Vaping: A Harm Reduction Strategy Aimed at Heavy Tobacco Smokers
E-Cigarettes as a “Lesser of Two Evils”
Electronic cigarettes were first invented by Chinese pharmacist back in 2003, grief stricken by his father’s smoking-related death. He believed a better nicotine delivery system could be developed, one that would satisfy cravings without the indulgence being risky or potentially deadly. The inhalation of nicotine is made possible by the heating up a synthetic and non-toxic (equal parts propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin) nicotine-laced “juice” until it becomes vapor.
The debate surrounding the health benefits of vaporizing among researchers, health officials, politicians, and interested consumers, primarily centers around the use of this technology as a harm reduction strategy for heavy tobacco smokers. Vaporizers are being hailed as the first viable alternative to smoking cigarettes, one that provides all the sensations and satisfied cravings of a nicotine delivery system, without the deadly chemicals or tar.
It’s a “lesser of two evils” mindset. The inhalation of any substance, whether it organic or chemical-based, is undoubtedly bad for the human body, and is treated as a given medically. But is the inhalation of e-liquid safer than tobacco, both in the short and long term?
Research Exploring the Toxicity of E-Liquids
A 2012 research paper entitled Levels of selected carcinogens and toxicants in vapor from electronic cigarettes, conducted for the Department of Health Behavior, Division of Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences in Buffalo, NY, attempted to shed light on the toxicity levels of vapor produced by 12 brands of e-liquid. The study concluded that the vapor produced by these liquids were not free of toxins, but significantly lower than what you would find in a traditional cigarette.
“We found that the e-cigarette vapors contained some toxic substances. The levels of the toxicants were 9–450 times lower than in cigarette smoke and were, in many cases, comparable with trace amounts found in the reference product . . . our findings are consistent with the idea that substituting tobacco cigarettes with e-cigarettes may substantially reduce exposure to selected tobacco-specific toxicants. E-cigarettes as a harm reduction strategy among smokers unwilling to quit, warrants further study.”
Another study conducted in 2012 entitled Comparison of the effects of e-cigarette vapor and cigarette smoke on indoor air quality, researchers set out to compare the amount of toxic chemicals in the air after vaporizing both e-liquids and traditional cigarettes within the home. Not surprisingly, they found that e-cigarettes produce a far less conctrated amount of chemicals compared to cigarettes.
“For all by-products measured, electronic cigarettes produce very small exposures relative to tobacco cigarettes. The study indicates no apparent risk to human health from e-cigarette emissions based on the compounds analyzed.”