Everyone is smoking electronic cigarettes and pipes these days, but just what is an e-cigarette? Electronic cigarettes (also called electronic nicotine delivery systems) are battery-operated items that deliver flavored nicotine and other chemicals in a vapor form, in contrast to the smoke from regular cigarettes. Here are the key facts you need to know about these products, and how they might influence your health.
The lowdown on e-cigarettes and oils
Odds are that you’ve driven or walked past shops labeled “Vape Shop.” That’s where most oils and devices used to smoke are sold. Perhaps you’ve seen people exhaling smoke in bars and restaurants where you thought smoking oils wasn’t allowed.
Designed to look like old fashioned cigarettes, pipes, cigars, USB sticks or pens, e-cigs create the illusion of a cleaner, safer alternative to smoking paper cigarettes and joints. There are literally hundreds of manufacturers currently making e-cigarettes and the oils used in them. This market is clearly booming, with no sign of slowing down. According to Bloomberg News, consumers in the United States alone will spend about $1 billion on e-cigarette products this year.
Available for legal and illegal substances are being marketed as new, battery-powered smokes are being labeled a healthy alternative delivery method for old bad habits—but are they really that much better for our health? Should we be concerned about new potential dangers that have yet to be examined, or should we throw caution to the wind and just smoke up?
Are oils and e-cigarettes regulated?
Nope. There’s been talk of the FDA eventually regulating e-cigarettes in the same way as tobacco products, but it hasn’t taken place thus far. Tests conducted by the FDA indicate items claiming to contain no nicotine often do, and that puffs from the same device contain varying amounts of nicotine; nothing is stable or consistent, as most of these devices are shoddily made.
Health professionals are also concerned that younger users are being introduced to nicotine and becoming addicted accidentally when using oils that are incorrectly labelled “nicotine-free.” Cotton candy oil sounds like a dessert or treat of some sort, but who really knows what’s in these oils? With no regulation, oils are a big risk.
Time will tell
I can’t help but think of doctors smoking oils away in the Mad Men era, puffing away while examining patients and women to start smoking in order to lose weight. That wasn’t all that long ago, and yet we now laugh at how insane it was to promote cigarettes as medicine. I fear that the same may be in store for vaping and smoking unregulated, cheaply made oils.
The truth is that no extensive studies have been conducted to date, so we really have no way to be certain about the health hazards. Studies are in progress, but e-cigarettes and vaping are so new that we are yet to see the long-term effects they have on users. Some studies have found silicates and metals in the vapors which could have adverse effects on smokers after prolonged usage. Meanwhile, butane is commonly used to make hash oil that’s becoming increasingly popular among marijuana users these days. Hmmm… butane, metals, and silicates? Not quite what I want in my lungs.
There are so many manufacturers out there and little to no regulation, so it truly is a gamble. It is less expensive for smokers to use e-cigarettes vs. traditional smokes, but the chemicals used to cook and flavor oils used to deliver nicotine and THC may be the danger. Additives used to make candy, cherry or pineapple flavored oils (for example) may sound innocuous but will likely present health hazards in the end.
Are oils healthier?
The trouble with oils is that they sound like healthier options but the techniques used to make any unregulated substances make them dangerous. People are literally blowing themselves up making hash and other oils used in e-cigarettes and vaping devices. One article on Buzz Feed News said that the hash oil being sold today is anything but natural. Plus, hash oil is often made using low-end marijuana—in other words, the leftover junk that nobody wants to smoke the traditional way.
In his book “Hashish!”, Robert Connell Clarke speaks about hash oil as causing health issues, saying, “Knowledgeable cannabis users feel that making hashish oil is overkill, and simply a method for passing low-quality cannabis products off on unsuspecting and uninformed consumers.”
If you’re like most of us, you first thought that smoking vapor sounded safe and even clean. In the end, it’s not the vapor/e-cig technique but rather the oils themselves, their questionable ingredients and origins that make smoking oils a potential hazard to your well-being. I’m not an advocate of smoking anything in any form and would suggest that you find a safer, healthier way to pass the time.