) or vegetable glycerine (VG). Both PG and VG are approved as safe for human use by bodies such as the World Health Organisation and the US Food and Drug Administration. Youâ€™ll commonly find them as ingredients in products like processed foods, cosmetics and medicines.
That e-cigarettes do less proven damage to health than tobacco is undisputed; those who continue to argue against this donâ€™t have a scientific shred of evidence to stand on, and are often just bounty hunters sent by the Imperial forces of Big Tobacco and Big Pharma to discredit e-cigarettes and discourage their use, so as to keep up sales of cigarettes and anti-smoking drugs like Champix.
However, the fact remains that PG and VG, as well as the food-grade flavourings and nicotine content in some e-liquids, are processed substances. Now, call me old-school, but I think that breathing air has to be better for you than breathing in evaporated chemicals, particularly if youâ€™re a â€œDarth Vaperâ€ whoâ€™s puffing away more or less all day, every day.
The same logic applies to what we drink and eat: obviously, a glass of water trumps a can of Red Bull, while a raw organic salad lightsaber-hacks a packet of potato crisps in its processed, hydrogenated, preservative-loaded face.
Saying that, while energy drinks and junk food have been proven to be unhealthy, e-liquid has not. And even drinking and eating processed garbage is fine in moderation â€“ unlike smoking tobacco.
One study to date has suggested that use of e-cigarettes may diminish lung function, albeit temporarily.Â Researchers at the University of Athens found that some subjects experienced restricted airway capacity for 10 minutes after using an electronic cigarette. (This included subjects who had never used an e-cigarette before; temporary airway restriction is a very common reaction for novice vapers.)
While this isnâ€™t nearly enough to conclude that vaping poses a long-term threat to health, it may serve to underline that a mist of benign chemicals, flavourings and nicotine extract is just not what our lungs have naturally evolved to be able to process.
I admit that itâ€™s less scientific evidence and more my own interpretation of logic and common sense that has lead me to believe that e-cigarette use is probably not so great for my lungs â€“Iâ€™d welcome further research to prove me either wrong or right about this.
And Iâ€™m definitely not saying to stop vaping â€“ heck, even with processed nature of e-liquid, if you live in an urban area like most people, thereâ€™s probably more bad stuff such as car exhaust in the air you breathe every day.
I’m only pointing out, especially if youâ€™re a non-smoker who has never tried an e-cigarette before, that the marketers of any product will always emphasise its positives and downplay any negatives, so please be aware and consider carefully when making your decision whether or not to start vaping.
On the other hand, if youâ€™re already a smoker, the health damage caused by tobacco is so horrific that the proven benefits of switching to electronic cigarettes blatantly outweighs any unproven claims that they may be harmful.
Reason 2: They’re Not Regulated
One of the major reasons the FDA and other regulatory bodies are up in arms over the rapidly rising popularity of e-cigarettes is that they’re unregulated. That means they aren’t subject to the same safety checks and restrictions as are regulated chemical products such as pharmaceutical medicines.
In Australia, for instance, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is the federal body that governs the sale of regulated medicines such as Panadol. The TGA conducts random tests on batches of Panadol to ensure that the ingredients approved for sale and listed on the label are the ingredients that are actually present in that batch.
However, e-cigarettes and e-liquid are not subject to this official scrutiny. Which means, conceivably, that anything could be in them, in addition to or instead of the ingredients they are supposed to contain.
The risk for extraneous ingredients is heightened by the fact that the vast majority of e-cigarettes and e-liquids are manufactured in and imported from China, a country which does not have the greatest track record when it comes to product health and safety. This is a legitimate concern that’s brought up frequently by anti e-cigarette groups and downplayed as frequently by pro e-cigarette groups.
To paraphrase the logic of someone who used to smoke and now uses electronic cigs: â€œEven if e-cigarettes are unregulated, I choose them over tobacco cigarettes hands-down. Some e-cigarettes may have a few dodgy ingredients, but most of them must be what they say â€“ how else do you explain that nobody’s died or gotten sick from using them yet? Compare that to the hundreds of ingredients in tobacco smoke that will give me cancer or otherwise kill me! And you dare to tell me that I shouldnâ€™t use e-cigs because they may be hazardous – but without them Iâ€™d go right back to killing myself with smoking?!â€
We former smokers-turned-vapers make a valid point with this line of reasoning as it applies to us, but to be objective we have to look at the other side â€“ remember, the point of this post is to examine e-cigarettes without comparing them to tobacco ones.
So putting that comparison aside, it’s not difficult to concede that regulating the ingredients in e-cigs and e-liquid would be a highly sensible move. It would only take one rogue, grossly negligent manufacturer to contaminate a batch of e-liquid with harmful ingredients, and the damage would be enormous.
Not only to those consumers unfortunate enough to be affected, but to the reputation of e-cigarettes. It’s a safe bet that at least some smokers who were considering trying vaping would be scared off and continue to smoke â€“ a tragic and probably deadly outcome.
So while the various regulatory bodies in Australia and around the world take months and maybe years to put the proper safety measures on the production and importation of electronic cigarette products, should you avoid using them?
I would say no â€“ but only if youâ€™re already a smoker and are looking for a less harmful alternative. Otherwise, itâ€™s probably wiser to wait until safety regulations are introduced before trying e-cigarettes. Itâ€™s not like youâ€™ll be missing anything in the meantime.
Reason 3: You Could Get Addicted
While I unabashedly love e-cigarettes and vape them habitually, I don’t believe I’m chemically addicted to them. I forgot to pack my charger on a week-long overseas holiday recently and, while it was annoying to not have my e-cig when I went out to bars, I didnâ€™t freak out or want to smoke a tobacco cigarette instead. So I guess that’s good news.
In normal circumstances, though, you’ll find me happily puffing away on and off throughout the day, most often at my work desk (my eGo-T is beside me right now as I write this).
I usually don’t add nicotine to my e-liquid flavours, unless Iâ€™m out on a Friday or Saturday night and want to feel that happy little nicotine-plus-alcohol buzz. More than anything, I just like the feeling of vaping: the familiar hand-to-mouth ritual, the calming deep inhalation, the satisfaction of feeling the vapour fill up my throat and lungs, the soothing exhale accompanied by fragrant clouds of gratification (it’s Caramel flavoured, today).
This is a behavioural habit left over from my days as a smoker, driven not by chemical dependency, but by psychological conditioning. By performing the â€œsmoking ritualâ€, I get the same pleasurable feelings of relaxation that I used to associate with taking a drag from a cigarette.
Indeed, many researchers believe that it’s this psychological factor that makes e-cigarettes so successful as a smoking cessation aid, even though they are not formally recognised as such by the TGA and FDA. Numerous studies on the effectiveness of electronic cigs as a means to quit smoking have shown that they leave the government-approved smoking cessation aids in the dust.
It makes sense. How satisfying is putting on a nicotine patch, or chewing on nicotine gum, or taking a dose of anti-smoking medication, compared to going through the smoking ritual? Such methods for quitting smoking address only the smokerâ€™s nicotine addiction, not the psychological gratification associated with having a ciggie.
E-cigarettes are the only nicotine delivery system that even comes close to replicating the smoking experience. Because of this, they can be habit-forming, and leave some people open to developing a behavioural addiction acheter viagra sans ordonnance. And if you are one of the many people who are addicted to nicotine, and you use e-cigarettes that contain nicotine, then the risk is compounded by chemical addiction as well.
At this stage, we only have anecdotal evidence that e-cigarettes may be addictive. Like so much else in this blog post, Iâ€™m going on the information at hand and what I hope is common sense when I say that yes, there may be a risk for addiction in some people when it comes to electronic cigarettes.
Even considering that tobacco cigarettes have added chemicals and anti-depressants to make them more addictive than nicotine alone can account for, the nicotine content and smoking ritual aspect of e-cigarettes are enough to warrant caution for vaping becoming habit-forming behaviour.
Like many others who have taken up the vaping lifestyle, I’m happy to be an e-cigarette habitual user, or â€œaddictâ€, or whatever you want to call it. That’s because unlike people who have never been cigarette addicts, we think from the perspective of being former smokers. If we have to be â€œaddictedâ€ to something, vaping is so much better than smoking it’s like comparing being shot at by a Stormtrooper to being slowly digested for a thousand years in the belly of a Sarlacc.
But for non-smokers and others trying to answer the question â€œAre electronic cigarettes good or bad?â€, it would pay to reflect upon the lesson imparted to Luke Skywalker by the great Troll (er, I mean Jedi) Master Obi-Wan Kenobi: Whatâ€™s true depends a great deal on your own point of view.
May the Fourth be with you, always.