(If you’re not familiar with electronic cigarettes, you might want to check out our article, Electronic Cigarettes from the Ground Up.)
A lot of vaping sites aren’t interested in talking about potential dangers. I respect that — it’s a thorny one. But I think it’s worth discussing.
Q: Aren’t you still smoking?
A: There’s no combustion, so there’s no tar. Tar is simply a catch-all term for “things left over by combustion”, and include many of the thousands of chemicals emitted by a burning cigarette. (There are plenty of chemicals in an unlit cig, but many more are produced and released through ignition.) That’s one reason we call it “vaping” instead of “smoking”.
Legally, though? Yeah, it’s still classified a tobacco product. (This means you can NOT use an e-cig until you’re 18+. Period.) They’re essentially classified (legally) as recreational devices.
Q: Do you know what you’re putting into your lungs?
A: Pretty much exactly, yes.
Proplyene glycol (PG) gets a bad name sometimes because it’s used in antifreeze — but it’s used there precisely because it’s nontoxic. It’s also used as an aerosol in hospitals to sterilize the air.
Vegetable glycerine (VG) is found in cake icing and hundreds of other food items.
Does that mean that PG and VG are totally free of side effects? Absolutely not. Some vapers find a heavy PG concentration irritates their throat. Others find VG causes them to produce excess phglem. Finding the proper PG/VG ratio for you is a fairly important part of finding your right e-liquids.
Then, of course, there’s nicotine. Is it addictive? Absolutely. (Personally I find once switching to vaping exclusively that I don’t ‘feel’ any more addicted to nic than I do caffeine, but that will vary from person to person.) Is it a poison? In sufficient doses, yes. But the carcinogenic potential of nicotine by itself seems significantly lower than that of the combustion products produced by nicotine. Read up on anti-smoking campaigns — it’s said that cigarettes cause cancer, and that nicotine is addictive. Well, that’s the main principle behind vaping — getting nicotine without combustion.
Q: What about exploding batteries, like that man in Florida?
A: This one absolutely needs to be addressed. The incident in Florida involved triple-stacked unprotected batteries in a mod. (Jargony enough?) It was a tragedy, but for people who know even a little bit about mods (custom made e-cigarettes), what this person was doing was something like someone who’s into weekend oil changes deciding to install a nitrous oxide system on their car, with no training. A terrible, terrible idea.
I’ve never seen a review of a mod that failed to discuss what battery protection features it included, such as vent holes, battery reversal protection, etc. More importantly, I’ve never seen a review that gave the thumbs-up to a mod without these features. And what’s more, 90% of electronic cigarettes aren’t mods in any case.
I recognize that as a vaper, and e-liquid producer, I’m not an unbiased party. But there’s a lot of misinformation out there, and I want to help correct that. Please stay tuned, I’ve got plenty more to talk about.
UPDATE: New study from Korea on the exact contents of vapor vs. smoke!