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Vaping is not as fresh as you think

More research needed to determine potential effects of e-cigarettes

Oxford Dictionaries recently announced that its 2014 word of the year is “vape.” The term is in reference to e-cigarettes, which have become popular alternatives to tobacco cigarettes over the last year. Vape dates back to 1983, according to Oxford, when it was used in a scholarly article to refer to the use of a new type of cigarette that delivered nicotine through a vapor instead of smoke. It was once associated more with marijuana use, but over the past year, it has won over non-smokers and smokers who claim vaping is a useful method to quit smoking.

E-cigarettes are fairly new, and not enough research has been done on their potential effects on personal and public health. According to a recent eight-month study done at the University of Leuven in Belgium, electronic cigarettes were shown to significantly reduce tobacco cravings among smokers. But this was a study done with only 48 participants, and it is not enough to serve as statistical evidence for that claim. It is unclear just how harmful nicotine vapor is compared to tobacco smoke, although studies suggest there is definitely some sort of negative health impact, including the effects of secondhand vapor. Secondhand vapor is especially important to research: One of the appeals of e-cigarettes is that it’s easy to use them in places conventional cigarette smoking is not allowed. Vapor typically goes unnoticed compared to smoke, and without any federal regulations on e-cigarettes, it’s hard to control.

Many advocates of the new trend call it a healthier alternative to smoking — a tempting claim to believe, but one that is misleading and could have serious implications. Calling vaping healthier than smoking is a very relative comparison and doesn’t hold much weight at all when you take into account the serious and deadly health consequences of smoking. E-cigarettes do not have tobacco in them, but they do have nicotine. While conventional cigarettes deliver nicotine with tobacco smoke, e-cigarettes don’t have that harsh smoke element, making it a lot easier to vape a much higher concentration of nicotine than one would smoke. You can vape without nicotine, but the concept is still the same: Starting out vaping flavored e-juice might seem harmless enough, but the potential for then moving on to trying nicotine (and consequently becoming addicted) couldn’t be more obvious. 

E-cigarettes clearly have a huge and growing market, so it’s important that the proper research is done as soon as possible to clarify their uses, effects and potential dangers to consumers. If this is going to become the next big thing (although we suspect it’s more of a niche market), consumers should at least be as aware of its health effects as they are of the risks of tobacco. Warning labels, appropriate marketing and educational campaigns should be updated to include the growing trend. 

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