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The lesser of two evils?

Last Updated: 18 January 2019








The lesser of two evils?

May 21st marks World No Tobacco Day. You’ve probably noticed the emerging trend for e-cigarettes, and you may have even switched from tobacco to ‘e-cigs’. In fact, the market for e-cigarettes has grown from several thousand users in 2006 to several million worldwide.


But is switching for these battery-fuelled electronic cigarettes actually safer? Let’s look at the evidence. 


What are e-cigarettes?

E-cigarettes contain a battery, a heating element, and a cartridge that holds nicotine and other liquids and flavorings. Some are disposable whereas others have a rechargeable battery and refillable cartridges. Using an e-cigarette is known as ‘vaping’.


Although they don’t contain any tobacco, e-cigarettess still contain nicotine, which is addictive. When you stop using nicotine, you will experience side effects such as irritability, low mood, anxiety and sometimes even depression. However, it’s the tobacco in cigarettes that is to blame for the majority of health issues associated with smoking – for example increased risk of lung, mouth, throat, stomach, colon and liver cancer, increased blood pressure, increased bone loss, decreased vision and effects on hair, skin, nails and teeth.


Tests have shown that the level of harmful chemicals produced by e-cigarettes are a fraction of those released from tobacco smoking, suggesting that they could be a much safer option.


Not a perfect solution

Although they don’t have the well-known harmful effects of tobacco, nicotine can have negative effects on the body. As well as being addictive, it can affect brain development and may also affect the arteries over time. As Nicotine narrows the blood vessels in the body, it’s not advisable for pregnant women to use e-cigarettes as less oxygen and fewer nutrients will reach the baby via the placenta.


As with any relatively new product, the long-term effects of e-cigarettes on health are unknown and the production of e-cigarettes is currently unregulated. So advice if you’re thinking about quitting smoking is to look for an alternative such as nicotine patches, gum, medication prescribed by your doctor or using alternative therapy options. 


Written by Ruth Tongue
(MSc Nutrition)

General health
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