When you switch from traditional cigarettes to electronic cigarettes, you are no longer consuming the vast majority of toxic chemicals found in cigarette smoke. Most of the toxins are products of combustion, and because e-cigs do not use fire as a heat source, nothing is burned and these toxins are not produced. There is, however, one important chemical that is found in both cigarette smoke and electronic cigarette vapor, and that’s nicotine. In fact, for many people, nicotine is the entire point of using an electronic cigarette. So let’s take some time now to talk about nicotine by itself. Is it bad for you? What are the short term and long term effects of nicotine inhalation? I like to know what I’m putting in my body, so this research is as much for me as it is for you.
What I’ve learned is that nicotine, in and of itself, has some good and bad characteristics. The bad news is it’s highly addictive, and extremely toxic in low doses. The lethal dose for people is 50mg, which is 0.05mL. To put this in better context, approximately 1 drop of 100% pure nicotine could kill you. E-liquid usually varies from 0 to 3% nicotine by volume making it much safer to handle but still a little bit dangerous. For this reason, it’s important to be safe with your e-liquid. Keep out of reach of children and always wash it off if e-liquid gets on your skin. Used in an e-cig, e-liquid is safe. But if ingested, it becomes very toxic. It’s a drug, so the same safety precautions you’d use with other drugs applies to this as well.
It’s also a mild stimulant, much like caffeine. This is neither good nor bad. It does, however, seem to have another property that we’re only beginning to understand now. Nicotine seems to protect the brain from neurodegenerative diseases. Smokers are way less likely to suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease later in life. Of course, up until recently, the harmful effects of smoking would vastly outweigh the potential benefits of nicotine, but if there were a way to get just the nicotine without having to inhale toxic smoke (can you think of anything?), then it may turn out that long term users of nicotine live longer, higher-quality lives than those who never partake.
At the end of the day, the main reason we vape is because we enjoy it. It is, however, nice to know that we might get to enjoy it longer because we don’t have to worry about losing our minds later in life. Also, considering it helps me concentrate on what I’m doing right here in the moment and it might help me maintain mental clarity down the road, it’s really not an e-cig anymore. It’s more like a brain-enhancing inhaler, right?