What You Need to Know about Vaping
Electronic cigarettes are fast becoming the must-have souvenir from a trip abroad (remember when it was a VHS tape?) and while they’re still not common here, they’re fast picking up steam. So, here are the four, main things you need to know about smoking one, or ‘vaping.’
Is vaping healthy?
No. That said, smoking an e-cigarette is definitely a healthier alternative to smoking a regular cigarette. E-cigs work by heating liquid nicotine until it becomes a steam (or vapor, hence, vaping) that can then be inhaled like smoke. But because it’s not actually smoke, you avoid the toxic, cancer-causing byproducts — carbon monoxide, tar and more — that come from burning something.
While nicotine is not technically classified as carcinogenic, some research suggests this may be an oversight; that nicotine exposure may be one of the substances in cigarettes that causes cell mutations. So to call vaping healthy, or ‘harmless water vapour’ as electronic cigarette ads often claim, is a bit misleading — even if you’re using nicotine-less flavoured liquid, which is also an option. In a 2016 article in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, toxicologist Maciej Goniewicz explains:
“This is vapor, but only a small proportion of it is water.” Mostly, he says, it’s made up of propylene glycol and/or glycerin, the main ingredients in the “e-liquid” (or “e-juice”) that is vaporized inside e-cigarettes. When heated, these solvents produce an aerosol resembling cigarette smoke. Most e-liquids also contain flavorings and preservatives.
“Most of what we know about e-cigarettes is from lab studies,” Goniewicz says. “We don’t know about the real health effects on the users of this product, especially on long-term users.”
Experts all seem to agree: If you’re not already a smoker, you shouldn’t take up vaping.
Will vaping actually help me stop smoking?
Maybe. E-cigarettes have largely been touted as a way to help people stop smoking. And while ads for e-cigarettes would certainly be more enjoyable to watch during a movie’s intermission than the current anti-smoking campaign videos, there are only two, small scientific studies of quality that suggest they actually help smokers break up with real cigs long term. Other, less rigourous studies support the idea, but nearly all experts agree there’s not enough research to say definitively one way or the other. Vaping might help you stop smoking, or it might not.
What’s clear is that vaping is at least a healthier alternative to smoking. But if you’re using liquid nicotine in your e-cigarette, you’re still consuming the very substance that makes cigarettes, real or electronic, so addictive. In theory, e-cigarette cartridges come in varying degrees of nicotine strength, but research suggests these degrees aren’t always accurate; some cartridges labeled 0 mg nicotine have been found to contain nicotine when tested.
Is vaping better for the people around me?
Yes. Passive vaping, as it’s called, is undoubtedly better than second-hand smoke, and it’s also minimal by comparison. According to Linda Bauld, professor of health policy at the University of Stirling, in an interview with Buzzfeed last year:
“There is nicotine that’s released into the ambient air, but nicotine in the air or on surfaces is basically largely harmless.” (One example she says her colleague gives is that you would have to lick a 30 square metre area of floor to ingest just one milligram of nicotine, if someone was vaping around you.)
Bauld goes on to liken passive vaping to being in a room with air freshener or scented candles. But Bauld also is speaking from the UK about the UK. In our seriously polluted Indian metros, anything that adds particulate matter to the air seems like a bad idea — but, of course, vastly better than breathing cigarette smoke.
Can e-cigarettes be used to smoke marijuana?
Yes. But don’t expect us to explain how.