While it’s true that there’s no such thing as a “healthy” cigarette, whether traditional or electronic, there are certainly varying degrees of health risks with different cigarettes. E-cigarettes are touted as a healthier option and many smokers have used them as a transition to quit smoking. The electronic versions look very similar to “real” cigarettes, but instead of inhaling smoke, you inhale vapor, which sidesteps the issue of tar.
For smokers looking to cut down or quit, you get the same rituals with e-cigarettes which can help segue to healthier habits. The end of an e-cig glows when you inhale, and you exhale a puff of vapor. According to Dr. Brad Drummond of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Medicine, the vapor is very similar to what’s produced via fog machines. It doesn’t have any tar at all, which is a known carcinogen and causes and/or exacerbates lung cancer.
How they work
There are many brands of e-cigarettes, but they all work similarly. You have a battery, cartridge to encase nicotine and flavored liquids, as well as a heating element. There are many flavors to choose from, including innovative options such as mac and cheese or trail mix, similar to hookah flavors. There are also a range of price brackets for the e-cig itself and liquids. You can choose from a disposable e-cigarette or a rechargeable one.
When it comes to safety, nicotine is addictive whether you ingest it via traditional cigarettes or e-cigarettes. If you become addicted, you may experience withdrawals which can make you feel anxious, depressed, restless and even have physical symptoms like nausea. This is especially dangerous for those with heart issues. However, since e-cigarettes don’t have tar, you can avoid this sometimes fatal addition.
The risks of tar
“Cigarette tar,” which is in all traditional cigarettes, is made up of toxic chemicals added when tobacco plants are manufactured into cigarettes. Different cigarettes have different levels of tar , with 22 mg being the maximum. Tar is what stains your teeth, turning them brown, as well as your clothes and hands. The purpose of filters in traditional cigarettes is to “cut” the amount of tar inhaled, but it doesn’t protect you anywhere near 100 percent.
Tar can cause bronchitis, lung cancer and emphysema. The toxins in tar damage your lung cells and can make tumors appear. It can also lead to lung cilia damage, which weakens the lining of the lungs. Finally, tar is the cause of periodontist, or gum disease, which can eventually lead to tooth loss. Since e-cigarettes have zero tar, much less than “low tar cigarettes” which have seven mg or tar, they’re naturally healthier.
Choosing a healthier option
With e-cigarettes, you’re not risking your life with tar or smoke. In fact, studies have shown that chemicals in e-cigarettes are far less than what you’d find in any cigarette. According to Dr. Drummond, “E-cigarettes may be less harmful than cigarettes, but we still don’t know enough about their long-term risks or the effects of secondhand smoke.”
Since e-cigarettes are fairly new, the jury is still out. However, it doesn’t take a researcher to see that zero smoke and zero tar means a healthier option.