This question may seem incongruous to some, or to vapers reading around the subject, but for others it might be quite legitimate. Is using an e-cigarette bad for your health, even without nicotine?
To answer this question correctly, the first point to consider is why someone might use a personal vaporizer, which they are incorrectly calling an e-cigarette. The whole point is to reduce the risks of smoking.
Reducing the risks of smoking tobacco
As you’ve no doubt noticed, the phrase “risk reduction” has the word risk in it. That implicitly tells us that the danger of using this type of product is not zero, and will probably never be zero. As Professor Riccardo Polosa likes to remind us in his presentations, “the only thing that is absolutely safe for your health is to breathe pure mountain air.”
Health professionals and public health experts are taking a close interest in e-cigarettes. They’ve agreed to describe the product as less risky and less dangerous than smoking tobacco, which they oppose by definition. Although there is heated debate within the scientific community about exactly how much it reduces that risk, they all agree that it does.
To support this idea, one of the main quotations in public health documentation is undoubtedly the British Department of Health’s report stating that e-cigarettes are 95% less dangerous than smoking tobacco. This conclusion has since been followed by numerous campaigns by the UK government to convert die-hard smokers to vaping.
Nicotine is important to vapers’ satisfaction
But does the nicotine in some e-liquids for e-cigarette refills actually increase the overall risk of vaping? It probably does, because nicotine, like caffeine is a neurotoxin. On the other hand, in the doses administered by the vaper (whether we consider them to be a smoker or an ex-smoker) nicotine is not a major risk to health. Many medicines and nicotine substitutes containing high levels of nicotine are sold in pharmacies and pose no risk to the public. The important thing is to stop using tobacco completely.
We should actually be thinking about how e-cigarettes can help in the fight against smoking. By reducing the risks of smoking tobacco, vaping devices offer smokers a healthier alternative and a real chance of quitting, even though e-cigarettes aren’t yet officially recognized as an aid to stopping smoking (very few manufacturers have actually started the drug authorization process because it’s very expensive).
Seeing the enemy for what it is
We do not think nicotine should be demonized. The distinction between tobacco, nicotine and combustion is extremely important. Jean-François Etter from the University of Geneva explains it very well in our film Beyond the Cloud. He says “the problem is combustion, and not necessarily tobacco or nicotine.”
If you are a smoker, the nicotine in e-liquids should be a key factor when you’re making up your mind, because it can go a long way to making your vaping experience better. So, don’t worry if there’s nicotine in the e-liquid when you vape normally. It’ll give your brain the same feelings you got from smoking, and that means you’re increasing your chances of quitting.
So the answer to this question is: if we’re trying to reduce the risks of smoking, an e-cigarette without nicotine is no more dangerous than one with nicotine. Using an e-cigarette with nicotine might even be helpful for serious smokers who want to avoid the dangers of smoking tobacco.
For more information, please read our article Which e-cigarette is best for you?
How do you buy a nicotine-free vape?
If you want a nicotine-free e-cigarette, just check that the e-liquid you’re going to use is labelled “nicotine-free” or “0mg/ml nicotine”. Most manufacturers offer versions of their e-liquids without a hint of nicotine. Just remember, you won’t get a hit as you inhale the vapour. If you’re in the process of quitting smoking, we strongly advise you to use a liquid in your e-cigarette that contains nicotine, because as a smoker you will need to feel that hit when you vape.