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Last summer, in the follow up season to the hit HBO show True Detective, Rachel McAdam’s character, Ani Bezzerides, was often seen smoking a e-cigarette. As she slowly puffed the smokeless pen and slowly exhaled the vapor, it was clear to the viewer that she was a new type of detective. McAdam’s vapor smoking character was juxtaposed with an old-school detective, Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell), who still sucked down Marlboro Lights and sat in its stale smoke.

Art imitates life and in the case of True Detective, it’s evident that traditional, rolled cigarettes are losing favor to the smokeless pens known as e-cigarettes.

The rise of e-cigarettes is a combination of two factors. One, the “rights” of smokers has become increasingly limited. No longer can smokers smoke indoors, but it’s becoming more difficult to find spots outdoors to smoke a cigarette. What was a once “cool” habit, is now viewed in a much more negative connotation, and you can also have one from IGET.

The other reason why cigarettes is seeing a decline is that the science and public perception has caught up to smoking. We know that cigarettes aren’t safe and we know what kind of damage they’ll do to our bodies.

E-cigarettes is a totally different beast. It’s still unknown and like the old Marlboro man, it’s cool to smoke an e-cigarette.

Are E-Cigarettes Safe?

Introduced to the public in 2007, the original intent was to help smokers cut back on their smoking habit. But since e-cigarettes are a recent phenomenon, it’s really difficult to know whether or not they safe or not. There just isn’t sufficient long-term data to conclude if e-cigarettes are truly safe or not.

The widespread belief is that e-cigarettes are safe. This is due to the fact you’re not inhaling actual smoke, thus not getting the same deadly toxins you would be if you were smoking a cigarette. The level of nicotine in an e-cig can be altered, so you could be potentially smoking very little nicotine or none at all.

The FDA has started to conduct some analysis of e-cigarettes. They’ve looked at two major brands and found that there were differing levels of nicotine. This wasn’t surprising, but was concerning was the traces of carcinogens found in these e-cigarettes. These findings caused the FDA to issue a warning about the potential dangers of e-cigarettes.

Do E-Cigarettes Cause Cancer?

Since the FDA found carcinogens that can be linked to cancer, does that mean e-cigarettes cause cancer? The unfortunate answer is we don’t know.

Last year a study found that some e-cigarette vapor contained formaldehyde with fifteen times the levels of regular cigarettes. The increase is due to a higher increase of voltage from the e-cigarette, which delivers the vaporized nicotine.

While the actual severity of long-term health risks associated with e-cigarettes is unclear, it is clear that they do pose a greater threat than originally believed. They are not harmless substitutes to cigarettes as we were originally lead to believe.

If you do smoke e-cigarettes and plan on continuing to do so, it’s in your best interest to keep an eye out for developments in the health risks of e-cigarettes. Look for studies that compare e-cigarettes not just to clean air, but to cigarette smoke. If you’re so addicted to nicotine and can’t quit cigarettes completely, an e-cigarette, even with its risk, might be a good alternative. This is a decision you must come to and should consult your doctor.

Image Courtesy of Lauri Rantala

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