Electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes, are a handheld electronic smoking device meant to replicate the feeling of smoking a real cigarette. These e-cigarettes work by heating a liquid to generate an aerosol, or vapor, that the user inhales – which is why it is commonly referred to as ‘vaping’. The liquids used can have different flavors, and usually contain nicotine and a range of other chemicals including propylene glycol and glycerine.
Although it is touted as a cleaner, healthier alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes, the health risks of e-cigarettes are uncertain. Whilst some use the electronic version as a stepping stone to stop smoking, there are recorded cases of people becoming addicted to them and doctors warning they could be more dangerous due to the misconception that it is healthier – it still contains nicotine. Some of the adverse effects of vaping include throat and mouth irritation, vomiting, nausea, and coughing. However, these are still lower health risks than the use of traditional cigarettes.
Since vaping is still a relatively new technology, there is not enough data on the long-term effects of smoking e-cigarettes, but there will be more research and studies will offer better understating of how vaping affects the body. That being said they are likely safer than tobacco cigarettes, but long-term health effects are not known, but some are worried that trivialising smoking can appeal to younger children, who have been recorded using e-cigarettes, who don’t fully grasp the consequences of nicotine addiction or the issues associated with smoking.
From a legal perspective, e-cigarettes are considered as normal, traditional cigarettes. Though there are varying laws and regulations across different countries, electronic cigarette users usually have to abide by regular smoking laws which limit their use in smoking areas. In some countries, they are still unregulated. There has been a mounting movement to get e-cigarettes recognized as a health benefitting tool, with companies attempting to cash in on selling medicinal liquid that could help with a range of illnesses.
Even if they are one day able to be used as a traditional medical tool, there is still an uphill battle to be fought as many governmental departments seek to add more restrictions to ensure that the use of e-cigarettes is as safe as possible. Until the practice is totally regulated and the research as to the consequences of vaping is in, medical use of electronic cigarettes will be put on hold.