You’ve seen people on the street with them, puffing away on these things that look like a mini-clarinet. Some even look like real cigarettes, but they’re not. They’re e-cigarettes, and they’re everywhere.
Celebs aplenty have also been sampling e-cigs, perhaps in an effort to buck the increasingly tightening restrictions on smoking. But for many smokers looking to quit but won’t or can’t, this seems like an ideal option. There’s a belief out there that compared to regular tobacco cigarettes, e-cigs are the lesser of two evils. But that’s not necessarily the case.
The Ontario legislature recently passed a bill that bans the use of e-cigarettes in public spaces. So under the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, an e-cig is viewed as the real deal. At this time in Canada, e-cigs are only legal to use as individuals. They are not to be imported, sold, or advertised. So what’s the bottom line? Are the e-cig proponents just blowing smoke?
MYTH: E-cigarettes help with quitting smoking or smoking cessation.
FACT: One of the main reasons people start vaping is to quit, but there is still nicotine in them — apparently enough to keep people addicted to the drug. Also the very act of smoking itself is addictive, so you’re not doing yourself any favours by continuing to inhale and exhale something into your lungs. Researchers have found essentially no difference in the quit rates for tobacco and e-cigarettes, so patches, gum, lozenges or good ol’ cold-turkey quitting still seem to be the best ways to kick the habit.
MYTH: They’re not as addictive as regular cigarettes.
FACT: Maybe not, but that feeling of cradling that stick between your fingers and that action of bringing it to your lips, inhaling and exhaling is a comfort that will likely result in those vaping to crave the real thing. And the vicious cycle begins once again.
MYTH: It’s vaping, not smoking, so that’s OK.
FACT: “Vaping” happens when liquid is heated to produce a vapour, and nothing is being burned. It’s just like steam, then, right? Wrong. E-cigs’ vapour can harbour hidden formaldehyde — a known carcinogen — at levels up to 15 times greater than cigarettes. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found it “hidden in the tiny liquid droplets of the vapor, where it hadn’t been detected before. It has the potential to distribute deeply into the lungs and collect there.”
MYTH: Second-hand vapours aren’t harmful.
FACT: The mild scent of e-cigarette vapour lingers for a couple seconds before fading away permanently, so in that sense it’s somewhat harmless. But remember that the vapour still contains small concentrations of nicotine, so those around you aren’t completely safe, especially children.
MYTH: They taste better.
FACT: Whether it’s cotton candy, passion fruit or vanilla, the chemicals used to flavour e-cigs are the same flavours often added to food. But just because they’ve been determined safe to ingest doesn’t necessarily mean they’re safe to inhale. In fact, a study in BMJ’s Tobacco Control says the chemicals could be more dangerous, and “chronic inhalation of these ingredients has not really been studied much at all.” Another study claims the chronic exposure may lead to even more damage.
If you stop to think about it, how gross is the idea of inhaling a substance chemically engineered to taste like “green apple”?
MYTH: They’re safer than tobacco cigs.
FACT: Researchers have found that e-cigarette smoke contains chromium, a toxic element that is not present in traditional cigarettes, as well as nickel at levels four times higher than normal cigarettes. So when the aerosol produced by heated liquid nicotine hits lung cells, it may cause lung damage and impaired immune responses. (Just a note: we’re NOT saying regular cigarettes are better for you, we’re saying both are terrible for you.)
MYTH: Conventional cigarettes are easier to get.
FACT: E-cigs might not be sold in as many places (yet) but since they’re a seemingly harmless product, they can serve as a gateway for minors to start smoking. Youths are more likely to be drawn to candy-flavoured e-cigarettes and, in turn, can become addicted to the nicotine, then eventually switch over to the real deal. In downtown Toronto there are several e-cig and vape shops popping up on the daily, so expect there to be an influx soon — in some form — at a strip mall, plaza or mall near you.
MYTH: E-smoking will save you money.
FACT: Once you factor in the price of a starter kit (anywhere from $50 of $150) and the estimated cost of replacement cartridges (around $20 a week), that $10 – $12 pack of smokes doesn’t seem so costly. Of course, quitting altogether will really keep money in your pocket, but that’s a whole other story.