Published on May 29th, 2014 | by Scott Cooney


Are e-Cigarettes better for you and for the environment?

E-cigsWhen it comes to quitting smoking, even the most ardent smokers will admit it’s a good idea. The nicotine patch helps some. Breaking routines helps others. Increasingly, these days, many are starting to look to e-cigarettes, or “vaping”, to break their addiction to cigarettes.

Proponents argue that this allows smokers to enjoy their nicotinic urges without making others’ lives miserable around them. Second hand smoke is awful, and those of us old enough to remember when smoking was allowed on planes and in restaurants can tell you that it pretty much ruins things for the people who are not smoking. Vaping allows people to “smoke” but only exhale vapors, not smoke.

In addition, there’s the environmental impacts of cigarette smoking and waste. According to the website Planetsave:

In 2010, cigarette butts accounted for 38% of the World’s litter, demonstrating just the start of the huge impact that electronic cigarettes have on the environment. Up to 600 million trees are cutdown every year to use in cigarette products. The machinery used for this process creates significant and damaging carbon emissions.


Cigarette waste and litter

Earth911 says it this way:

The improper disposal of cigarette filters is a huge problem, contributing to the U.S.’s annual $11.5 billion cost to clean up litter.

Despite the fact that smoking has decreased in the U.S. by 28 percent in the past decade, cigarette butts remain the most littered item, and they account for 38 percent of litter worldwide.

During the International Coastal Cleanup last year, more than 2 million cigarette butts were collected, accounting for 21 percent of the 7.4 million pounds of debris that were collected.

To make matters worse, 95 percent of cigarette filters are made cellulose acetate, a kind of plastic that doesn’t degrade easily. In fact, it takes about 12 years for one to break down.


But is a portable vaporizer or an e-cigarette any healthier for the smoker themselves? That’s a question we turned to WebMD for the answer to. Says Dr. Gordon Strauss, smoking cessation expert, “Nicotine or flavorings are dissolved into propylene glycol usually, though it’s hard to know for sure because they’re not regulated.” The nicotine penetrates your cheeks in order to get into your bloodstream, not your lungs, as it does in the case of cigarette smoke.

WebMD says that there doesn’t appear to be any evidence that e-cigs help people actually quit: in a double blind study, they found that the quit rates was effectively the same for people using e-cigs with nicotine versus the patch versus e-cigs with just flavorings!

Strauss said, “Cigarettes are already so bad for you it’s hard to imagine anything worse.” He said that the primary benefit in terms of health is for other people. Parents, for example, who don’t want to expose their children to second hand smoke can help them avoid it with e-cigarettes or portable vaporizers.

The challenge, from the health side, is that they’re largely unregulated. Several years ago, according to the American Lung Association, the FDA tested e-cigarettes on the market and found chemicals of “all kinds”, including diethylene glycol, the same ingredient used in antifreeze. As a result of this and a request by 40 state Attorneys General, the FDA has recommended people don’t use them, and is going to start regulating e-cigarettes as a tobacco product.


Are e-cigarettes or portable vaporizers better than real cigs? (Read this article to know the benefits of vaping). In article after article that I found while researching this topic, not one made a conclusive argument about the environmental or health advantages or disadvantages of e-cigs. So suffice to say, the jury’s still out. When e-cigs get regulated, we’ll know what people are vaping, and probably have people get exposed to less toxic chemicals. And generally, I’ve always felt that anything that gets people to stop smoking cigarettes is a good idea.

Photos courtesy of Shutterstock

This post was supported by Davinci Vaporizer.

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About the Author

Scott Cooney (twitter: scottcooney) is an adjunct professor of Sustainability in the MBA program at the University of Hawai'i, green business startup coach, author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill), and developer of the sustainability board game GBO Hawai'i. Scott has started, grown and sold two mission-driven businesses, failed miserably at a third, and is currently in his fourth. Scott's current company has three divisions: a sustainability blog network that includes the world's biggest clean energy website and reached over 5 million readers in December 2013 alone; Pono Home, a turnkey and franchiseable green home consulting service that won entrance into the clean tech incubator known as Energy Excelerator; and Cost of Solar, a solar lead generation service to connect interested homeowners and solar contractors. In his spare time, Scott surfs, plays ultimate frisbee and enjoys a good, long bike ride. Find Scott on

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