Which is more harmful, e-cigarettes or regular cigarettes?

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For a long time, the use of electronic cigarettes was justified as an alternative to its original version and an option for users who wanted to quit smoking. Currently, the potential benefits of the device are questioned by the scientific community and, on this National Day to Combat Tobacco (28), experts even claim that the harmful effects of e-cigs may be greater than those of cigarettes.

In Brazil, a significant portion of young adults use electronic cigarettes, according to a survey by the Telephone Survey of Risk Factors for Chronic Noncommunicable Diseases in Times of Pandemic (Covitel). Among people aged between 18 and 24, 19.7% are fans of this type of device, which can be considered one of the gateways to tobacco consumption.

E-cigarettes are not allies against tobacco use, experts say (Image: Tommyandone/Envato)

Do electronic cigarettes carry more risks than the original?

“Electronic cigarettes cause the same diseases as regular cigarettes and also more acute injuries, such as the destruction of pneumocytes — the cells that line the lung alveoli — by burns caused by hot steam combined with toxic substances”, explains Alexandre Todorovic Fabro, physician. pathologist and associate of the Brazilian Society of Pathology (SBP), in a statement.

To illustrate the alveolar damage experienced by e-cigarettes, Dr. Fabro compares the situation with that of toxic smoke inhaled during a fire. With this type of damage, “if the person doesn’t die, it forms a pneumonia that leaves marks on the lung as if they were internal scars”, he says.

Even the disease caused by the use of e-cigs receives a specific name: evali. In English, the condition is given the full name of E-cigarette or Vaping Associated Lung Injuries/Illnessess. The nomenclature has been adopted since October 2019.

Other complications from smoking

In addition to the specific disease of vapes, e-cigarettes can cause the same problems as “normal” cigarette use, such as lung cancer and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) — formerly this condition was known as emphysema. About Dpoc, pulmonologist Paulo Antônio Morais Faleiros, from SBP, explains that it is a preventable condition.

The two diseases are the most common related to users of this type of product, but studies on cigarettes associate the habit with an increased risk for more than 10 types of cancer, including bladder cancer.

E-cigs may pose more health risks than regular cigarettes (Image: Vaporesso/Unsplash)

Vape can be a gateway to smoking

“Anyone who has smoked for many years doesn’t want a cigarette that smells like tutti-frutti or tastes like lemon pie. He wants the taste and smell of tar. These new flavors and aromas are clearly appealing to people who have never smoked”, defends pulmonologist Faleiros.

At this point, it is difficult to see that the device is, in fact, an alternative for reducing smoking. On the other hand, research indicates the popularity of e-cigs among the younger age groups, such as those between 18 and 24 years old.

Are electronic cigarettes allowed in Brazil?

It is worth remembering that the use of electronic cigarettes is prohibited in Brazil and, according to the Brazilian Medical Association (AMB) and the Federal Council of Medicine (CFM), the legislation on vapes must remain the same in the face of possible risks to the user.

In July of this year, the National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa) announced that it will maintain the ban on the import, advertising and sale of electronic cigarettes and e-cigs in Brazil, after publishing a report on the subject. Despite these measures, illegal sales occur throughout the country.

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