One of the great draws of E-cigarettes are the fact that they don’t contain any of the 4000+ chemicals and 50+ carcinogens of a regular cigarette. In fact that’s one of the main reasons that both Public Health England (the UK Government’s Health agency), and the NHS both agree that E-Cigarettes are 95% less harmful than cigarettes.
However if you were to read the news headlines about e-cigs you might be confused, as often they are painted as just as bad as tobacco products!
To get to the bottom of this we have had a look at what the science says about cancer from vaping and if there is anything to worry about.
WHAT IS VAPING?
Before we start though we should cover what vaping actually is. To put it simply vaping is when you use a device (normally called an e-cigarette) to heat up e-liquid into a vapour and breathe that vapour in.
They are designed to help smokers switch from cigarettes, so the e-liquid has nicotine in as well as flavouring to give the vapour either a tobacco taste or other more varied flavours.
E-cigarettes come in a huge amount of shape, sizes and power. The simplest and easiest to use are the cigalikes, ones that look and feel like a cigarette, and these are normally pre-filled with e-liquid. An example of this type is our e-cigarette starters kits here.
Other types are for more experienced vapers, which consist of refillable tanks and replaceable batteries and coils.
WHAT DO YOU INHALE WHEN VAPING?
When you vape you are inhaling all that is in the e-liquid, which is only 4 ingredients: nicotine, propylene glycol, Vegetable glycerin and flavouring.
Unlike a cigarette that when burnt produces smoke with thousands of chemicals and carcinogens, e-liquids are pretty simple!
The main point of electronic cigarettes is that you inhale the nicotine in the vapour as well as enjoy the flavour of the vapour.
WHAT ARE THE CHEMICALS/SUBSTANCES FOUND IN E-CIGARETTES?
The four ingredients we allow in our products are:
Propylene Glycol: Commonly known as PG, this is used in cake mixes, salad dressings, soft drinks, fat-free ice cream, some medicine and toothpaste. As a result PG has been thoroughly tested to ensure it’s safe for humans by various independent bodies and authorities, such as the CDC in America.
PG is what carries the flavour and nicotine and what creates the “throat hit” in an e-cigarette or vape. The higher the % of PG in your e-liquid, the more realistic the “throat hit”. To find out more about Propylene Glycol, here is a great article about PG.
Vegetable Glycerine: Otherwise known as VG, this is used in everyday items too, including sweets and gum. It’s colourless, odourless and non-toxic and is the main ingredient that creates the vapour in e-liquids. The higher the percentage of VG in your e-cigarette or vape, the bigger the cloud of vapour. But it is not the VG that gives you the “throat hit” – that is the Propylene Glycol mentioned before.
Nicotine: E-cigarettes (almost) always contain nicotine. After all, nicotine is the reason why smokers use cigarettes in the first place! However nicotine isn’t what causes cancer in smokers. It’s the 4000+ and 50 carcinogens that cigarettes also contain which do that.
Flavouring: The varied and great tasting flavours of e-cigarettes is what many users love about vaping. The flavorings and other chemicals used in e-liquids are also used for almost every food or drink product we consume every day, they don’t leave an aftertaste and have been approved for human use for years.
WHAT EXACTLY IS IN E-LIQUID?
These 4 ingredients are the basis of almost all e-liquids, but how they are mixed is what separates them.
By changing the percentages of PG and VG you can get vastly different amount of vapour and sweetness. That can be the difference between a small amount of vapour and a huge cloud.
The amount of nicotine can also be changed, with the maximum being 2% and lowest being 0%. However with strengths it is important to know how much vapour will be produced, as a liquid may only have 0.6% nicotine in, but if the hardware produces enough vapour to fill a car then you will be inhaling more nicotine than if you had gone for a high nicotine e-liquid that doesn’t produce as much vapour.
ARE E-CIGARETTES AND E-LIQUIDS HARMFUL?
If you get an electronic cigarette from a reputable source then not really no. Though some news sources and small scale studies have shown that between doing nothing and vaping, doing nothing is better, in any study that compares vaping to smoking cigarettes the difference is stark.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR OR AVOID IN E-LIQUIDS
If you don’t get your e-liquids from a source like SMOKO, where all our e-liquid is made in the UK, and instead get it from a company that makes their liquid in a country outside of the EU then it might be a different story.
The 3 main harmful chemicals that have been found in e-liquids are Diacetyl, Acetoin And Pentanedione. However this was in 2015 and in the United States, so the good news is that the UK e-cigarette industry hasn’t had this issue due to our regulations on the UK e-cigarette industry.
The regulations across the UK and the EU are called the TPD (Tobacco Products Directive), with e-cigarettes added in 2016 to regulate exactly what can and can’t be used in e-liquids. All e-liquids and e-cigarettes must be tested in a laboratory to make sure they are safe and do not contain any toxic chemical.
That’s why it is so important to buy e-cigarettes and e-liquids from reputable sources. If you go hunting for the cheapest e-liquid you can find, you might end up having bought something that isn’t tested or regulated.
WHAT DOES SCIENCE SAY ABOUT VAPING?
Now we know what vaping is, and what is in them, we can answer the main question, do they cause lung cancer?
Looking for causes of cancer can be difficult as you normally have to wait for decades for definitive proof, but we have a few studies that can help.
As we mentioned at the beginning of this blog, Public Health England has been studying E-Cigarettes since they were introduced and declares them 95% less harmful than cigarettes.
Also many of the chemicals that some places claim are in e-cigarettes have been outlawed by the TPD we mentioned above, which significantly reduces any chance of side effects. One of these chemicals, Diacetyl, is what causes long term effects like lung disease called popcorn lung (bronchiolitis obliterans is it’s medical term) and was one of the first big scares around e-cigarettes. However since 2016 that has not been an issue for UK made e-cigarettes. Find out more how the UK has prevented popcorn lung in e-cigarettes.
In 2016 a Cancer Research UK study on 181 people over a 6 month period found that those who switched from smoking to e-cigarettes have a much lower amount of toxins and carcinogens than smokers.
Other studies have shown that if overheated, e-liquid can start to produce formaldehyde, which can be dangerous. However, and this is a big however, that only happens to e-liquid when they are extremely overheated.
The study showed that when the voltage was turned up to extremely high temperatures then unintended consequences can form formaldehyde. A good way of thinking about it is cooking a steak. On its own it is fine, and if you follow the guidelines to cooking then there are no issues. However if you turn the heat up you will burn the steak and create charcoal, which is a carcinogen.
The study specifically tested with a variable voltage e-cigarette, and found that only when it was cranked up to its maximum setting did this occur.
Like with cooking, as long as you aren’t overheating the e-liquid you shouldn’t run into this issue.
To make sure though you can always go for a fixed voltage e-cigarette as they are guaranteed to not burn the liquid.
Also with pre-filled e-cigarettes like ours the vapour has to be tested with the hardware in a laboratory to make sure nothing like this can happen, unlike with refillable liquids which aren’t tested with specific hardware. That’s why here at SMOKO we can be sure that nothing like this will happen with our vapour.
IS VAPING AS DANGEROUS AS SMOKING?
If you are buying a pre-filled, low voltage e-cigarette from the UK, then you are as safe as you can possibly be. You can rest assured that not only are the e-liquids required by law to avoid any of the chemicals that can cause any health risks but that they have been tested on the specific hardware you will be using and shown not to have anything harmful. Lastly as the voltage is fixed and set low there is no chance of overcooking the liquid.
However if you aren’t buying for the UK, there might be increased risk.
Recently in the US there have been calls to ban all e-cigarettes because of black-market e-liquids and liquids that haven’t been tested at all.
In the latest case it turned out people had mixed in THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) into their e-liquids or bought it pre-mixed from illegal sources. Many of these THC-containing black market e-liquids also contained Vitamin E Acetate – a thickening oil that helped the e-liquid to vapourize better, but also at high temperatures actually burnt the users lungs. We wrote an extensive blog about the use of black market e-liquids that contain THC and vitamin E Acetate.
If you are on this site though it is more than likely that you won’t have to worry about buying black market e-liquids for the United States but there are other issues around vaping such as if the vapour is harming those around you that you might be worried about.
The good news with 2nd hand vaping is that there is little chance that you will be affecting anyone. Here is a great article that discusses that e-cigarettes do not product 2nd hand smoke. Even though the vapour produced by a vape does release nicotine and other particles into the air, it is in such small amounts it is unlikely to ever affect anyone. In fact the vapour of an e-cigarette has 100x LESS particles in than cigarette smoke!
To put this all in perspective, smoking tobacco is linked to 80% to 90% of all lung cancer cases in the USA. Compared that to E-Cigarettes which don't have the 4000+ chemicals and 50+ carcinogens of a cigarettes and produce particulates at a order of magnitude lower than tobacco, E-Cigarettes start to show their effectiveness!
CAN YOU GET LUNG CANCER FROM VAPING CONCLUSION
If you are worried that e-cigarettes can cause cancer then I hope this article has shown that the chance of this is tiny. When you compare smoking and vaping there really is no contest, which is why the NHS and the Royal College of Physicians are advocating for smokers to make the switch.
E-Cigarettes have also been shown to help more people stop smoking than other methods like patches or gum as not only do they give the nicotine that smokers need, but the feel and taste of a cigarette as well.
So by switching to E-Cigarettes not only are you getting the same taste and feel of your cigarettes, but are cutting out the 4000+ chemicals and 50+ carcinogens that are in each cigarette you smoke!
To try a low voltage, pre-filled, UK made E-cigarette today and see if you can finally get away from cigarettes, check out our most popular e-cigarette starter kit deals.