We originally wrote about the safety of e-liquids back in January 2016. Since then a lot of information has been released along with varies studies. We thought it was fit to update this article in response!
With the rise in popularity of vapers, vaping, e-cigarettes and other products that mimic yet stay away from the toxic substances of traditional cigarettes, the discussion around their safety has taken hold over public opinion, just take a quick look at recent published vaping studies to get an idea. One of the major concerns is that most e-liquids contain nicotine and nicotine is said to be very addictive. For first time users, the fact that they start with vaping, while at first may seem like a good and safe alternative, could lead to them reaching more of the same high and therefore opting to smoke regular cigarettes.
However, the issue around addiction and e-cigarettes is not something that we will tackle today. What we are going to talk about, however, is whether the e-liquid is dangerous for consumers. The discussion will follow a set path and some of the issue that we will address refer to the differences and similarities between regular cigarette smoke and vape smoke, the chemicals found in e-liquids versus the substances found in regular cigarettes, studies based on these topics and how people have reacted over time as users.
For some people, e-cigarettes are just the newer version of regular cigarettes. This kind of outlook is very wrong since there are many differences between the two. E-cigarettes work on e-liquids that are heated up in an aerosol and the smoker inhales and then exhales this cloud of smoke. The liquid can be flavorless, but the majority of users opt for liquids with flavor.
One of the first reasons that e-cigarettes might be dangerous is that they contain nicotine. This idea can be challenged quite easily since regular cigarettes also contain similar levels of nicotine. Moreover, if the user so decides, they can opt for e-liquids that are nicotine free, which means that they will be exposed to no harm. Studies done by research groups in the US and the UK have found that nicotine poisoning levels are very high which suggests that death from the nicotine in e-cigarettes is highly unlikely.
The issue of nicotine and how dangerous it is is tiny when compared to other claims. These claims refer to a host of things. For starters, e-cigarettes are said to be hazardous because the e-liquid contains ultrafine particles that can be inhaled into the lungs and lead to health problems and even cancers. Advocates go on and argue that most of the flavors in e-liquid contain a similar chemical, a flavorant named diacetyl, which has been linked with lung disease in previous studies. Moreover, the discussion is also centered on the fact that some e-liquids can have heavy metals in them such as lead, nickel or even tin. Inhaling them will make this fine heavy metal particles in your lungs could mean that they are stuck there and could lead to lung health concerns in the future.
While all of these reasons are valid to some extent, the level of validity that these have is based strictly on how much research has been done up to this point to dispute and support these claims. The problem here is that studies centered on vaping devices and their level of accuracy compared to other NRT products have only recently started to be done in the last couple of years. In order to assess the long terms health effects that these products are said to have, research and studies have to be done in order to see the evolution patterns in various individuals. On the Brightside, some conclusive studies have been published which state that e-cigarettes and specifically e-liquids are less dangerous than regular cigarette smoke, a topic that we will talk about in the next part of the article and on that Dr. Tom Murphy studied for us a little while ago.
In order to determine how toxic or non-toxic e-liquids are, toxicity tests have been done to assess the levels in both types of smoke. One of the first things that a study based on e-cigarette vapor toxicity was focused on was to see the levels of toxicity of possible carcinogenic compounds in both vape smoke and cigarette smoke. The potential carcinogenic compounds in question are heavy metals, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carbonyls, and tobacco-specific nitrosamines. What the study saw in its results was that e-liquids also had some of these compounds in their composition. However, the levels found in e-liquids were 9-450 smaller than the levels seen in regular cigarette smoke.
Another topic that should be addressed is whether or not second-hand smoke is dangerous for e-liquids or cigarettes. Cigarettes second-hand smoke has been documented in a large number of scientific studies with all of the result pointing towards the fact that the smoke still contains harmful chemicals that, when breathed in by non-smokers in the vicinity, could lead to health problems in the long run. This same argument cannot be applied to e-liquid smoke. Why? Because second-hand e-liquid smoke only comes from the vapors that are exhaled by the vapers, at which point this smoke cloud mostly contains water. This smoke can contain toxicants, but they are at a much lower level than the toxicants found in cigarette smoke.
Last but certainly not least, the issue of fine metals being present in e-liquids is very hard to regulate. Studies done on a specific number of brands have found that there were little to no fine heavy metal particles to be found which should indicate that the products are safe to use. However, on the market, there are a high number of brands that market e-liquids, each with a couple of flavor options available. Trying to regulate and screen test each of these flavors would require a state or federal level regulation law set in place which would force brands to test their products before selling them to consumers. However, such regulations have yet to be set in place, so buyers are advised to do their research before purchasing a specific e-liquid product.
Overall, there are some valid reasons why e-liquids might be dangerous, but when compared to toxicants found in regular cigarettes, the levels recorded are very low. It cannot be entirely said at this moment that e-liquids are wholly safe but what can be said is that, as a smoke alternative for those trying to quit, e-cigarettes and e-liquids are safer than regular smoke from a health perspective.