Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes are smokeless, battery operated devices used to deliver nicotine or flavored liquids in the form of a vapor to be inhaled by the user. E-cigarettes are commonly manufactured to look like traditional cigarettes. They have been gaining popularity among smokers and non-smokers as an alternative to traditional tobacco smoke products. But are these new devices actually safe?
E-cigarettes are intended to offer the same experience and sensation of a traditional cigarette while providing an alternative supply of nicotine. The health risks of smoking are allegedly removed by using an e-cigarette because the user is not inhaling the tar and chemical byproduct of a traditional cigarette and no secondhand smoke is created from the device.
Many smokers see the tobacco-free cigarette lookalikes as safer, so they're using them to quit smoking or circumvent smoke-free laws. Traditional tobacco smoke contains thousands of chemicals that are harmful to both smokers and non-smokers. Of the known harmful chemicals in tobacco smoke, 69 have been identified as cancer-causing. Beyond cancer, smoking can also cause heart disease, stroke, and more. Because e-cigarettes are tobacco free, it is commonly associated that they are a healthier alternative to smoking and will remove health risks such as cancer and heart problems.
However, highly addictive nicotine is still consumed in e-cigarettes. Nicotine increases dopamine levels in the brain, which associates reward-motivated behavior and feelings of pleasure in the brain. The withdrawal period after cessation of nicotine use can last a month or more and includes symptoms such as irritability, cravings, sleep disturbance, headache, nausea, and more. The craving for nicotine often drives people back to nicotine or tobacco use.
Many public officials are concerned by the increasing popularity of e-cigarette devices by smokers and non-smokers. While many argue that they are less harmful than traditional cigarettes, others advise that the nicotine in e-cigarettes still causes addictive behavior and could lead former smokers or teens to smoking. The Food and Drug Administration does not currently regulate the manufacturing, sale, or marketing of e-cigarettes, and there is no standardized size or type required for the nicotine cartridges found in e-cigarette devices.
Additional studies are needed to gather data on safety and use of e-cigarettes and they need to be regulated before any accurate health claims can be made. It's still hazy whether the use of e-cigarettes is safe or not.
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