IS VAPING WITHOUT NICOTINE SAFE?
Vaping without nicotine is safe. E-Cigarettes are 95% less harmful than smoking according to Public Health England, with zero nicotine liquids removing the impact that nicotine has on the body such as increased insulin resistance, heightening the risk of diabetes. While there appear to be some benefits to taking nicotine, using zero nicotine liquids prevents the development of a nicotine addiction.
The e-cigarette was developed by Hon-Lik in China; his father died from lung cancer and he was a smoker himself, so his aim was to produce an alternative to smoking tobacco. Fast forward to today and the number of vape devices by different brands in the market is staggering.
In order to be effective as a replacement for smoking, the liquid to be vaped - now known as e-liquid, ‘e juice’ or ‘vape juice’ - needed to contain the addictive substance found in cigarettes known as nicotine.
WHAT IS NICOTINE?
Nicotine is a chemical found in plants where it behaves as a natural insecticide, and is most prevalent in the tobacco plant. Tobacco has been cultivated for use for at least 2000 years, playing a part in medicine and rituals in indigenous American tribes. The smoking of tobacco is likely to have come from these traditions, and smoking with pipes and cigars became prevalent from the 1600’s. (1)
For vaping to be used in place of smoking, it was important that the substance that kept people coming back to tobacco was included in the mixture. As studies of nicotine revealed, it is the many other substances found in tobacco that are particularly harmful; nicotine itself much less so. This meant that including nicotine in the vape juice could feed a smoker’s habit, while simultaneously cutting out all the other nasty chemicals found in tobacco, including over 60 known carcinogens.
WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF NICOTINE ON YOUR BODY?
Nicotine has a slightly puzzling effect on the human body - it acts as both a stimulant and a depressant. It acts on receptors found in many places in the brain, including centres for cognition and mood, stimulating these areas and increasing a person’s ability to focus. The sedative effect occurs as nicotine triggers the release of dopamine, the brain’s reward chemical, reducing anxiety and anger. (2)
There are various other effects on the body by nicotine, one important thing to know is the effect that nicotine has on insulin, and your body’s blood sugar levels. Nicotine increases your body’s insulin resistance, which means that cells have a harder time absorbing sugar from the blood - this results in a higher blood sugar level, which increases the risk of developing diabetes. Nicotine also speeds up your heart rate, increasing blood pressure, and long term this can increase the risk of heart disease.
WHAT DOES NICOTINE BRING TO THE VAPING AND E-CIG EXPERIENCE?
Nicotine is one of the contributors to the throat hit when using your vape or e-cig - it helps engender the ‘smoking feeling’ that vapers trying to quit tobacco so often seek. For some vapers who made the switch from smoking cigarettes, the lack of a throat hit can put them off those liquids or devices, often because they are looking for an experience as close to smoking as possible - trying to trick the brain again!
As nicotine is the highly addictive substance that keeps those who smoke cigarettes on the hook, including it in vape juice allows vaping to be utilised as a smoking cessation method. In fact, using an e-cigarette could be twice as effective as traditional Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) for quitting smoking! (3) Different nicotine levels in the e-liquids on the market allow a user to reduce their nicotine consumption over time without changing their habits.
Heavy smokers who are stopping smoking should find that vaping nicotine helps them maintain focus and keep a more positive mood, essentially addressing the withdrawal associated with long term addiction to nicotine, as long as the nicotine strength is appropriately high.
WHY DO SOME VAPERS OPT FOR NICOTINE FREE E-CIGARETTES AND VAPES?
If nicotine e juice is available, what’s the point of nicotine free vaping? For non-smokers who are inclined to start vaping, it is recommended that you vape with ‘nic free’ juice to prevent developing a nicotine addiction. The health effects of a nicotine addiction are significant if not problematic - as mentioned, nicotine increases the body’s insulin resistance, reducing its ability to deal with sugar efficiently, and the areas of the brain that nicotine acts on become dependent on nicotine for activation, and this is why nicotine helps smokers maintain concentration, and why smoking a cigarette boosts their mood.
Smokers who have stopped smoking in favour of vaping may find that vaping without nicotine is a great way to feed the habit (to some extent) while clearing the nicotine from their system. The action of vaping will satisfy the motion of the addiction, without delivering the chemical that is required to prevent withdrawal. This means that withdrawal will still be experienced, but this may be easier than quitting ‘cold-turkey’ without any aid.
ARE THERE SIDE EFFECTS WHEN YOU USE E-CIGARETTES WITHOUT NICOTINE?
One of the typical side effects from vaping in general is possible irritation of the mouth and airways - and this is true whether nicotine is present in the e-liquid or not. One study indicated that a single puff on a particular ‘shisha-pen’ contained sufficient amounts of propylene glycol and vegetable glycerine (glycerol) to cause irritation. (4)
Another study looked at the effects of e-liquid and condensed e-liquid vapour on white blood cells found in the alveoli of the lungs. This found that vaping did reduce the proportion of live, healthy cells, but that nicotine free liquid was less impactful - this suggests that nicotine free vaping products are less damaging than those that do contain nicotine. (5)
It is worth remembering that Public Health England maintains that e-cigarettes are 95% less harmful than regular cigarettes, and a study funded by the British Heart Foundation at the University of Dundee in November 2019 found that, after just one month of switching from smoking tobacco to vaping, blood vessel health begins to improve, reducing arteriosclerosis and improving blood pressure (6). This is a great demonstration that the effects of vaping are much less harmful than smoking.
WHAT'S IN NICOTINE FREE E-LIQUIDS?
Nicotine free e liquids have the same components as nicotine e liquids, just without the nicotine!
If anything, nicotine free liquids are going to be less harmful because they don’t contain nicotine - there is some evidence to suggest that long term nicotine use could damage the heart - so nicotine free liquids allow you to reduce the health risks associated with nicotine, including insulin resistance.
If your device-of-choice is an e-cigarette, or a pod system with pre-filled cartridges, you are limited to what is on offer from the brand in question. In this situation, you may find that you are forced down the avenue of trying different vaping products - vape pens, for example - something with a refillable tank makes sense here so you can buy the nicotine free liquid separately.
In the instance of people who have whittled down the amount of nicotine they have in their liquids, vaping mods may come into their own. You could have two tanks on the go, one containing low level nicotine juice, one nicotine free - and this would allow the user to use the nicotine free tank as much as possible, switching to your low level nicotine tank when absolutely necessary.
IS VAPING WITHOUT NICOTINE SAFE - CONCLUSION
Nicotine free e-liquid significantly safer than smoking traditional cigarettes. Smokers who have made the switch and don’t want to be beholden to a physical addiction are aiming for nicotine free liquid. Social smokers who know how bad tobacco is for you, should also be using nicotine free liquid to avoid developing an addiction. If you are going to vape and aren’t previously a smoker, you should use nicotine free liquid, for the same reason.
At SMOKO, our most popular flavour ‘Original’ is available in 0% nicotine on our e-cigarette unit. Easy, convenient and ready to go, with all the benefits of an e-cigarette but at 0% nicotine, give us a call and get a starter kit today!
(1) Everything you need to know about nicotine
(2) Nicotine and the smoker
(3) A Randomized Trial of E-Cigarettes versus Nicotine-Replacement Therapy
(4) Potential harmful health effects of inhaling nicotine-free shisha-pen vapor: a chemical risk assessment of the main components propylene glycol and glycerol
(5) Pro-inflammatory effects of e-cigarette vapour condensate on human alveolar macrophages
(6) British Heart Foundation: Is vaping safe?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Written by Dan Overgage
Dan Overgage – is a former smoker of 10 years until he became a client of SMOKO E-Cigarettes. Dan started working with SMOKO 5 years ago after successfully quitting using our e-cigarettes
and works across our Customer Service and heads up our content creation and research with a strong focus on all things quitting smoking. During his tenure with SMOKO, Dan has written countless blogs and consults with countless clients every day to help them to stay smoke-free.