Still safer than cigarettes, but...

Vapes, or e-cigarettes, have been getting a lot of bad press lately due to freak accidents and studies that claim they are no better than tobacco. But the reality of it is that there isn’t enough data to support any theory because vapes haven’t been around long enough for researchers to really study their effects. This is why right now, they’re considered the lesser evil – most likely safer than cigarettes but still potentially harmful.

And it’s this belief that led some authorities to recommend them as a smoking cessation tool. Public Health England (PHE) recently came out with a white paper suggesting that e-cigarettes should be prescribed to smokers on the National Health Service to help them quit. The organization says that unlike cigarettes, vapes “do not contain tobacco, do not create smoke and do not rely on combustion.”

The absence of combustion – the burning of different substances – makes them simpler and therefore, less harmful than cigarettes.

E-cigarettes “should not routinely be treated in the same way as smoking. It is not appropriate to prohibit [their] use in health trusts and prisons as part of smokefree policies unless there is a strong rationale to do so,” PHE states.

According to, the vapor released when smoking e-cigarettes contain “only four main ingredients.” These are glycerin, “an organic compound found in vegetables,” propylene glycol, “a substance found in asthma inhalers,” food grade flavoring, “which actually gives the juice its distinct taste,” and nicotine, which is shown to be most likely absorbed by the body through the lining of the mouth or the upper airways. The e-cigarette resource acknowledges that the effects of inhaling “flavors over a long period of time” is still unknown, “but so far there has not been any studies done showing major adverse long term side effects.”

“One important thing to note is that when we are talking about e-liquid, we are only recommending that you use trusted companies that produce their liquid in sterile environments in the USA and other countries with similar regulations,” says the website.

Further, PHE reveals that the use of the devices might renormalize smoking, reduce quitting and act as a “gateway” to smoking or nicotine uptake. These concerns affect not only active smokers, but also those who have quit smoking and nonsmokers who might be encouraged to take up the habit.

Still, experts across the board realize that cigarettes pose more health risks. Which is why PHE recommends that emerging evidence on e-cigarettes and how to use them safely “be communicated to users and health professionals to maximize chances of successfully quitting smoking.”


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