How Much Do We Know About Electronic Cigarettes?

Are e-cigarettes safe? Mindful Mum looks at the growing trend of vaping, and whether this is a safer alternative to smoking cigarettes?

Electronic cigarettes and portable vaporizers have been a hot topic since they appeared on the market in 2011 as an alternative to normal cigarettes. Trendy e-cigarette brands like DaVinci™ Vaporizers have quickly appeared on the market, and it’s now commonplace seeing these products in the same location that tobacco cigarettes previously lived

The Electronic Cigarette

There are many different types of e-cigarettes on the market today: most contain a cartridge that can be refilled when used up, some are single use and last for about 200 ‘vapes’ or puffs, and others look more like a shisha pipe than a cigarette but they all contain the same essential components. When a person draws in on the e-cigarette an atomizer causes the cartridge to heat up its contents to create a water vapour. This vapour can be made to taste like anything the manufacturer likes, such as strawberries or apples.

The main component of the liquid in the cartridge is called propylene glycol, which oddly enough is used to de-ice aeroplanes and can be found in many cosmetics to keep them moist.

Electronic cigarettes do contain nicotine, which is also found in conventional cigarettes. It is this chemical that makes cigarettes addictive, meaning that e-cigarettes seem to be very popular among people who are trying to give up the habit: none of the tobacco, but still a hit of nicotine. However, the British Medical Association (BMA) have warned doctors against recommending them as a method of giving up smoking until they have been properly vetted, which will be in 2016.

There are some e-cigarettes that are being marketed as a ‘nicotine-free product,’ but the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency found that the majority of these devices did in fact contain traces of nicotine large enough to still be addictive.

Are They Safe?

A recent study on e-cigarettes showed that the vapour released by them causes changes in bronchial cells that are similar to that of the changes caused by normal cigarettes. We do not yet know if these changes are enough to cause cancer, but the fact that they are causing changes at all show that these devices are not completely benign.

Can You Use Electronic Cigarettes During Pregnancy?

The best thing a pregnant smoker can do is to stop smoking altogether. Both the tobacco and nicotine have been found to have a negative affect on the baby. Nicotine narrows your blood vessels, meaning that less nutrients and oxygen are getting to your baby and as a result your baby might not grow as it should.

Doctors and midwives may recommend nicotine replacement therapy to help curb the cravings, but these contain much lower levels of nicotine than cigarettes or e-cigarettes.The World Health Organisation (WHO) have discouraged doctors from recommending electronic cigarettes as they are unregulated. No one knows how the toxins from these devices will affect an unborn child and they want to prevent a situation in which countless mothers want to file medical negligence claims, not dissimilar to the thalidomide disaster.

What Should I do if I Want to Give Up Smoking?

Wanting to give up smoking is the first step- setting a goal usually helps too, for example “I want to stop before my brother has his baby.” Most people find giving up smoking very difficult, and may benefit from a visit to the smoking cessation nurse at the local GP surgery. These nurses are specially equipped to help you give up smoking, and offer you all the advice and encouragement you need. They can recommend different types of nicotine replacement therapy and work with you to decide which one will benefit you most: these includes inhalers, tablets, patches and chewing gum.

So before you think about buying an unregulated form of nicotine therapy such as an e-cigarette, take a trip to your GP and stop smoking – the regulated way. Many of Mindful Mum’s readers recommend gum & patches. What are your thoughts?

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