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E-cigarettes vs. Traditional Cigarettes: What are the Health Risks?

Cigarettes are known to be damaging to your health, especially when it comes to heart disease. Recent trends have provided e-cigarettes as an alternative, but is there a difference in the risks?

While there is no evidence or studies to show the long-term effects of e-cigarette use, there is much debate over their safety. First of all, e-liquids are the main component of e-cigarettes and these e-liquids contain tobacco, an addictive substance prominent in traditional cigarettes. E-liquids may also contain colorings, flavorings, and other chemicals that are potentially harmful.

Flavorings are of particular concern as some e-cigarettes have been found to contain diacetyl, a buttery flavored chemical that is added to some food products such caramel and popcorn. Appropriately named, diacetyl can cause “popcorn lung” which is a serious and irreversible lung disease. This is alarming as flavorings are one of the main reasons young people use e-cigarettes, according to a report from the U.S. Surgeon General. In 2013-2014, a wave of the FDA’s PATH study showed that 81% of youth who had tried an e-cigarette for the first time used a flavored product.

Like traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes also pose a threat by exposing others to secondhand emissions even though they do not contain smoke. Studies have found formaldehyde and other potential toxins in these secondhand emissions.

The Surgeon General’s report also concluded that e-cigarette aerosol is not safe and the use of e-cigarettes is strongly associated with the use of other tobacco products among youth and young adults. Based on these findings, and the fact that the use of e-cigarettes by high school students increased 900% from 2011 to 2015, the Surgeon General has deemed this a significant public health concern that must be addressed by parents, educators, and policymakers.

As a result, the FDA recently expanded its authority to include e-cigarettes and other tobacco products as of May 2016. This will no doubt shape the future of the tobacco industry and help define and regulate the use of e-cigarettes.