Do electronic cigarettes help you quit smoking?

At the beginning of the 21st century, electronic cigarettes appeared, a new product advertised as a healthy option for tobacco use. An academic article from 2014 even suggested that these products had an 80% lower risk than traditional tobacco.

Nothing is further from reality. Year after year, scientific and health evidence has provided evidence of the risks that the consumption of electronic cigarettes entails for our health.

The damage they can cause to our health is such that in the United States a specific disease derived from their consumption has been described, EVALI, a set of lung lesions associated with vaping.

According to a recent report by the General Directorate of Public Health of the Ministry of Health, electronic cigarettes pose a risk both to the person who consumes them and to all those subjected to the aerosols they emit.

The short-term risks already scientifically proven are:

-Damage to the respiratory tract very similar to that caused by tobacco use. Also, carcinogenic substances have been found both in the liquids that make up these gadgets, and in the aerosols they emit.

-Numerous poisonings and adverse effects have been described that have begun to be seen in the consultations of specialists and that in some cases are serious.

-Furthermore, the use of these products generates the emission of propylene glycol, PM2.5 particles, nicotine, and carcinogenic substances, which can contaminate closed spaces with consequent risks due to passive exposure.

Regarding the composition of these cigarettes, glycerin and propylene glycol are two harmless substances if consumed orally and are present in a large number of food products. But when inhaled, they irritate the airways causing infections.

Therefore, a clear relationship has been established between vaping and the worsening of respiratory diseases such as asthma, cystic fibrosis, and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

Regarding nicotine, little more needs to be said about how harmful it is to our health, it causes lung and heart diseases, cancer …

As the electronic cigarette should be attractive to the potential consumer, manufacturers add substances to make it have a pleasant smell and taste. Well, a study published in Scientific Reports in 2019, points out the harmful effects that exposure to aerosol from vapers contributes to the development of respiratory problems, regardless of whether the device has nicotine or not.

In addition, electronic cigarettes carry heavy metals such as chromium, copper, or zinc, which are toxic, even if they are present in very low concentrations.

Among the most widely used arguments in favor of the use of these cigarettes is their efficacy as substitute therapy compared to the consumption of traditional tobacco, because they are less harmful than traditional tobacco. But this has not been scientifically proven.

Although there are not enough studies on this yet, it is impossible to recommend these devices as a useful tool to quit smoking.

A study with 3,757 participants, carried out in North Carolina (USA) concluded that, in people who had never smoked, the beginning of the consumption of electronic cigarettes entailed a greater predisposition to the consumption of traditional cigarettes in the future.

A similar result was obtained in a study with 347 students, where it was found that those who started using electronic cigarettes were 4 times more likely to start using traditional cigarettes than those who had never tried this product.

In addition, the American study highlighted the effect of “gateway” to tobacco consumption that this type of product can have in younger people. And that’s probably the biggest problem with these devices.

According to the Survey on Drug Use in Secondary Education in Spain 2018-2019, practically half of students aged 14 to 18 have used electronic cigarettes at some point (48.4%).

By sex, it is men who have used it the most, and by age, it is at 16 when it is most consumed (57%).

According to this survey, 37.8% of male and female high school students have tried e-cigarettes in the past month and 14.9% in the past year.

When indicating the type of composition they used for electronic cigarettes, 67.1% said they had used it without nicotine, compared to 11.3% who had used nicotine and 21.6% who had used both.

According to the report of the Ministry of Health, this data reflects the low perception of risk that exists in relation to electronic cigarettes, which can lead to dependence and the introduction to the consumption of traditional tobacco.