It can be hard to know for sure if vaping is a good choice, luckily we have more evidence every week.
Vaping’s real importance compared with smoking lies in it’s smoking cessation and harm reduction value. Indeed, e-cigarettes were created to help people quit smoking, and it’s not surprising that the majority of vapers are former smokers. That means over 20 million people around the world are not smoking today thanks to vaping. If supported and appropriately utilized, vaping could be a major key to some significant public health changes, primarily by assisting millions more to quit smoking.
The choice to vape over smoking should be clear to anyone, as it’s been studied and proven that vaping is a substantially safer choice than smoking. However, e-cigarettes and vaporizers are still seen as a hot-button topic, with many people still believing the misinformation being spread. Most of these claims state that vaping is as dangerous or even more dangerous than smoking. With that in mind, we’ve assembled this article to break down and explain everything you ought to know about vaping vs. smoking cigarettes.
Is Vaping Worse than Smoking?
It has long been agreed that smoking is one of, if not the worst things you can do for your health. It’s gotten so clear that tobacco companies don’t even bother denying the effects of their products anymore. If they tried, they would never be able to, with over 70 years worth of scientific studies and data backing up just how harmful smoking can be to a person’s body. Around the world, smoking is the leading cause of preventable deaths and disease.
The Surgeon General released a report in 2014 that concluded over 16 million Americans are dealing with diseases stemming from or related to smoking. They also found that close to half a million deaths every year also originate from tobacco and smoking-related illnesses. Despite this, many people still wonder: is vaping worse than cigarettes? To effectively break down whether vaping is safer than smoking we need to analyze several of the most common and significant conditions caused by smoking and compare that with research on vaping.
Certainly, the most feared of the diseases exposure to cigarettes can cause would be cancer. While there are several types of cancer caused by smoking, the most well known is lung cancer. The vast majority of lung cancer cases are related to cigarette smoking, or exposure to secondhand smoke. Lung cancer is often aggressive, spreading quickly throughout the body. It kills more Americans per year than any other type of cancer. Other cancers smoking can cause include blood, liver, colon, kidney, pancreas, stomach, and many many more.
There is not one single substance in cigarettes that causes all of these cancers. It is the combinations of thousands of potentially dangerous chemicals and materials found in the smoke and tar that is produced when a cigarette burns. Nicotine, the only substance found in both cigarette smoke and vapor, has not been shown to increase the chances of developing cancer. There have been multiple long-term studies that show nicotine replacement therapies (NRT’s) such as gums, patches, and vapes do not lead to the development of cancer
“Nicotine Without Smoke,” a study by the Royal College of Physicians, was first published in 2016. It was one of the first long-term studies about nicotine’s effect on the body without the other chemicals associated with cigarette smoke. In this study, they found “no association between sustained NRT use and the occurrence of cancer (lung, gastrointestinal or any cancer) or cardiovascular disease.”
From what we know the most dangerous part of cigarette smoking is the tar that builds up in the lungs. This tar increases the likeliness of tumors growing in the lungs. This tar does not form or build up during vaporizing because nothing is being burnt. While there is a lack of particularly long-term studies on the chemicals in vape, the research and scientific articles that have been published at this point are extremely promising.
A recently published study out of the University of St. Andrews focused on the risk of cancer when vaping. Their findings showed that the cancer risk was on par with that of patches and gum, which is to say less than 1% increased risk. This study was well received for finally answering questions on vaping’s harm reduction value.
Heart Disease/ Stroke
Smoking is also to blame for a third of the deaths caused by heart disease in the US. This includes deaths from heart attacks, aneurysms, and strokes. There is excessive research that shows just how much your risks of developing heart disease, or another associated conditions is. Like with cancer, these risks are related to a wide variety of the chemicals and substances produced when cigarettes burn. Once again vaping, which lacks these chemicals, has not been shown to correlate with heart disease.
The chemicals taken in during smoking increase your risks of having a stroke or heart attack by causing an increase in triglycerides and lowering the good cholesterol in your body. These results both affect the amount of plaque buildup in arteries, along with how long the build ups last. This built up plaque then becomes loose, leading to clots that can cause a stroke.
Nicotine once again is the innocent party, having no connection to the increased risk of heart disease. If, however, you are diagnosed with a heart condition it is vital to monitor the amount of nicotine taken in, but the same goes for caffeine. This is because both nicotine and caffeine constrict blood vessels, which could cause dangerous increases in blood pressure and heart rates.
Vaping vs. Smoking Lungs
After Heart disease, the most frequently developed illnesses related to smoking are lung diseases. Short-term side effects can seem inane. A sore throat, or a little cough. But long-term use of cigarettes can lead to a vast array of debilitating lung conditions. We’ll review some of the most common.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
COPD is one of the most common groups of diseases for long-time smokers. Conditions that fall under this category include emphysema, chronic bronchitis and many more. These conditions drastically reduce your ability to take deep breaths and process oxygen through the body.
While the effects of COPD can be smaller scale, the consequences are severe and dramatic. What happens as COPD progresses is that the little airbags that make up the lungs, called alveoli, lose their ability to expand and absorb oxygen. The walls between alveoli also become porous, and less able to transfer oxygen into the body. Often, your body attempts to combat this by producing mucus, but ultimately that mucus blocks the airways.
The mucus is a result of your body’s fight against the chemicals coating the lungs. When this mucus goes unchecked, it can cause more damage to the lungs overall. There is no cure for COPD, and patients who die from it often die while gasping for air.
As far as vaping is concerned, there is no evidence connecting it with any increased likeliness of developing COPD. There a few studies that have even found switching from smoking to vaping could improve the condition of patients already suffering from COPD.
Not all forms of Asthma are related to cigarette smoking. There are several different types however that can develop or be made more severe by continued tobacco use. Breathing smoke triggers the same kind of responses from your lungs as an asthma flare-up, or attack.
No evidence suggests vaping causes an increase in the amount or severity of flare-ups though. However, there was a study published this year, conducted by Dr. Riccardo Polosa and his team, that found e-cigarettes can help increase asthma patients quality of life when used as a smoking cessation device.
While there is no shortage of articles claiming otherwise, vaping’s connection with Bronchiolitis Obliterans, or Popcorn Lung, is a myth. There were rumors in the early days of vaping that substances like diacetyl would lead directly to the debilitating disease. The claims are misleading; no reputable makers include the materials involved in the rumors in their products. Any current or future vapers can rest easy knowing that there is nothing to worry about on this front. Additionally, there has never been any recognized association between traditional cigarette smoking and developing popcorn lung either.
Vaping Vs. Smoking When Pregnant
It is widely understood that smoking during pregnancy is dangerous. It can cause severe damage to the unborn child and complications with the pregnancy overall. Smoking while pregnant causes an increase in the carbon monoxide and decreases the amount of oxygen that gets to the child. This reduction of oxygen can cause complications in the child’s development and even potentially lead to a miscarriage. There is also research that shows a strong correlation between smoking during pregnancy and SIDS or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
Nicotine, the only chemical present in both cigarette smoke and vape, has not been shown to cause harm to the unborn. A study published on ResearchGate showed that traditional nicotine replacement therapies, such as patches and gums, do not affect the baby. They also found that they weren’t very effective at helping expectant mothers quit smoking.
If the other option is to continue smoking traditional cigarettes then many researchers, like Professor Linda Bauld, encourage expectant mothers to vape. Bauld even released a report for healthcare providers and midwives that detailed the harm reduction value of e-cigarettes. Vaping, in this case, proves to be an excellent alternative to risking your child’s health and development by smoking. That said, both tobacco and vaping should be avoided during pregnancy whenever possible. But if you’re asking is vaping safer than smoking, the answer is most certainly.
Battle Of The Bulge
Smoking has a reputation for helping users lose weight, which is a significant factor for many people who choose not to quit. The reason this happens is because nicotine works as an appetite suppressant and because it occupies a psychological cue to bring one’s hand to their face, just like eating.
Neither of these aspects is lost with vaping. The nicotine still works as an appetite suppressant, and very similar hand to mouth cues are present. Vaping is so effective that there are even studies underway looking to analyze vaping and e-cigarettes as a potential weight control aid.
The Side Effects For Smoking and Vaping
If you are still asking yourself if vaping is somehow as bad or worse than cigarettes we’ll go over a brief breakdown of the most significant side effects of smoking, and then compare that list with the most significant side effects of vaping. Hopefully, this will give you a clearer picture of the risks these habits require.
Smoking Side Effects
We have already discussed in detail many of the most debilitating side effects and conditions caused by cigarette smoke; cancer, heart disease, COPD, etc. There is a massive list of other side effects caused by tobacco usage, so here are a few select highlights.
- Cataracts and macular degeneration
- Loss of the senses smell and taste
- Yellow Teeth, tooth decay, and bad breath
- Possible hearing loss
- Contributes to osteoporosis
- Chronic bronchitis
- Stomach ulcers
- Early wrinkles
- Slower healing wounds
- Increased likelihood of back pain
- Increased susceptibility to infection
- Early menopause
- Damaged sperm and reduced sperm
Smoking is one of the worst habits you can pick up for your health and happiness long term. How then do the common side effects of vaping stack up?
Vaping Side Effects
As of yet, vaping has not been linked with any serious long-term health issues. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t side effects caused by vaping. So let’s go into a little detail about these side effects and some of the ways to avoid them.
Dehydration is the most common side effect of vaping. It can cause your skin, mouth, throat, and eyes to become dry. This occurs because most of the ingredients in e-liquids are humectants, this means that they absorb moisture from the environment that they are in. If dehydration is not addressed, it can lead to symptoms like coughing, headaches, sore throat, and even nosebleeds. The solution to this is making sure you take in enough fluids throughout the day
Taking in too much nicotine into your system can cause issues. An overabundance causes dizziness, headaches, and nausea. In some severe cases, it can cause cold sweats, insomnia, racing heart, and even ringing ears. The key to avoiding all of that is to pay attention to the nicotine strength of your e-liquids, and not using too much in any one session.
Most people who are allergic to the various chemicals in e-liquids know beforehand. Propylene glycol (PG) and vegetable glycerin (VG) are both commonly found in foods. Some people may also be allergic to ingredients found in some flavors. It is possible that milder cases of these allergies can go unnoticed until picking up vaping. In most cases, the allergy symptoms tend to manifest in similar ways as dehydration.
It is vital if you have any known allergies to pay attention to the ingredients of the e-liquids you are vaping. You wouldn’t want to expose yourself to something you are deathly allergic to, just because you didn’t read a label.
There has been quite a bit of attention paid by the media about the dangers of e-liquid poisoning, in reality, the threat is much tamer. It is true that a strong e-liquid can become dangerous, even deadly when consumed by young children, but it is also true that these instances are far and few between. The best way to prevent this is to make sure e-liquids are stored appropriately away from children. It only takes one mistake, don’t let this one be yours.
The Safety Of Vaping vs. Cigarettes
Health risks aren’t the only risks taken when it comes to smoking and vaping, and it’s essential you learn what to avoid to remain safe.
According to a 2013 report by the National Fire Protection Association close to 20% of house-related fire, deaths were from smoking-related fires. In other words, at least 17,000 structure fires occurred due to smoking.
Vaping doesn’t have the same sorts of fire starting risks associated with it, but there are fire concerns related to batteries. According to the United States Fire Administration between 2009 and 2016, there were just 195 cases of critical battery failure and explosion. Of that number only 38 lead to severe injuries.
Even when taking into account the differences in the numbers of smokers versus the number of vapers the statistics show there is, statistically, a much higher likeliness of causing a fire from smoking than there is from vaping. In the seven-year span from 2009 to 2016 there were 121,000 tobacco-related fires compared with 195 vaping explosions.
- Second Hand
Another risk associated with smoking is the risk taken by, or forced upon, those around you when you smoke. Second-hand smoke has been proven to be linked to many of the same diseases and illnesses related to smoking; cancer, heart disease, etc..
Second-hand vapor, on the other hand, has not been shown to have any risk for bystanders. San Diego State University recently published a study where they tested the indoor air quality of homes, sorting them by their stances on vaping and smoking. They found that there was no discernible difference between the air quality in the houses that allowed neither tobacco or vaping indoors and those that did permit vape smoke or electronic cigarette use. This backs up that vaping does not have adverse effects to your loved ones or those around you when you vape.
The Price of E-Cig Vs. Cigarette
One of the significant changes people reference as making a large impact on their lives during their switch from smoking to vaping is the difference in cost. It varies from state to state, but in some places, a smoking habit can cost you over $5,000 a year. It doesn’t seem like legislatures are going to stop raising the taxes on tobacco products any time soon either.
Alternatively, vaping has the potential of saving you money over time. Depending on what kind of rig, pen, or e-cig vs. vape you opt for at the beginning it may be a high cost up front. If you opt for the most basic cig-a-like, you’re looking at around a $9 investment. It lasts around the same as three packs of cigarettes. That alone would bring the annual cost of vaping down to $1,300, meaning that even the least cost-effective option would save you over $3000 a year.
More expensive options, like a box mod and refillable tank, require greater costs upfront, but the only purchases after start-up would be for replacement coils and e-liquid. With this option, the cost per year could potentially go down to around $500, a possible savings of $4,500.
Is Making the Switch Right for You?
It is practically impossible to write a non-biased article about this subject, as there are so many reasons that smokers should try vaporizers. Vaping is safer for your health, safer for the health of those around you, and extremely cost-effective to boot. Extended tobacco use, or exposure to tobacco smoke, will likely lead to cancer or heart disease in some form. Vaping hasn’t been shown to increase the likeliness of any one of these diseases. That said, vaping is not entirely harmless and should be approached with maturity and safety in mind. This means proper storing of e-liquids, and taking care when charging and storing batteries.
There is no way around it; smoking is terrible for you. Vaping, by comparison, is a fantastic harm reduction tool. Furthermore, a study out of the University of Louisville proved vaping is the single most effective smoking cessation method currently on the market. That included everything from going cold turkey, to using prescription drugs like Chantix.
If you’re still on the edge, you should give vaping a shot. If you were looking for the answer to “Is vaping better than smoking cigarettes?” the answer is hands down, absolutely yes! The number of people that vaping helped quit cigarettes continues to grow. Everyone’s journey with vaping is different, so take time to break down the benefits and costs for yourself, see if they’re enough for you to commit to the switch. Then do research, do experiments to find what’s best for you.
Maybe you want to jump in feet first with a high-end box mod, and maybe you are better off getting a $9 disposable to start and move on to pens and rigs from there. The choice is yours. There are enough options and such a vast variety that there is a perfect fit out there for everyone’s wants and needs.