Harm of e-cigarettes


There is no doubt that smoking is harmful. Tobacco is thought to kill nearly 6 million people every year, but do electronic cigarettes provide the answer to this assault on the nation’s health? As with conventional cigarettes, there is often an information deficit on the chemicals that electronic cigarettes contain and although some just use flavoured water vapour, others can contain a cocktail of chemicals including nicotine of varying concentrations and quality.

E-cigarettes have emerged onto the UK market relatively unregulated. In countries such as Brazil, Norway and Singapore they have been banned entirely or are only available as a regulated medicinal product. From 2016 the UK will follow New Zealand’s example and license e-cigarettes as a medicine so all e-cigarettes on the UK market will have to prove their quality, safety and effectiveness to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency. Is this really an appropriate response to a product which already appears to be used reasonably safely by 1.3 million people in the UK?

If we look at the quality of electronic cigarettes then the answer is undoubtedly yes, more regulation is needed. Currently, the content of nicotine and other chemicals varies widely between individual e-cigarettes, and the quantity of nicotine delivered does not always match up to the amount advertised. There is also little way of knowing whether your favourite e-cigarette contains pure pharmaceutical grade nicotine or cheap pesticide grade nicotine laced with impurities. Worryingly, in the United States the Food and Drug Administration found traces of the poison diethylene glycol in one batch e-cigarettes.

Although some harmful chemicals have been found in e-cigarettes, far more are inhaled during tobacco smoking and at least 5,300 individual chemicals have been identified in cigarette smoke – this is compared to only approximately seven mostly benign chemicals found in e-cigarette vapour.

When you compare using e-cigarettes to not smoking at all, however, the picture is less clear cut as e-cigarettes still contain nicotine, and nicotine itself is harmful. The chemical has been linked to the constriction of coronary vessels, irregular heart rhythms and inflammatory changes that cause hypertension and clogged arteries. It may also have a role in the development of bladder cancer, lung cancer and liver fibrosis. Use of nicotine replacement therapy during pregnancy has been shown to have a negative effect on babies’ lung development making them more prone to asthma in later life. Continuing to smoke e-cigarettes is clearly not as safe as giving up smoking entirely.

At the moment, e-cigarettes also give smokers a way of flaunting UK smokefree legislation and allow them to puff away on public transport, in pubs, offices and even on some airlines. Recent studies have shown the vapour exhaled by e-cigarette users may not be as harmless as it first appears leading to concerns about ‘passive vaping’. E-cigarettes expose nearby non-smokers to nicotine and other chemicals although, admittedly, at much lower levels than those seen in passive smoking.

Whether this represents a significant health risk is not yet known but it is one of the reasons that the British Medical Association has called for smokefree legislation to be extended to include e-cigarettes. Their other argument is that allowing e-cigarettes to be used in public spaces re-normalises the idea of smoking. Nothing says ‘socially unacceptable’ quite like the huddle of smokers outside the pub on a dark and rainy night. Allowing smoking to come in from the cold, even in the form of an e-cigarette, could remove some of the impetus for people to quit, harming attempts to get people off nicotine for good and even encouraging new smokers.

The main benefit of licensing e-cigarettes as an over-the-counter medicine has been in helping smokers quit; an area in which they show a lot of promise. Studies have concluded that the physical act of smoking appears to reduce cigarette cravings even when no nicotine is inhaled. Cigarettes with the nicotine removed can relieve cravings and in some cases are more effective than nicotine inhalers in curbing the urge to smoke. In addition, a recent survey of 10,000 adults conducted by the public health charity Action on Smoking and Health found that 1 in 5 e-cigarette users had used electronic cigarettes to successfully quit smoking. The ASCEND study in New Zealand is currently comparing the effectiveness of e-cigarettes against traditional nicotine patches and will publish its results in September this year.

Given the harmful effects of nicotine, e-cigarettes can never be considered as a safe alternative to smoking, but licensing them as a medicine will send a clear message that they can be successfully used as a quitting aid and hopefully help more people turn their backs on nicotine addiction.

22 thoughts on “Harm of e-cigarettes

  1. As smoking is hazardous to well being, folks contemplate it a far better option to buy e-cigarettes as a substitute of utilizing the true ones. This is due to the fact actual smoking can lead to a whole lot of issues so it has grow to be a pattern to manufacture e cigarettes as an alternative of actual cigarettes.
    But it is important that individuals be mindful when they go to buy electronic cigarettes as there are a good deal of producers who just want to con people.

  2. I agree that E-cigs are a lot safer than conventional cigarettes and that their use definitely needs to be regulated.

    Is there a reason why some exhaust vapours are just flavoured water and others might contain potentially hazardous chemicals?

    Is there a list of safe brands somewhere?

  3. Hi Bob,

    The main hazardous chemical in e-cigarettes is nicotine, I think the fact that they are currently poorly regulated is the reason different e-cigarettes can have different amounts of other chemicals. This is also why we won’t really know which the safe brands are until they are all licensed as medicines, at the moment they don’t have to prove they are safe to medical standards.

    In terms of “passive vaping” – people being exposed to the vapour exhaled – studies have shown that people passively exposed to e-cigarette vapour can have a slight increase in their blood nicotine levels and possibly a small drop in lung function. Passive vaping, however, does not cause the inflammatory blood changes seen in passive smoking so one would hope it is not as bad for you.

  4. I gave up smoking four years ago cold turkey, but the British government’s decision to regulate e-cigs is clearly illogical if it has the consequence of making the product as expensive as real cigarettes. I know many people who have substituted real giarettes with e cigs and the absence of carbon monoxide, tar and other noxious substances in e cigs must make that method of obtaining a nicotine hit less harmful.

  5. There have been so many changes including products getting taxed. I question who is running the anti-smoking-alternative press and movement. Who are the stakeholders? Smells like big tobacco to me. Vaping or “e-cig” (for those not into it) is better than streets filled with cigarette butts, and children inhaling toxins from indoor cigarette smoking.

  6. I am a very passionate convert.

    The bullet points:-
    30 a day
    Not smoked a cigarette since I bought a vape
    spending £12p per day instead of £13
    Health definitely better

    I have been using a personal vapouriser that I buy fluid for. The complete unit with battery and charger cost £15. The fluid can be purchased for as little as £6.00 for 100ml. (online prices tend to be £4 for 10ml, but if you hunt around there are bulk buying sites that axe that) tinydeal.com vapourjuice.co.uk ifancyone.com are some of the sites I have used.

    I was 30 a day (have touched a cigarette in 9 weeks now) thats approximately £13/day

    I use about 2ml of vapour fluid a day. That’s 50 days for £6 = 12p per day – even at ‘full’ retail £4 for 10ml its 80p per day instead of £13.

    Yes its the health thats the driver, but this is also the cheapest alternative by far. And I enjoy it ! Seems a real win win win …I am now giving them to friends and other smokers I meet, in an evangelical way !.

    I sincerely hope the regulation does not mean a price hike when this is such a fabulous solution.

  7. nicotine is only harmful in high doses which ecigs dont provide. you would have to be drinking nicotine liquid on high % to be lethal. here is a study that ecigs dont produce any substances at a level to be concerned about, only 6 trace substances from real cigarettes at very low levels where found to be in ecig vapour.


    it also showed nicotine levels where lower then real cigarettes by a third, dont hear people dieing of nicotine poisoning from them do you. they dont further testing on passive vapour which showed only trace ammounts of nicotine but only at the month, once the vapour is airborne it is diluted and untraceable even in 8 metre square box. it was showen that the vapour would have to be directly inhaled from a ecig users mouth about 300 times equal a by stander chewing one piece of nicotine gum.

  8. I agree that some regulations are required. Luckily quality of e-liquids has improved. They’re far better than when I start vaping 5 years ago. I wonder what prices will be in future.

  9. ‘Recent studies have shown the vapour exhaled by e-cigarette users may not be as harmless as it first appears leading to concerns about ‘passive vaping’. E-cigarettes expose nearby non-smokers to nicotine and other chemicals although, admittedly, at much lower levels than those seen in passive smoking.’

    Do you have a reference for this or is it nonsense? Any regulation that makes electronic cigarettes, and its associated paraphernalia difficult to purchase, or more expensive, is short-sighted. If they continue to gain traction amongst smokers as they have done over the past few years, they could be one of the most important public health interventions ever. Any concerns with regards to nicotine toxicity and tiny doses of harmful chemicals pales in comparison to the harm caused by tobacco (ischaemic heart disease, COPD and smoking related cancers).

    We need to ensure the nicotine levels are as stated. There use in public places (shops, cafes etc) should be the choice of the proprietor. Let’s make it as easy as possible for smokers to switch.

    ‘Given the harmful effects of nicotine, e-cigarettes can never be considered as a safe alternative to smoking’

    Yes they can (in the doses most people use).

  10. it seems to me that the big players, are getting worried about the revenue they will lose in taxes and income from tobacco, the government keep going on about how much its costing the health
    service to deal with tobacco related illness yet when something comes along that could actually really make a difference, they panic and want it banned ! i haven’t touched a cigarette since i started vaping, and i don’t stink of tobacco plus i feel 100 percent better, no more hacking cough, or waking in the night short of breath. this is the best thing i have found to get me off the cancer sticks. its the only thing that actually works !!!

  11. These are sold as safe but that is not the case. Also passive vaping can put non nicotine users in a situation where they are taking nicotine against their will. The nicotone in the air gives me a high, a headache and a sore throat. No one has the right to force me to take a drug I don’t want it is bullying of the worse kind

  12. Why is there even a debate about these. Good or bad, they’re better than a currently legal (even if socially unaccepted by some people) alternative. All this talk about regulation requiring them to be classed as medication – is that the case for cigarettes? No, so why would these need to be regulated differently. I went from a 20 a day habit (£8.50 per day) to a e-cig user and quit the real thing over night. I now pay £0.65 per day and most importantly, even if unhealthy, they are healthier. Whats next, a ban on alcohol accept as a medication to help deal with alcoholism, a ban on sugar except as a medication to help deal with obesity. You might say they’re different as they don’t harm others, but the cost to the tax payer is harmful, when you get diabetes or liver disease. What about car pollution, shall we ban hybrids because they use SOME fuel and insist that you should have to go purely electric – of course not, a hybrid may not be 100% CO2 free, but they a lot better than diesel or petrol alternatives and they do pump passive chemicals into the air. Is it bullying when you drive past me in your car and i get a face full of noxious gas? People will always make unhealthy choices, we should be encouraging the switch to a healthier alternative, not berating it for not being 100% healthy.

  13. I gave up all tobacco smoking two years ago. Vaping 18 ml nicotine since. As much as I’d like to continue Vaping, (because I enjoy it), I’ll now have to try and go “cold turkey ” on any nicotine use, or inhaling anything as a substitute.

    I now have seriously inflamed arteries throughout, my symptoms range from daily Rhinitis, Sciatica, hair thinning and a worstening of osteoarthritis, amongst other suspected damage. I just “know” that any Vaping and/or nicotine use is not doing me any good at all.

    I don’t even know if I can stop Vaping. I rely on this habit so much.
    The question I ask myself most;
    Is this doing me any good? the only honest answer is “No”.
    Nicotine damages the heart and Arteries- Fact.

  14. yes im using E cigs, the non oil refil type for over one year now, yes i have saved money, but also i see it as a much better alternative, i have to admit i did enjoy smoking real cigarettes, and i do enjoy my E cig now,,,,Lets face it the ONLY reason there is any debate on their safety, or when and where we can use them ( note i did not say smoke them as they are NOT smoking ) is becouse the government are going to lose too much money on tax,,,, i was recently in Australia, did not see any E cigs on sale, so many australians stopped me and asked where i got mine,,, when i inquiered in the shop i was told they cant sell them yet as the government have not decided how to tax them yet,,,,so im sure it wont be long in uk that the government will deem E cigs safe enough to use as long as we pay some over the top tax on them just like they do with real cigaretts,,,,,. a week ago i was on a train station platform, it was open air, i was not standing next to anyone and i was told by staff via the loud speaker the i couldnt vape on the platform !! WHY !! ,,,,you dont have to be a brain surgeon to know that E cigs are safer,, ok not having them at all is the safest, but as an alternative they are better, and as a grown up person i should be able to make up my own mind on weather to use a E cig or not

  15. i drive a taxi cab in st pete fl. i log in about 10=12 hours a day 6 days a week. when i found out about e-cigs i wanted to see if the vapor smoke was smellable like reg cig smoke . i carry around 4-5 blind fares a day. some together some single. i smoke the e-cigs about a week and when i asked them if they smelled anything like smoke or elsewise. one person happened to say that he smelled strawberry odor but only one a while. strawberry is what i vape. now i’m not saying you can’t get gagging with the vape unless its blown in your face. i do believe that blind person have more acute senses as to stinking up the house WELL???

  16. The use of the word “science” in your webs URL is very misleading.
    Should be “ImissquoteOtherMissinformedPeoplesArticles.co.uk”

  17. E-cigarettes are using battery to heat the liquid nicotine for this you have to charge the e-cigarette. It is very popular among college students and in offices. It also tastes like regular cigarettes.

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