Electronic Cigarettes: Are they really as safe as we think?

Vaping 19_

(Cianna Jolie, Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Nour Nassour, a 2nd year of medical school student from LeMSIC, one of the NMO associated with IFMSA. 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.


The WHO defines electronic cigarettes as devices that do not burn tobacco leaves but
instead vaporize a solution inhaled by the user [2]. Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes aim to provide a similar sensation to inhaling tobacco smokes for the user; they are used
worldwide by millions of people as alternatives to real cigarettes and some studies shows
that they are effective in helping to quit smoking. The Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC) concluded that e-cigarettes can benefit adult smokers who are not
pregnant, as long as they completely replace any other nicotine or tobacco products. [1] However, are they really as safe as we think?

It has been found that the vapor contained in e-cigarettes is made out mainly of glycols,
nicotine and flavoring agents but also of particles, metals and Tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs), seeing as some of these ingredients are toxic when present at high dose, it is important to closely monitor their concentrations when inhaled. However, studies show that sometimes the product labels did not show the ingredients (e.g. flavors, solvent, nicotine) nor their concentrations (e.g. of nicotine) [3].

Let’s take a closer look at one of the major component of e-cigarettes: the Glycols (propylene glycol and glycerin); they are mostly considered safe for oral intake, but there is a major debate as to if a product is safe when ingested orally meaning it is safe to inhale it. In fact, it has been shown that exposure of glycols via smoke can easily reach threshold safety limits thus warranting some concern [3].

Furthermore, several brands often replace glycerol/propylene glycol by ethylene glycol [3, 5], a chemical associated with pronounced toxicological risks (3, 6). And diethylene glycol, a glycol also associated with pronounced toxicological risks, has been detected in small quantities in very few studies [3].

Unexpectedly, one of the major concerns of e-cigarettes has to do with the flavorings. Researchers have stated that that the chemicals that make up different flavors also produce different levels of free radicals, toxins that are often associated with cancer and other diseases [4]. In fact, workers who frequently inhaled diacetyl, a food sweetener also used as a flavoring agent in some e-cigarettes often developed airway obstruction caused by bronchiolitis obliterans, or “popcorn lung”, a rare obstructive lung disease [3]. However the danger of the flavoring agents varies with the one used and its concentration in the vapor; we should also mention that different brands, models and batch use various flavorings/concentrations [3], so it is quite hard to establish a concrete general assumption on the matter.

It is worthwhile noting that the research on the safety of e-cigarettes is relatively new and thus very challenging; one major problem is that any research applies only to the specific product brand, model and batch, with no certainty that the findings can be reproducible with different products. [3]

In conclusion, the only thing we know for sure is that the risks associated with smoking ecigarettes depend heavily on the specific situation of the consumer seeing as ex-smokers, non smokers, dual smoking, different brands and consumption rate all produce different outcome. Of course the safest way is always the smoke free way.

References
1. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/216550.php
2. https://www.who.int/tobacco/communications/statements/eletronic_cigarettes/en/
3.https://www.who.int/tobacco/industry/product_regulation/BackgroundPapersENDS3_4November-.pdf
4. https://www.hindustantimes.com/fitness/you-thought-e-cigarette-flavours-are-harmless-it-affects-a-lot-more-than-just-taste-buds/story-3NKiygOOfECEcwyVJK7muM.html
5. Hutzler C, Paschke M, Kruschinski S, Henkler F, Hahn J, Luch A. Chemical hazards present in liquids and vapors of electronic cigarettes. Archives of Toxicology. 2014;88(7):1295–308.
6. Hess R, Bartels MJ, Pottenger LH. Ethylene glycol: an estimate of tolerable levels of
exposure based on a review of animal and human data. Archives of Toxicology.
2004;78(12):671–80

About the author

My name is Nour Nassour from LeMSIC, one of the NMO associated with IFMSA. I am
currently serving as LeMSIC local director at the University of Balamand and executive board member for the term 2018/2019; I am also in my 2nd year of medical school studies at the University of Balamand in Lebanon. Thank you for this opportunity, it was a pleasure to research and write about e-cigarettes, their safety and risks as compared to tobacco leaves cigarettes.

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

the European Sting Milestones

Featured Stings

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Here are six bold ideas to accelerate sustainable energy innovation

UK keeps its Brexit plan secret or there is no strategy at all whatsoever?

On World Day to Combat Desertification, UN shines spotlight on ‘true value’ of land

Eating less beef and more beans would cut deaths by 5-7%

The EU Commission implicates major banks in cartel cases, threatens with devastating fines

Agreement reached on digital copyright rules

5 ways for business leaders to win in the 2020s

‘Complacency’ a factor in stagnating global vaccination rates, warn UN health chiefs

Sustainability is now mission critical for businesses. Here’s why

The US is withdrawing from a 144-year-old treaty. Here’s the context

Parliament seals ban on throwaway plastics by 2021

UN chief ‘deeply alarmed’ over military offensive in south-west Syria

EU Parliament: Follow the fraudulent money and confiscate it

COP21 Breaking News_05 December: Carbon Price Needed for Climate Change Success

5 amazing schools that will make you wish you were young again

Climate change and health: an everyday solution

Golden Pen of Freedom Awarded to Murdered Saudi Journalist Jamal Khashoggi during World News Media Congress 2019

Meet Alice, the battery-powered plane that could herald the age of electric air travel

Europe had a record year for Measles – and it’s partly down to anti-vaccine campaigners

EU Budget 2019 to focus on young people

No hard drivers in sight to remodel the stagnating affairs of the EU

Veteran UN Syria Envoy to step down, pledges to work ‘until the last hour’ for peace

Is the West gradually losing Africa?

Sweden has invented a word to encourage people not to fly. And it’s working

France is about to start giving free breakfasts to disadvantaged schoolchildren

China is the first non-EU country to invest in Europe’s €315 billion Plan

Statistics show the ugly face of youth training schemes

We had the hottest June ever this year – this is what happened around the world

Do the giant banks ‘tell’ Britain to choose a good soft Brexit and ‘remain’ or else…?

UN food agency begins ‘last resort’ partial withdrawal of aid to opposition-held Yemeni capital

As monsoon rains pound Rohingya refugee camps, UN food relief agency steps up aid

Internet of Things: a Force for Good or Evil?

Strengthening the rule of law through increased awareness, an annual monitoring cycle and more effective enforcement

A Sting Exclusive: “Infrastructure can lay the groundwork for the Sustainable Development Goals” by Mr Fulai Sheng, UN Environment Senior Economist

China is sending science students to live with rural farmers – and crop yields are skyrocketing

Forget about growth without a level playing field for all SMEs

Here are 10 of Nelson Mandela’s most inspirational quotes

Fake news: What it is, and how to spot it

Finland should do more to improve job prospects of low-skilled youth

2014 budget: The EU may prove unable to agree on own resources

Opening Remarks by H.E. Ambassador Yang Yanyi, Head of the Chinese Mission to the EU at the Chinese Fashion Night

WEF Davos 2016 LIVE: “European unity and cooperation is being called on question”, Vice President Joe Biden criticizes from Davos

Thursday’s Daily Brief: dire living conditions in Idlib, migrants at US southern border, end in sight for trachoma, Human Rights Council

Why South Africa is on a path of economic renewal

Can a Bavarian Oktoberfest beer indulger bring down the Berlin government?

Armenia should take vigorous measures against entrenched corruption

Why CEOs need to become activists in sustainability

Preserving biodiversity vital to reverse tide of climate change, UN stresses on International Day

Chernobyl nuclear disaster-affected areas spring to life, 33 years on

The Dead Sea is drying up, and these two countries have a plan to save it

European Youth Forum @ European Business Summit 2014: European Youth Unemployment

Who is to pay for Trump’s trade war against China?

Is it too soon to hope for a tobacco free Romania?

‘Virtual Biopsy’ device detects skin tumours in 15 minutes

The Schengen area is at a crossroads

The Commission neglects the services sector and favours industry

Yesterday’s “jokes” and sarcasm by Digital Single Market’s Vice President Ansip on EU member states’ right to protect their telco markets

Draghi sees inflationary bubbles

MWC 2016 LIVE: Mobile Connect availability hits 2B

Is Europe misjudging its abilities to endure more austerity and unemployment?

More Stings?

Comments

  1. “Furthermore, several brands often replace glycerol/propylene glycol by ethylene glycol”

    Can you please tell us which brands these are? This would be vital information.

  2. So 2 of your cited articles (note articles, not peer-reviewed studies) are to dead links. This is undergrad level stuff. Try reading some literature from Prof. Jean-Francois Etter, Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos, Prof. Peter Hajek, Karl Fagerstrom, etc. Really, there is so much scientific research out there these days, you really don’t need to write an article based on newspaper cuttings.

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s