Electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigs or vaping products, have recently grown in popularity. The devices are widely considered an alternative to smoking cigarettes and other tobacco products.
Conventional cigarettes deliver more than 4,000 chemicals and carcinogens to the lungs, making them a known cause of lung cancer. Though designed as a replacement for cigarettes, can vaping also cause cancer? This is a highly debated topic in the medical community today.
How Vaping Works
Electronic cigarette products work by heating liquid into a vapor. That vapor is then inhaled through a mouthpiece. They are usually battery operated or rechargeable.
The devices don’t contain tobacco. Instead, nicotine and other substances are found inside the liquid juice. There are also liquids that contain no nicotine.
Chemicals and Other Substances
Although electronic cigarettes contain fewer chemicals than conventional cigarettes, they do contain several potentially harmful chemicals. Nicotine is often one, but the FDA also found levels of other cancer-causing chemicals including diacetyl, a chemical that has been linked to popcorn lung. These chemicals are introduced to the lungs when the vapor is inhaled.
In one study, researchers tested the saliva and urine of participants to determine the level of toxins in their body. They were divided into three groups:
- Those who do not smoke
- Those who only smoke electronic cigarettes
- Those who smoke both electronic cigarettes and conventional cigarettes
The study found some toxin levels were three times higher in the “dual use” group than the “electronic cigarette only” group. However, some chemicals were also three times higher in the “electronic cigarette only” group than the “non-smoking” group.
Many electronic cigarette toxins were equally prevalent in nicotine-free vaping products. Furthermore, many were carcinogenic (cancer-causing).
Previous studies have suggested that vaping devices with higher voltages may pose a higher risk because they produce more toxins.
Helping Smokers Quit?
Vaping is a common habit of people who are trying to quit smoking conventional cigarettes. There are some success stories, but there is no official FDA approval supporting the claim that electronic cigarettes are a safe or effective method to help smokers quit.
The American Cancer Society supports any smoker who considers quitting, but advises them to choose FDA-approved aids that are proven to be successful.
In fact, vaping is becoming more popular among younger generations, possibly because of the fruity flavors and belief that it’s a safer alternative than smoking cigarettes. More teens are vaping than smoking conventional cigarettes, according to data from the National Institutes of Health.
It’s clear among the medical community that more research must be done on the health effects of vaping. Based on available evidence, vaping is less harmful than smoking cigarettes. However, there is not enough evidence to determine long-term health effects of vaping, including its likelihood to cause cancer.
The best way to protect against cancer is to avoid cigarette products altogether.