E-cigars: Improbable ally or enemy in disguise?

Vaping e cigarette 2019

(Andrew Haimerl, Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Eleni Bouziani, a 1 st year medical student of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece. She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


E-cigars have been gaining popularity amongst young adults and adolescents in recent years. However, whether e-cigars pose a threat to our health remains a hot-debated subject. A quick research on the net is enough to release that there is plentiful of scientific reports either accrediting or discrediting this novel product.

Starting from the “bright side” of e-cigars, UK public health authorities state that e-cigarettes are 95% less toxic that conventional cigars. As far as second-hand smoking is concerned, the Cancer Centre UK reports that the vapor emitted from electronic cigars is most probably not harmful when compared to inhaling smoke (the so-called “tar”) from combustible cigars.

E-cigars are oftentimes referred to as a useful tool for smoking cessation. Due to their nicotine content and similarity to a common cigar, e-cigars could be used by heavy smokers as a more realistic strategy for achieving a smoke-free lifestyle. Yet, the available evidence from cohort studies alone is not sufficient enough to draw decisive conclusions. Further larger, population-based studies  are required to confirm that e-cigars truly are effective in compacting smoking.

Another aspect that we ought to bear in mind is that e-cigars are a safe way of delivering nicotine. On the contrary, common cigars deliver nicotine alongside with a cocktail of innumerable toxic substances. Therefore e-cigars, along with other conventional means of Nicotine-Replacement-Therapy(nicotine patches, gums) , can prove to be helpful for the ones struggling with nicotine withdrawal syndrome.

Taking into consideration current data, we might as well precariously deduce that cigars are a less harmful alternative to combustible cigarettes. However, assuming that e-cigars have no negative side effects whatsoever would be a misconception. Even with the cancer-inducing tobacco removed, electronic cigarettes still contain significant levels of nicotine. As a result, e-cigars are associated with acute cardiovascular events and the acceleration of atherosclerosis. Most notably, though, high doses of nicotine have unfavorable ramifications on the developing brain. As a consequence, their nicotine content automatically renders e-cigars disadvantageous for non-smokers, pregnant women and the underage who do not have (and definitely don’t need to develop) nicotine-induced brain damage or addiction. Moreover, since e-cigarettes are a brand new product, little is known regarding their long term effects on human health.

Summing up: e-cigars could protect habitual smokers from the hazards that tobacco and other substances found in combustible cigars cause. Nevertheless, the usage of e-cigars is linked to significant health risks and may in the long run have detrimental effects that we are still not aware of.

Consequently, electronic cigars are not to be recommended to groups at risk and non-smokers in general. What’s more, there is still an abundance of other methods available for the ones struggling to quit smoking

Whatever the case, though, e-cigars are here to stay. In order to ward off as many of their adverse effects as feasible, all products have to be properly maintained and proper regulations have to be implemented. In other words: users are to trust solely repute suppliers and opt for high-quality, free-from-impurities products. At the same time, countries and organizations need to update the current legal framework to ensure consumer safety and continue researching on the potential dangers of e-cigars.

For the time being, the question of whether e-cigars are safe or not has no definite answer.

References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26164573

https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/causes-of-cancer/smoking-and-cancer/are-e-cigarettes-harmful#ecigsrefs0

https://scienceblog.cancerresearchuk.org/2016/05/17/10-common-questions-about-e-cigarettes-answered/?_ga=2.10659703.29051967.1555878850-219729736.1555878850

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27906858

https://today.duke.edu/2001/08/mm_medicaluses.html

About the author

Eleni Bouziani is a 1 st year medical student of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, in Greece. She is an active member of HelMSIC, the National Member Organisation of IFMSA in Greece and she has recently been elected as a Local Officer in Medical Education in the department of HelMSIC in Athens. Even though her mother tongue is Greek, she is proficient in English and speaks German fluently.

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