E-cigarettes: Savior or Disaster?
E-cigarettes have become controversial due to their ability to reduce harm compared to conventional cigarettes. However, e-cigarettes still contain hazardous substances and can cause lung and respiratory diseases, increasing the risk for non-smokers and individuals who smoke very little. Despite this, smokers can use e-cigarettes to reduce harm and quit smoking slowly, but non-smokers and inexperienced youth should avoid them. Recent scientific research has shown that nicotine has some positive effects on NAD+ remediation pathways and delaying systemic aging.
E-cigarettes use electronic devices and aerosol technology to vaporize nicotine and other tobacco components, mimicking the effects of traditional smoking. According to their manufacturers, e-cigarettes are approximately 95% less harmful to the body than regular cigarettes, which is why many people choose them. However, others question the potential hazards of e-cigarettes and worry that excessive use can cause unique lung diseases. Is this really the case?
E-cigarettes: Savior or Disaster?
Let’s take a scientific look:
E-cigarettes work by vaporizing substances like nicotine through an electronic device. Unlike traditional cigarettes, which produce 69 carcinogens when burned, e-cigarettes don’t generate any harmful substances because they don’t require combustion. Thus, it is true that e-cigarettes are substantially less harmful than traditional cigarettes. According to data from the UK Department of Public Health in 2018, the incidence of lung cancer among e-cigarette users is only about 0.4% of that among tobacco smokers, making e-cigarettes a better choice for smokers.
However, some people remain skeptical and ask, “What about the lung disease unique to e-cigarettes?”
Indeed, the American Cancer Society once published a study suggesting that aerosols and carbonyl compounds in e-cigarettes could also affect the lungs and lead to a special e-cigarette lung disease, which is why many smokers are reluctant to use them.
However, in 2019, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention clarified the e-cigarette rumors. It turns out that some illegal e-cigarette products, such as Vitamin E Acetate, contain toxic substances that cause illness. Moreover, in 2020, the United States withdrew its statement discouraging the use of e-cigarettes.
Compared to traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes are a much safer and excellent substitute for smokers looking to quit smoking gradually. At the same time, it is advisable for people who have never smoked or who can quit smoking without help not to use e-cigarettes. While e-cigarettes can reduce harm, it does not mean they are harmless!
How do e-cigarettes affect health?
They still pose toxicity risks.
While e-cigarettes have removed many harmful substances found in traditional cigarettes, such as tar, they still contain some harmful substances, which can increase lung and respiratory disease risk in non-smokers or people who smoke very little. This is the primary reason why e-cigarettes are not recommended for anyone, but smokers.
They can lead to eye infections.
To better simulate the smoke of a traditional cigarette, e-cigarettes produce more vapor. Prolonged e-cigarette use can stimulate the eyes and other sensitive areas, leading to redness, dryness, and even inflammation and conjunctival damage.
They still pose risks associated with nicotine.
Nicotine is a primary component of e-cigarettes, which means that smokers inhale large amounts of it. Although nicotine is less harmful than in traditional cigarettes, it can cause symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and even infertility. Smokers should always be very cautious.
Why are e-cigarettes outpacing traditional cigarettes globally?
Recently, research has provided a deeper insight into nicotine and e-cigarettes. On the one hand, the team of LI Xiang at the Shenzhen Institute of Advanced Technology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences has experimentally revealed the mechanism by which nicotine improves metabolism and delays aging. This provides a new direction for expanding the application of nicotine and anti-aging. On the other hand, the team at Minho University in Braga, Portugal, used chicken embryos to demonstrate that e-cigarette aerosols pose little risk to pulmonary and embryonic development, far lower than traditional cigarette smoke.
The team led by LI Xiang has been researching nicotine for a long time. They mainly analyze the effect of nicotine on NAD+ (oxidized form of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide), a vital anti-aging material in the human body. NAD+ plays a critical role in maintaining cell vitality, and NMN, a worldwide popular anti-aging product called “Youth Pills,” raises NAD+ levels in cells to reverse aging.
Recently, Xiang’s team published an article entitled “Nicotine rebalances NAD＋ homeostasis and improves aging-related symptoms in male mice by enhancing NAMPT activity” in Nature Communications online, which reveals the latest findings on the mechanism of nicotine’s effect on NAD+.
The team found that nicotine at slow, low doses improves energy metabolism and delays systemic aging by activating the NAD+ remediation pathway. It has protective effects on the nerves, promotes the interaction of two proteases in cells, reduces senescence factor levels, enhances NAD＋ activity, and thus improves the metabolic rate of aging tissues. Moreover, the team discovered that nicotine can relieve anxiety and improve learning and memory after metabolism in the liver of mice.
This study by the Chinese team provides new targets and methods for expanding the application of nicotine and anti-aging. Nicotine is not completely harmful but has some positive effects in small amounts. Currently, nicotine is widely present in tobacco, while e-cigarettes are a new way of taking nicotine.
In conclusion, the role of e-cigarettes is complex. On the one hand, they can be effective in reducing harm to smokers and helping them quit. On the other hand, if non-smokers or inexperienced youth use e-cigarettes excessively, they can cause harm to their bodies. Therefore, it is advisable for smokers to use e-cigarettes, but for regular people and especially inexperienced youth, it’s best to avoid them. Only when used in the right way can e-cigarettes truly unleash their advantages and values, as with any substance.