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What a New Study Has to Say About the Pros and Cons of E-Cigarettes

Smoking is a bad habit, there is no denying that, and in addition to being bad for the health, it is also considered to be offensive to smoke in the presence of others because second-hand smoke presents its own complications, and the smell can be off-putting for others. In more recent years, some of those who have previously smoked tobacco cigarettes have switched to the electronic kind, known as e-cigarettes, in a bid to try and kick the smoking habit for good.

According to Center On Addiction, some of the pros of e-cigarettes is that they appear to be a safe alternative for long-term smokers and can help them quit. They do not contain tobacco and carcinogens, which have caused a number of diseases, and there is less “second and third-hand particulate matter.” But among the pros, there are also many cons, for instance, they still contain nicotine, they are often used alongside tobacco cigarettes instead of replacing them entirely, and because these are relatively new products, the long-term effect on health and safety is unclear.

With the popularity of e-cigarettes — more than 12 percent of the adult American population has tried it, and as much as 20 percent of Americans aged between 18 to 24, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — there is a lot of information in the media about the pros and cons of e-cigarettes, with some conflicting reports. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine published an extensive report (with reviews of more than 800 studies) on e-cigarettes in 2018, which Medical News Today summarized and noted that the evidence on their effect on an individual’s health is still quite limited.

"E-cigarettes cannot be simply categorized as either beneficial or harmful," David Eaton, chair of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) said of the report. He continued, “In some circumstances, such as their use by non-smoking adolescents and young adults, their adverse effects clearly warrant concern. In other cases, such as when adult smokers use them to quit smoking, they offer an opportunity to reduce smoking-related illness."

The report found that some e-cigarettes contain substances that could be toxic, but also that if those who previously smoked tobacco cigarettes completely substituted them for e-cigarettes it "reduces users' exposure to numerous toxicants and carcinogens.”

With regards to nicotine, the report noted that the exposure from e-cigarettes among experienced e-cigarette users “can be comparable to that from combustible tobacco cigarettes." There is also a concern that some of the chemicals found within e-cigarette aerosols “are capable of causing DNA damage and mutagenesis."

The results are not much more conclusive on respiratory and developmental effects either, with the report noting, "There is no available evidence whether or not e-cigarettes cause respiratory diseases in humans.”

[Image via Shutterstock]

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