What’s the Truth Behind Electronic Cigarettes?

Written by | Updated October 16, 2013

If you are a smoker and you are looking for an alternative to traditional cigarettes, electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes, e-cigs) might be what you’re turning to. Many smokers pick up e-cigarettes for less second-hand smoke and sometimes to help quit their habit of smoking nicotine cigarettes.

While the trend of smoking e-cigs is rising, there are still a lot of questions about them, including the question about if e-cigarettes are safer than the typical cigarette or not. We are here to answer some of your biggest questions.

What are e-cigarettes?

Electronic cigarettes are a battery-operated device that looks like a regular cigarette. They contain nicotine, but instead of emitting smoke, e-cigarettes use an atomizer that heats a liquid that produces a vapor that is inhaled.

Those who smoke e-cigarettes believe that less smoke is a healthier option, especially where second-hand smoke is concerned. Although an e-cigarette doesn’t smell like tobacco, research is inconclusive about what kinds of effects the second-hand smoke from these e-cigs will have on people.

Are they safe?

Manufacturers claim that e-cigarettes are a safe alternative for smokers. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) disagrees and questions the safety of this trend. They studied two of the most popular e-cig brands and discovered the nicotine in e-cigarettes contained traces of toxic chemicals, the same chemicals known to cause cancer. Because of these studies, the FDA has issued a warning to not use e-cigarettes.

Some studies have shown that e-cigarettes may help a person quit smoking. Researchers from the University of Auckland in New Zealand found that e-cigarettes were as effective as nicotine patches when used to quit smoking. For those who are looking to kick the nicotine habit, e-cigarettes could be an option, but should talk with their doctor about this first.

What about risks?

Keep in mind, while e-cigarettes can help some smokers quit and do contain less smoke, there are still some risks, especially to current non-smokers. These include:

    • Getting addicted to nicotine. E-cigarettes contain nicotine, a highly addictive substance. No matter how the nicotine enters the body, those who smoke are at risk for developing a nasty habit.


    • Possible dangers to children. E-cigarettes come in flavors like gummy bears, cookies and cream, and atomic fireball candy. These flavors are enticing to kids and some worry that e-cigarettes could become a gateway for children to start smoking.


  • No current regulations. In the United States, there are no laws for manufacturers of e-cigarettes. Users don’t know what they are actually inhaling because there are no groups inspecting the contents.

Perhaps one of the biggest risks is the possibility of exploding. While it is rare, e-cigarettes have been known to explode and cause fires. In the United Kingdom, a 37-year-old man was smoking an e-cigarette in his car when the cigarette suddenly shot out “like a firework,” which resulted in the car catching fire. Thankfully, in this instance, nobody was in the car with the man and there were no serious injuries. In another incident in the United States, a 3-year-old child was hurt when his mother’s e-cigarette blew up while charging.

While e-cigarettes may be a safer alternative to smoking nicotine cigarettes, there is still much that is unknown. If you’re looking to quit, talk with your doctor about e-cigs, and if you haven’t picked up the habit, stay safe and don’t start smoking of any kind.

Written by Hillary Johnston

A proud mother of four, Hillary is passionate about safety education. She holds a degree in Public Health and Disaster Management. Learn more

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