The e-cigarette – a good alternative?

The electronic cigarette, or “e-cigarette”, provides almost the same sensations as the so-called “classic” cigarette. Its effectiveness and safety on health remain, however, to prove … Can we really consider it as a healthier alternative, or a “smoking cessation aid”?

Now widely used, the e-cigarette has more than 400 different brands, according to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO). The same goes for e-liquids (present in the electronic cigarette) which may contain toxic substances as well as a greater or lesser concentration of nicotine . Indeed, there is currently no standardization for the electronic cigarette.

The big difference with conventional cigarettes is that the electronic cigarette does not create combustion but steam , hence the use of the term “vapers” to define its users. This distinction is essential because the combustion of tobacco produces toxic substances (including carbon monoxide and carcinogens). In addition, the electronic cigarette contains no tobacco, paper, or the 2500 chemical compounds needed to produce the conventional cigarette. However, nicotine , this harmful component with strong addictive power, may be present in e-liquids .

What impact on health?

Beyond the craze generated by the electronic cigarette, it is essential to know its effect on health . On this subject, the available data are missing and opinions are opposed:

  • On the one hand, proponents of the electronic cigarette argue that a “smoke-free” cigarette is much less harmful than a conventional cigarette (because it is primarily the substances in the smoke that cause deadly diseases). Some even present the electronic cigarette as a cigarette “replacement” (much more pleasant than patches, erasers …), effective in helping smoking cessation.
  • On the other hand, the opponents point out that the safety of inhaling the substances contained in the vapor of electronic cigarettes has not yet been demonstrated. The effects of these repeated inhalations in the long term could therefore be potentially dangerous for health! This is the discourse that WHO globally holds.

A risk for young people?

The electronic cigarette particularly seduces young people . A survey conducted by the Foundation against Cancer reveals that in Belgium, it is young people aged 15 to 24 who are the most curious when it comes to testing the electronic cigarette …

In addition, the presence of artificial flavors in e-liquids (vanilla, caramel, hazelnut …) makes it even more attractive … There is therefore a risk that the use of the electronic cigarette (with nicotine) quickly leads to dependency , or even potentially a switch to conventional cigarettes .

Conclusion: “Vape” is not without danger

Currently, no quality scientific studies have been published regarding the safety of the substances that make up the electronic cigarette or its long-term impact on health.

At the level of e-liquids used in electronic cigarettes, there is little control over labeling . Their compositions vary from one manufacturer to another. It is therefore important to learn about the source of the e-liquid and substances used to be sure of what you inhale.

Finally, contrary to the idea conveyed, the Cancer Fund stresses that ” Reducing its cigarette consumption does not reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, and only slightly reduces the risk of cancer “. The best way to limit health effects is to stop smoking.

It is therefore possible that “vaping” is less dangerous than “smoking”, but this less risk remains to be confirmed … Meanwhile, the Higher Council of Health (CSS) in Belgium urges caution !