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By Casey Williams

Electronic cigarettes are bad but should still be available and used from a harm reduction standpoint

The use of electronic cigarettes has been touted as a harm-free habit that can be used so smokers can have their cake and eat it too. Unfortunately, the electronic cigarette is not the nicotine Jesus many people claim it to be. On the other hand, cigarettes are much worse and these e-cigarettes can be used in a harm reduction role. Here are a few ways that electronic cigarettes can be bad but not as bad as the classic smoke:

Nicotine is still there

Unfortunately, electronic cigarettes still deliver nicotine into the body. Once nicotine is released in the body, it travels to the nicotinic acetylcholine receptors which activate the sympathetic nervous system. Once this happens the smoker’s blood pressure will increase, the blood vessels will constrict, and the heart will push blood harder damaging the vessel walls. This happens every time nicotine is introduced into the system. Over time, this will cause chronic hypertension, heart failure, and dysrythmias.

But is it as bad or worse than smoking? No, although both cigarettes and e-cigarettes have nicotine, cigarettes contain tar and carcinogens. E-cigarettes have only shown amounts of carcinogens when the coils were used at extremely high heat and were allowed to burn. Cigarettes will always release tar and chemicals no matter how they are smoked. From a harm reduction standpoint, a smoker would be better off using an e-cigarette than to continue the use of cigarettes.

It is difficult for consumers to regulate how much nicotine intake they receive a day

With cigarettes, questions about amount of use can be answered by how many packs or how many sticks are consumed a day. Electronic cigarettes use tanks premixed with nicotine ranging from 0.2 percent to 2.4 percent per bottle. Consumption can become complicated when adding the percents, the mod and tank used, and how many puffs the smoker takes.

This is also concerning about e-cigarettes’ effects on health but do not outweigh the benefits of this relatively new technology from a harm reduction standpoint. Comparing 4,000 plus additional toxins in cigarettes to the four substances used in e-cigarette fluid shows that even with a risk for nicotine toxicity, cigarettes have higher health risks.

The verdict

The use of electronic cigarettes by people who do not smoke should be discouraged. Nicotine is a harmful and addictive substances, and with each use causes your body to go into a mini flight-or-fight response. This causes damage to one’s health that if used long enough will have irreversible effects on one’s body, especially the cardiovascular system.

The use of these tools should be from a harm reduction standpoint. People who already smoke and cannot find ways to quit through traditional means such as patches or gums can switch to this and be confident that they are reducing the damage from carcinogens released from traditional cigarettes. I also do not agree that this product should be regulated harsher than cigarettes or banned from public use, but there should be ad campaigns to fight against their use by non-smokers.

All in all, both are bad but if your only choice is one or the other, pick the one that will cause less harm.

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