What's Really Inside E-Cigarettes?

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The days of proving you’re a teenage badass by smoking out on the street corner, hair covering your face, might be over. An entire generation seems to be moving away from lighting up and towards a more futuristic means of getting that nicotine — electronic cigarettes. Yesterday, the Federal government released a study revealing that high school and middle school kids are increasingly turning to electronic cigarettes to get that nicotine rush.

So, we wondered, is that a good or a bad thing? Advocates of the e-cig tout it as a virtually consequence-free alternative to smoking — others aren’t so sure. Are e-cigarettes really okay to smoke?

E-cigarettes aren’t yet regulated by the FDA. Well, what does this mean, exactly? When the FDA regulates something, that means they go through the ingredient list provided by manufacturers and double-check to make sure everything has been honestly represented. When something isn’t overseen in this way, you don’t really know what you’re getting.

With traditional cigarettes, you do know what's included — and it’s...not good. E-cig manufacturers claim its products are just nicotine and water — but we don’t really have a way to know that’s true. Kinda scary for something you’re inhaling.

In fact, a 2009 analysis by the FDA of two leading e-cigarette manufacturers found that samples did contain carcinogens and toxic chemicals, like diethylene glycol (also found in antifreeze). Though this might not compare to the 4,000+ chemicals found in tobacco cigarettes, it’s still cause for alarm if you're not excited by the idea of purposely breathing antifreeze into your lungs.

Greek researchers also found that smoking e-cigarettes decreases lung function, both in non-smokers and lifetime smokers. So, despite claims to the contrary, inhaling this vapor directly into your lungs does affect lung function. Something to definitely take into consideration, especially if you’re active.

We all know the government very closely monitors traditional cigarette advertising — no more television commercials or Joe Camel — but this isn't so with e-cigs. So, they’re pouring money into ads — Jenny McCarthy appears in this kinda cringe-inducing commercial showcasing how fun and flirty it can be to exhale water vapor directly into your date’s face.



Finally, e-cigarettes obviously still contain nicotine, the chemical that makes smoking addictive in the first place. Many people believe that smoking an e-cigarette will help them quit nicotine. And while it may be true that e-cigs can help cut back on smoking tobacco, trials are needed to determine whether those people later quit nicotine completely.

In some ways, e-cigs can be thought about as a “harm reduction” technique — a school of thought in the health world that believes moderately dangerous habits are better than very dangerous habits. While smoking e-cigarettes probably isn’t great for your health, it might be better than traditional smoking.

The bottom line is: We need more information to truly understand what’s inside e-cigarettes and how they affect our health. While the jury’s still out on whether they’re better for you than regular cigarettes, they’re by no means harmless. (The New York Times)
cigphoto: via The New York Times.