Are e-cigarettes safer than smoking? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
Answer by Shawna Curry, Registered Nurse, on Quora:
Cigarettes are bad for you. There is a plethora of information to back this up. We know that cigarettes have many negative effects on your health. They also cause cancer. That’s a pretty bold claim.
It’s very difficult to “prove” that a substance “causes” cancer. Many studies site contributing factors or correlative factors. It’s not as easy to prove causation. That’s because it doesn’t come lightly. When it’s proven that something “causes” cancer, it’s serious. Action must be taken to alert the public that they are actively being harmed. That’s why it took so long to “prove” that smoking “causes” cancer. It meant that tobacco producers had to take action to change the way their product was purchased. Their marketing and packaging had to change as well.
The new debate is whether e-cigarettes are safe. Are they harmful to your body? Do they cause cancer? Are they better than cigarettes? While there aren’t any long term studies here’s a few things to consider when deciding to use e-cigarettes:
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What’s in Your Lungs?
E-cigarettes have a cartridge that becomes vaporized when you inhale. Some contain nicotine, others contain flavour- all in varying amounts. From a health perspective, nothing good comes from inhaling chemicals into your lungs. Ever. I don’t need a long-term study to prove that. So whether your e-cig has nicotine or not, you are inhaling chemicals into your lungs. That can’t be a good thing. Period.
Ignorance Does Not Imply Safety.
There are no long term studies to prove if e-cigarettes cause cancer. That’s because they haven’t been around long enough to study long term effects. That doesn’t mean it’s safe. Or that it doesn’t cause cancer. It just hasn’t been proven. Yet.
If we go back to the thought of inhaling chemicals into your lungs, I don’t see any way that this won’t cause long-term harm. Many people that use e-cigs use them much more than cigarettes because they are perceived to be safer. That increases the amount of chemical inhaled. Ignorance does not imply safety.
Less Nicotine Is Better.
E-cigarettes are thought to be safer because they can contain less nicotine than cigarettes. That doesn’t mean that they do. Even if you choose a lower dose nicotine cartridge, inhaling it twice as often will increase your dosage.
If you truly need nicotine, choose delivery methods that are less toxic to your lungs. Opt for transdermal patches or gum where the nicotine is delivered through a safer method. It’s also easier to know exactly how much nicotine you are consuming through these methods. Decrease your dosage as you are able to tolerate. Have a plan to stop nicotine use over time.
Walk It Off.
Nicotine plugs into receptors in your brain, giving you a pleasure response. That’s why it’s so difficult to stop using nicotine. It’s an addictive substance that makes you feel good. When you stop using it, those receptors are no longer being stimulated and you feel like garbage. Withdrawal symptoms anyone?
To make it easier to give up nicotine, do things that make you feel good. Activities such as walking can release endorphins that stimulate the brain with a similar feel good response. Start walking 3 times per week for 30 minutes and start cutting back your nicotine at the same time. As you decrease the nicotine, increase the walking speed or duration.
When you get cravings, go for a walk. Or watch a funny video. After all, laughter is the best medicine, right? And it doesn’t cause cancer. At least not that we know of.