Are you wondering, is vaping safe? Is nicotine bad for you? Be sure to learn about vaping health risks if so.
It has been near a decade since vaping came into popularity, yet it is still a hot button topic. Some critics claim that vaping is just as bad, if not more dangerous than smoking combustible cigarettes. On the other end of the spectrum, there are those who blindly believe and push the idea that vaping is 100% risk-free and harmless. As with most things in the world, the truth lies in between these two extremes; so we’re going to delve into finding the truth and paint an accurate picture of the health and safety of vaping.
When people laud vaping for its value as a harm reduction tool, citing the growing number of peer-reviewed and scientific articles about vaping, it is essential to keep in mind that those studies are comparing vaping to smoking. After all, the majority of vapers are former smokers, and smoking is something we have decades of research on. So when researching or even just reading an article about vaping, its relation to a habit proven to be dreadful for your health needs to be kept in mind. But vaping is not 100% harmless. There are plenty of cases of mild side effects from daily vaping, but there is not enough long-term research for us to definitively know all the consequences. In the meantime, the research available strongly supports vaping as being safer than smoking.
What Nicotine Does To You
It is surprising to find out just how many people think that you cannot vape without nicotine. The truth is there is a large selection of e-liquids that do contain nicotine, but there are still many flavors that are nicotine free. In fact, most brands offer exclusively zero-nic versions of their popular e-liquids. As a result, the options for nicotine-free vaping are plentiful, which is excellent considering that nicotine is still associated with some adverse health effects.
That being said, many people don’t understand that nicotine is not responsible for most of the negative side effects of smoking. Nicotine can have some impact on cardiovascular, nervous, and gastrointestinal systems of your body. However, the majority of the side effects of tobacco; cancer, COPD, heart disease, etc., come from burning the added chemicals and ingredients in cigarettes.
The more dangerous side effects of nicotine alone are those related to prolonged heart stimulation. This includes an increase in the risk for clots and stroke, raised blood pressure, and enlargement of the aorta. Nicotine has also been connected to have trouble sleeping, and dizziness. Some of the more common, and mild, side effects include nausea, vomiting, dry mouth, and heartburn. For vaping the solution to those milder side effects is to switch e-liquids and opt for a lower nicotine dosage.
The process of changing nicotine strengths is straightforward. Most manufacturers will offer the same flavors in several different dosages so you can keep using your favorites no matter what level you’re at. The nicotine strength you start with ought to correlate with how much you smoked before switching. A heavy smoker would be looking to start around 12mgs, whereas a light smoker would begin closer to 6mgs or lower. Decreasing your nicotine levels should be done slowly so that your body can adjust to the lower dosage. Most vapers find it takes a few weeks to adapt to a new strength.
As it becomes more difficult to adjust when you are down to the lower levels of nicotine, mixing a custom strength can help to deal with those transitions. If you were, for example, ready to transition off of 3mg but not ready for 0mg, there would be two ways to handle it. The first method would be to get the 3mg and 0mg varieties of your preferred flavor. You would mix these two in equal parts, and it would become a 1.5mg strength liquid. Another method would be to take your favorite e-liquid and dilute it with an unflavored base. The key with this method is to make sure that the PG/VG balance is the same in the base as it is with the preferred e-liquid. If you’re not careful, a difference in consistency could potentially fail to work or even damage parts.
Growing Base Of Evidence
Previously the argument that there wasn’t enough evidence about vaping held a little more gravitas. But at this point, there is a solid decade of research on the topic and more still ongoing. The vast majority of this evidence supports that not only is vaping safer than smoking, but it is also top of the class at harm reduction and smoking cessation. There are many conclusions that we need to unpack to get the full picture of what this all means.
- E-cigarettes are upwards of 95% safer than tobacco
- There are around 450 times less toxic substances in vape smoke compared with cigarette smoke
- Making a switch to vaping leads to a much higher quality of life
- Rates of tobacco-related diseases are significantly lower
- Banning vaping would have the opposite of the desired effect
This statistic comes from what is probably the most well-known study about vaping to be published. This study was written by Public Health England which is England’s federal health agency, just a few years back. The team’s primary concern was if vaping was safe for the public. They concluded that not only was it safe for people; they concluded that it was at least 95% safer than smoking. Additionally, they found that nearly all of the 2.6 million people who vape in Great Britain are former smokers.
The study made some other notable conclusions as well. They covered that there is no evidence that vaping is a gateway drug to traditional cigarettes in any age group. They also found that 44.8% of people don’t understand how much safer vaping is than smoking. Nearly half of the population believes that vaping is just as, if not more, dangerous than tobacco. The publishing of that study and many others have hopefully started to sway the public perception numbers as that there are very few health risks from vaping when compared to smoking.
The study that found this conclusion was led by Dr. Maciej Lukasz Goniewicz of the Roswell Park Cancer Institute and published in the Tobacco Control Journal. The goal of the study was to screen vapor for carcinogenic compounds. They tested 12 different brands of e-cigarettes and, as a control, a prescription nicotine inhaler. In their work, they found that vapor has as many as 450 limes fewer carcinogenic compounds than cigarette smoke. In several of the tests, the concentration of harmful compounds found was similar to normal air.
Researchers at the University of Alberta conducted an online survey that focused on assessing the impact the switch from smoking to vaping had on the lives of users. Once the data was collected, the researchers began to notice some intriguing patterns. The first item of note was that every single one of the 300 people who took the survey were former smokers. This alone highlights the rarity of a non-smoker taking up vaping. 91% of the respondents stated that their health had improved since switching. 97% reported improvement in their smoker’s cough. 84% said they were better able to exercise.
The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health published a study that found proper utilization of vaporizers for smoking cessation and harm reduction purposes would have a significant and positive impact on the amount of tobacco-related diseases and deaths. If a combination of factors, like popularity and public acceptance, could meet certain levels, the rates of these diseases would plummet. The study also touched upon how there is no link showing vaping leads to teenage smoking and also discussed how second-hand vapor has doesn’t have any impact on bystanders.
This study, which explores the effect of vaping on tobacco use, was published in the Journal of Health Economics. They analyzed how state vaping bans impacted rates of smoking among minors 12-17. The researchers found that vaping bans slow the decline of the smoking rate and increase the number of teens smoking. The statistical significance of the study was run through multiple checks to test it. They concluded that vaping would counteract almost 70% of the pre-existing teen smoking in as little as two years.
These are just a sampling of the research, surveys, and studies conducted on the topic of vaping. To recap: when compared with the damage smoking does, risks are minimal. There is no link between vaping and transitioning to smoking, and it improves the quality of life for smokers who have switched. But as has been mentioned, vaping is not entirely harmless. So now we will discuss common side effects that happen, as well as prove some sensationalized rumors wrong.
The Real Risks of Vaping
Let’s start with debunking. One of the most popular accusations against vaping is the idea that it causes Bronchiolitis Obliterans. Nicknamed popcorn lung, it was discovered when employees at a microwave popcorn factory developed it after being exposed to the chemical additive diacetyl. It is a debilitating disease that occurs when an individual regularly inhales harmful chemicals like diacetyl, chlorine, or ammonia.
This rumor started because early on a few companies used a minimal amount of diacetyl in flavoring, but these days no reputable brands use this harmful chemical. In all honesty, the volume and amount of exposure people briefly got to the compound was nothing when compared to the factory environments where it is more common. In fact, when researchers at the California Department of Health did a study that tested the air quality of vape shops across the state, they did not find detectable levels of any of the offensive chemicals associated with popcorn lung.
There are still a few side effects associated with vaping, but they are relatively mild and easy to prevent. The most common side effect is that of dehydration, resulting in dry mouth or dry skin. Left unchecked it can cause prolonged irritation and itchiness. Newcomers to vaping can also be known to have caffeine sensitivity which can include feeling anxious or having mood swings. It is vital that if you use an e-liquid with nicotine that you are not vaping too much in a short period. This could cause dizziness or even nausea.
When it comes to e-liquids, it’s imperative to check the ingredients for any known allergies. E-liquid flavors are often similar or the same a lot of food products, so take care to avoid an allergic reaction to your vapor. Some people experience canker sores when switching; this may be caused by e-liquid making direct contact with your skin, or a change in the acidity of your saliva. It’s also crucial to avoid nicotine addiction if you are one of those very few vapers who was not a smoker first. Nicotine is a very addictive substance and should be treated seriously, and you should pick your nicotine levels accordingly.
Vaping is not harmless, but it is still the much safer choice when compared with continued smoking. Some holdouts still deny that there is enough data, but most researchers and many public health officials are agreeing that vaping has excellent value. As a smoking cessation tool, and for harm reduction purposes, there is nothing better on the market. It is, however, key to monitor your nicotine intake.
Manufacturers make it easy to lower your nicotine strength, and local vape communities are full of other vapers willing to help you on your journey to a healthier life. It probably won’t be long until you turn around to help the next new vaper better themselves as well. Smoking persists as the leading cause of preventable diseases and deaths around the world, so if we are to fight that trend, we need to spread the word that vaping risks, especially when compared to smoking, are minimal.