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Are nicotine-free e-cigarettes dangerous?

This article is not medical counselling. In case of doubt, ask a health professional.

The question may be strange for experimented vapers but it seems to be a matter of concern for most beginners or with a limited experience in this domain. Is the nicotine-free e-cigarette dangerous or a matter of concern?

The first thing to consider to correctly answer this question is the context in which vaping is established: here, we are interested in the context of tobacco harm-reduction.

Tobacco harm reduction

As you can read, “harm-reduction” suggests that the personal vaporizer/electronic cigarette is not harmless and will probably never be. The Professor Riccardo Polosa is used to mention that “breathing pure mountain air is surely the safer for your health”.

Nevertheless, public health professionals who got interested in the e-cigarette agreed to present it as a safer, a less dangerous product compared to the combusted tobacco present in cigarettes; from a relative point of view . And even if a consensus on the level of harm-reduction is still not achieved, the harm-reduction effect itself is no longer under question.

To support this idea, one of the most cited scientific reference in this mid-2016, is the Public Health England’s report, stablishing that the personal vaporizer is at least 95% safer than combusted tobacco.

Nicotine is an important factor in vaper’s satisfaction

Now, whether nicotine, present in e-cigarette refills, enhances the absolute risk related to vaping or not is another question to which the answer is certainly yes. Yes, because nicotine, like caffeine, is a a neurotoxic substance.

Nevertheless, at the dose delivered by personal vaporizers or even combusted tobacco cigarettes, nicotine is harmless to health, just as caffeine. One can find several substitutes that contain nicotine (NRTs) in the form of gums and patches in pharmacies, that do not require a medical prescription. Their use is recommended for smoking cessation and the risk associated to their use, even on the long-term is negligible. The most important remains to get rid of smoking.

One has now to consider the way the e-cigarette can be part of smoking harm-reduction. By reducing the risks associated to smoking, the personal vaporizer offers to smokers a safer alternative to smoking and a an additional option even if the official recognition by specialists of the e-cigarette as a smoking cessation help is not homogenous among countries. The procedure for e-cigarette manufacturers to record their product as a smoking cessation help and obtain a medical label is very expensive and most of the time prohibitive.

To identify the right enemy

"Beyond the Cloud" - The movie about vaping
“Beyond the Cloud” – The movie about vaping

From our point of view, demonising nicotine is not a proof of rigor. Distinguishing between tobacco, nicotine and combustion is wiser when it comes to identify the true enemy. Jean-François Etter, from the University of Geneva, is right when saying in the movie “Beyond the Cloud” that “the enemy is combustion, precisely, not tobacco or nicotine”.

If you are a smoker, nicotine contained in e-liquids must be an important element to consider and will determine how successful will be your experience with vaping. Then, do not be reluctant to nicotine for a normal use of a personal vaporizer because it will help your brain remember the sensations it learnt over years of smoking. It will increase your chances to get rid of it.

The answer to this question is then: in a tobacco harm-reduction framework, the nicotine-free e-cigarette is not more dangerous than the nicotine one. The nicotine e-cigarette will even be considered useful to hard smokers who want to avoid effects of combusted tobacco.

For more information, we recommend reading an in-depth reflexion on the use of e-cigarettes, written by a tobacco specialist.



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  1. Well, this is a “vape site”. So of course they’re not going to say the possibility of it being bad for you with or without Nicotine. I was actually expecting an answer but should have figured better.

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