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E-Cigarettes: The Healthier Option?

DRAPER, Utah (ABC 4 Utah) - E-cigarettes are marketed as the healthier way to get your nicotine fix. But as they become more popular across Utah, a new study claims they may not be as healthy as sellers would have you believe.
E-cigarettes are marketed as the healthier way to get your nicotine fix. But as they become more popular across Utah, a new study claims they may not be as healthy as sellers would have you believe. We did some digging to find out how this new trend could be affecting your heart.

Brittaney Williams has been a smoker for several years, but just recently, she decided to ditch the cigarettes and go electronic.

"At first it was kind of a new fad, like I saw it come into my treatment center, and then after I tried it, I found out it was a lot less harsh on my lungs, it wasn't as aggressive, not as much coughing and the taste of it was actually really enjoyable," Williams said.

Williams is getting addiction treatment at "New Roads Treatment Center" in Draper. As part of her recovery, she wants to be healthier, which is why she made the switch.

"Even if you're around people that smoke it just, you just absorb all that smoke, and you just smell like an ashtray. And with e-cigarettes since it's not smoke and its vapor, you don't absorb it," she said.

Williams is not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the e-cigarette industry now pulls in more than a billion dollars each year, with millions of people puffing. Doctor Kevin McCauley is a director at New Roads Treatment Center. He says he's seeing more of his patients, like Williams, use e-cigarettes.

"What I notice when they first came out was everyone was holding onto these light saber looking devices and I thought, 'oh great! What a great way to personalize and brand a new delivery of nicotine method for nicotine.' and that's what they've turned out to be,” McCauley said.

Many e-cigarette businesses claim these devices are healthier options that help many people quit nicotine all together. Dr. McCauley is not convinced.

"A lot of the claims that have been made about them, there really isn't any research to back that up." he continued, "in fact there is good data to support that e-cigarettes are actually used as a parallel product to, for people who are still smoking."

Scientists at Brown University are not convinced by the claims either. A study just released says e-cigarettes are just as bad for your heart as a regular cigarette. We talked with Cardiologist, Deborah Budge to learn more about the difference between a typical cigarette and the electronic version.

"So in regular cigarettes you have both nicotine which is the addictive substance and the smoke also creates hundreds of other chemicals including formaldehyde and arsenic," Budge said.

The Brown study claims nicotine can cause plaque to form inside the heart all on its own, even without the chemicals. While it may be safer on the lungs, the study says it's still dangerous.

This is the first study of its kind so organizations like the American Heart Association are not backing the findings until more research is done.

As for Dr. Budge she says she'd rather people not smoke at all.

"If I had to say would I rather have you smoking regular tobacco or smoking an e-cigarette, the harm might be less with an e-cigarette but the best way to use that is if the real intent is to quit." she said.

For now, that is not Williams’s intention. She said she feels better since switching to e-cigarettes and that's enough for her.

"Of course I still enjoy the nicotine, but overall just having a better lifestyle, I thought it would be something interesting to try,” she said.

Utah is one of only four states that have the same regulations on e-cigarettes as regular cigarettes. Still, their use is skyrocketing with kids in our state. Teens are three times more likely to report using e-cigs than adults.

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