When e-cigarettes were first introduced to American consumers, they were marketed as a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes. While this may have had some truth to it, regulatory agencies and medical professionals alike have begun to express significant concerns about the safety of vaping, particularly among young people.
The U.S. Surgeon General discusses the risks of e-cigarette use in teens and young adults on its website, noting the harmful effects that nicotine and other chemicals found in these products can cause to the developing brain, not to mention an increased risk of addiction and behavioral problems.
The CDC answers the question “Are e-cigarettes less harmful than regular cigarettes?” with a troubling answer: “Yes—but that doesn’t mean e-cigarettes are safe.” E-cigarette aerosol can contain harmful substances such as nicotine, heavy metals, and cancer-causing agents.
E-cigarettes are not approved by the FDA to help adults quit smoking, despite any manufacturers’ claims or marketing efforts that hint otherwise.
To make matters worse, there has been a disturbing number of lung injuries and deaths associated with e-cigarettes and vaping. In February 2020, the CDC reported 2,807 hospitalizations and deaths associated with vaping.
In June 2022, the FDA made a move to force JUUL, the top e-cigarette manufacturer in the industry, to remove its products from the U.S. market. JUUL was again allowed to market and sell its products in the U.S. just about a week later, thanks to an administrative stay placed on the FDA’s original marketing denial orders (MDOs), but the health effects of JUUL and all e-cigarettes remain under scrutiny.
JUUL and other e-cigarette manufacturers have come under fire for their advertising practices, a consequent rise in teen vaping, and concern over the ingredients in their products.
E-Cigarettes & E-Liquid or E-Juice
E-cigarettes work by heating a liquid (called e-liquid or e-juice) and turning it into an aerosol. Although smoking an e-cigarette is often called vaping and the aerosol is referred to as vapor, there is a difference. Vapor is defined as a substance in the gas phase. Aerosol is a suspension of tiny solid particles or liquid droplets in air or another gas. E-cigarettes do not create vapor (gas); they create an aerosol made of up e-liquid, which is then inhaled by the user.
E-cigarettes have varying levels of voltage and heating temperatures, which can affect the amount of “vapor” a person inhales. Some e-cigarettes have adjustable voltage levels, allowing the user to make the heating coil hotter or cooler depending on their desired vaping experience. The hotter the coil, the denser the aerosol.
The biggest variable with e-cigarette use involves the e-liquid itself. Finding a comprehensive list of ingredients for a specific e-juice or e-liquid can be difficult or downright impossible, but many of these products share common ingredients. Then, there’s the risk of unknown ingredients in homemade e-liquids or products from unverified online vendors or countries where e-cigarettes are not regulated.
E-Cigarette Ingredients You Should Be Aware Of
Diacetyl is an additive that helps make microwaved popcorn have a smooth, buttery flavor. It earned a reputation in the 1990s after it caused workers in a popcorn factory to contract bronchitis. Bronchitis contracted by the factory’s workers earned the name “popcorn lung.” Before this incident, diacetyl levels had only been tested in food and the effects it had on the lungs had yet to be studied.
Acetyl Propionyl and Acetoin
These ingredients are like diacetyl and serve as substitutes for it. However, one study found that these substances can make any trace amounts of diacetyl react faster, thus making it more dangerous. So, even trace amounts of diacetyl could be a cause for concern in the presence of acetyl propionyl or acetoin. While no studies link these chemicals to significant health risks, many vapers choose to avoid them until the scientific community has a better understanding of them.
Nicotine is a highly addictive chemical. In small doses, nicotine is a stimulant, causing an increased heart rate and sense of well-being or relaxation. Nicotine occurs naturally in the tobacco plant and other plants in the nightshade family, although it is found in its highest levels in tobacco. This chemical can be found in most e-liquids; it has even been found in some that were allegedly nicotine-free.
Other vaping ingredients to avoid include the following:
- Propylene oxide
Remember…Cigarettes Were Once Promoted as “Safe”
In trying to find the safest e-cigarette or determining for yourself whether e-cigarettes are safe, it is important to remember the history of traditional cigarettes. In the 1930s and 1940s, it was normal (and widely accepted) for men and women to smoke cigarettes. Women even smoked while pregnant, something that is severely frowned upon today. When studies began to come out regarding the significant health effects of smoking, cigarette companies stood ready to debunk this research.
Cigarette ads in the 1940s often showed doctors smoking. One ad stated, “More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette.” Smoking was marketed as glamorous and safe, and some cigarettes were even marketed as “healthier” than others.
By the 1960s, there was significant evidence of the dangers of smoking. In 1964, the U.S. Surgeon General released its first report on the health impact of smoking, concluding that it caused lung cancer and bronchitis. The deadly consequences of smoking are now well-known and well-accepted across the United States and worldwide, and smoking rates prove this. Cigarette smoking among American adults has fallen from 42.6% in 1960 to 12.5% in 2020.
However, smoking is addictive, and quitting can seem impossible. Enter the e-cigarette, promoted as a healthier alternative to smoking. But medical professionals and regulatory authorities agree that e-cigarettes are not safe. Be careful about the products you purchase, and do your research. If you do choose to vape, paying attention to ingredients and avoiding questionable “black market” products is important for protecting your health as much as possible. If you've suffered the side effects of vaping, contact our personal injury attorneys to learn of your rights and options.