Vape is the new word of the year and was recently added to the Oxford English Dictionary. It was given the meaning “to inhale or exhale the vapor produced by an electronic cigarette or similar device.” Given the popularity of this activity, statistically most everyone in the country (excluding Amish and such) has seen someone vapeing on an electronic cigarette by now.

Ask any of your friends or colleagues who vape if it is safe and they will most likely say “of course it is!” They will likely wax poetically about how the most dangerous thing in the cigarette is the inhaled smoke and burning products, to which the electronic cigarette has none. Indeed the electronic cigarette (e-cig) was created specifically to solve this burning issue (pun oh so intended.)

Rather than burning a paper filter and tobacco, an e-cig contains a battery that heats a heating element (think of the cigarette lighters in cars) that burns a container of liquid. This liquid contains nicotine, some other chemicals, and usually a flavor additive. The result of this chemical process is the familiar vapor your exhale after a puff.

Water vapor even, well, more like the stage fog from a fog machine. Next your friend or colleague will mention the convenient fact that nicotine by itself without all the additives and such is harmless. Neither is the vapor, it is just water vapor after all. Except it isn’t, and the vapor isn’t water vapor either.

Recently, vapeing has gotten the attention of the World Health Organization. They are basically calling for the study of these products. Their stance is that we do not yet know what harm these electronic cigarettes will cause, drawing a parallel to the scientific and medical communities early thoughts on cigarettes. It is too early to know for sure the scale of danger that comes with this new convenience.

Opponents of electronic cigarettes are quick to point out that nicotine does have health risks associated with its continued use, addiction being the obvious one. Clogged arteries or artery damage being the less obvious one. Less obvious still is the danger to individual with heart problems, or as to yet unknown heart conditions.

Even the official literature phrases the damaging effects of nicotine use with the qualifier “may.” It may be harmful. It may have damaging side effects. If you ask those colleagues, however, they are often quick to point out the realistic negative side effects of continued vapeing. By volume, they consume a lot mote nicotine through vapeing than they did through cigarettes thanks to the fact that the two are smoked differently.

It can also get expensive. Some vapers report spending upwards of $40 to $50 a week. Whether this is a cheaper alternative to cigarettes or an expensive luxury is an exercise best left up to the individual smoker or vaper. That, after all, is where the World Health Organization debate is really headed.

Remember that these electronic cigarettes contain “various other chemicals?” These vary from manufacturer to manufacturer and presently do not have to be revealed anywhere on the products packaging or on the company website. Electronic cigarettes are also not regulated by the FDA and thus are not tested.

There are real dangers in prolonged consumption of several classes of chemicals (breathing chromates and plasticizers both found in concrete as an example.) These is where the actual concern exists in the medical and health communities. The specter of nicotine is simply a convenient classical argument to frame this new issue within.

Everyone on both sides of the issue happily acknowledge that electronic cigarettes are safer than traditional cigarettes. Proponents point out that they are practically completely safe comparatively. This is the origin of the “of course it is safe” argument.

For smokers who transition to electronic cigarettes, it might as well be practically guilt free aside from the cost. A key fear of concerned groups is that electronic cigarettes might make smoking “cool and hip” again like it was in the distant past. Regulators point out the very real fear of setting back tobacco education and consciousness; basically losing their hard won ground.

Using the tired argument that we need to study more seems a bit low tier for a \n organization the size of WHO. If they were making the same argument about genetically modified vegetables, they would be accused of anti-science fear mongering. In what way is this argument not still the same fear mongering tactic.