For a few months now, cigarettes have returned to bars, offices and public buildings. With the steam of the e-cigarettes, the controversy about tobacco, nicotine and shared spaces has returned: are they harmful? Do they affect non-smokers?
Argentina is the third largest consumer of tobacco in Latin America and the Caribbean, with an annual number of 40,000 deaths from cigarette-related conditions. Although the health risks of smoking have long been known, it is only in the last decade that restrictive laws have been implemented on the subject, including the prohibition of smoking in enclosed public places, regulation of advertising, access to stop-smoking programs, etc.
However, tobacco is reluctant to leave the lungs of Argentines. Electronic cigarettes are a new smoking device that no longer produces smoke but steam. The person who smokes them -or goes for it- seeks in many cases to quit the cigarette, since they allow to progressively decrease the amount of nicotine consumed. In other cases, the cowboys do not want to stop smoking, but they want to continue doing it but without harming their health: Is the electronic cigarette useful to stop smoking? Is it possible to smoke healthy?
With little more than a decade of life, and barely a year of introduction in our country, very little is really known about the electronic cigarette and its effects on our health and that of those around us. We present you three advantages, three disadvantages and three risks of the electronic cigarette.
- Helps control nicotine consumption. Like nicotine patches or gum, the electronic cigarette allows you to regulate the amount ingested; the novelty is that it also allows you to exhale “smoke”, as in a regular cigarette. This is the main argument of its defenders: that it is a useful tool to stop smoking gradually, without the anxiety that sudden abandonment presents.
- It reduces the risks of smoke. The traditional cigarette pollutes your environment and is dangerous for both the smoker and those around him. A good part of the 400 toxic chemicals and 40 carcinogenic components released by the cigarette are consumed by the smoke. The electronic cigarette, however, does not generate combustion, significantly reducing the amount of chemicals incorporated into the body and the environment.
- It eliminates bad smell. One of the factors that generates more social pressure to quit smoking is the smell that smoke leaves in the mouth, clothes, hands and even the furniture of smokers. The liquid that produces the vapor is unscented, so it leaves no unpleasant traces. It’s also colorless, which makes the stains tobacco leaves on smokers’ skin and teeth disappear.
- Prolongs nicotine addiction. There is very little evidence about the effectiveness of electronic cigarettes in quitting smoking. The addiction is not only chemical, but it generally includes social and psychological aspects that the electronic cigarette does not eliminate but, on the contrary, imitates (such as “smoke” or its oral consumption). Smokers, then, think they have found a harmless way to smoke and continue to consume nicotine in this form, often at higher levels than when they were smoking.
- There are no uniform and reliable safety standards. This is a product that is hardly regulated, yet we use it to supply chemicals to our body. From sophisticated and expensive products to suspicious devices bought on the street, its use is very dangerous: there are reports of exploding batteries, poisoning from cartridges that were leaking liquid, and even allergic reactions to the propylene glycol they contain.
- All the risks of their consumption are not yet known. Scientific evidence about its effects is scarce: studies about its benefits for quitting smoking have been conducted on small populations, and its advantages over other techniques (such as nicotine patches) are not as conclusive. It has mild pulmonary effects immediately after consumption and contains some carcinogens (such as formaldehyde and acetaldehyde), although there is not yet solid research on their concentration and effective damage.
Going to the office?
Although electronic cigarettes have been sold in our country for a long time, even in street stalls, the truth is that it is illegal: the National Administration of Drugs, Food and Medical Technology (ANMAT) banned their marketing in 2011 because there is not “sufficient evidence to determine that they are safe for human consumption.
In a 2014 press release, the Ministry of Health established that national Law 26.687 includes electronic cigarettes in the prohibition to consume tobacco or its derivatives in closed spaces, including work spaces.
In this way, and despite the fact that it is not the traditional cigarette smoke, the use of electronic cigarettes is doubly prohibited in workplaces and closed spaces of public access. Even if it does not leave a bad smell or release into the environment the carcinogens already known from the combustion of tobacco, it is still not known what effects it can have on the health of the smoker and those around him.
To learn more, please visit www.conserve-energy-future.com