The ongoing debate over electronic cigarettes has led to some pretty wild and conflicting assumptions, statements, and arguments over the devices. Some of them hinge on whether they deliver too much nicotine or too little or possibly none at all.
Older arguments tended to claim e-cigs don’t successfully deliver nicotine to the user and that this makes them poor alternatives to tobacco cigarettes — mostly because they don’t successfully sate cravings. Newer arguments say that electronic cigarette deliver more nicotine than tobacco cigarettes and that this makes them poor alternatives — mostly because they reinforce and perpetuate nicotine addiction.
So which is it? Research is suggesting it’s closer to somewhere in the middle. The reality is that tobacco cigarettes have been so refined over the decades upon decades they’ve been around, that almost nothing can deliver nicotine as efficiently as they do. They even go so far as to include constituents that blister and deteriorate the lining in your lungs so that your body can’t block as much of the nicotine from getting to the blood stream.
That said, studies are finding that electronic cigarettes can still deliver plenty of nicotine. And given that they are far less harmful (research so far suggests 99% less harmful) and that they can be used more openly than tobacco cigarettes, vapers can make up for any lost nicotine delivery by vaping more without much concern for the harm done or needing to find a smoke-friendly location to light up.
There are outliers that deliver far less or far more nicotine than the average — just like there are with any large group of products. However, studies that looked into this particular aspect of electronic cigarettes and found poor nicotine delivery among the products have largely proven to be poorly conceived and poorly implemented. No study has shown (to the best of our knowledge) that electronic cigarettes deliver more nicotine than tobacco cigarettes. Most of the studies that seem balanced tend to show electronic cigarettes deliver a comparable amount, but slightly less than tobacco.
But — and here’s a big but — studies into the habits and trends of those using electronic cigarettes are showing that most tend to gradually reduce the nicotine concentration of the electronic cigarettes they use. That means the devices are helping people reduce their addiction rather than reinforcing it.
All this suggests that nicotine content of electronic cigarettes isn’t so big a concern. Experts say that under the right circumstances — that is, when not delivered through smoked cigarettes — nicotine can be consumed for an entire lifetime without significant harm to an individual — much like caffeine. This also suggests that even the most addicted of individuals, puffing away on an e-cig all day and all night is not doing the same harm to themselves that a casual, only-while-drinking smoker does.
All this, and vapers are more likely to step down use than step it up — which cannot be said about smoking.