Someone recently asked us if vaping was safer than smoking, and this question was particularly intriguing to me. It’s a rather new human behavior and very little is known about it. I love research though, so I decided to find out as much as I could about the subject and share the information with you.
First of all, I want to assure you that we are not going to pull a new rabbit out of an old hat – both vaping and smoking are bad, and I want to be clear about that. The simple answer through research is that yes, vaping may be less harmful. It’s not that vaping is healthier, but simply less harmful than smoking cigarettes.
Vaping vs Smoking
What is Vaping?
Over 500 articles have been published on vaping in the last few years, but very few of them are direct comparisons on the health risks or benefits of vaping versus smoking cigarettes. E-cigarettes are devices that produce an aerosol by heating a liquid containing various chemicals including nicotine, flavorings, and other additives. Users inhale the aerosol and those additives into their lungs. The aerosols produced by e-cigarettes can contain harmful chemicals such as heavy metals, lead, volatile organic compounds, ultra-fine particles, potentially cancer-causing chemicals, and other agents used for cleaning the device. Over 80 compounds are inhaled every time that you use an e-cigarette. Compare that to over 7,000 chemicals that are inhaled every time you smoke a cigarette!
There has been a recent epidemic of e-cigarette users going to their doctor or even the emergency room because of lung disorders. The onset of respiratory findings, which can include nonproductive cough, chest pain, and shortness of breath, can occur several days or weeks before hospitalization. Systemic findings can include fast heart rate, fever, chills, fatigue, GI distress, and diarrhea preceding the lung symptoms.
Adult smokers who are attempting to quit should use evidence-based smoking cessation treatments, including counseling, nicotine replacement, and FDA-approved medications. Those who need help quitting tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, should contact their medical provider.
Are E-Cigarettes Safer Than Tobacco Cigarettes?
Smoking tobacco cigarettes is the primary cause of preventable cardiovascular deaths in the United States, and stopping the use of tobacco has long been the focus of public health organizations. According to the Surgeon General Report in 2014, rates of smoking in the US have reached historic lows. Parallel to the decline in cigarette smoking is the use of electronic cigarettes, which were introduced to the US in 2007. The market has since increased, especially among young people, which is a major concern. 3.1 million high school students in 2018 used e-cigarettes or vaped, and only 600,000 of them are illegal age.
E-cigarette use may be less harmful than tobacco use, but it comes with its own risks. Usage has increased from 700,000 users in 2012 to 3.2 million users in 2018. The effects of e-cigarettes on long-term cardiovascular health are rather inconclusive but still concerning. Multiple studies have shown temporary increases in oxidative stress, inflammation, vascular dysfunction, and platelet aggregation as well. These effects are consistent with the properties of nicotine, though the other components of e-cigarette emissions may also contribute to this.
E-cigarette use is less carcinogenic than tobacco smoke, as tobacco smoke is associated with lung cancer and other cancers throughout the body. It’s the number one risk factor for cardiovascular disease in the United States and worsens virtually every health condition we’re aware of. Tobacco smoke weakens the walls of the lungs, so we got plenty of air when we breathe in, but there’s little lung tissue left which means we’re not actually delivering air to the vital cells of our bodies.
Now let’s be clear: the vapor of e-cigarettes contains less harmful substances than tobacco smoke, but e-cigarettes are not a hazard-free lifestyle product. Just like tobacco, e-cigarettes cause inflammation of the lungs. E-cigarettes are also associated with a higher rate of illicit drug use because other drugs can be used in the vaporizing units.
Vaping with e-cigarettes may be less harmful to your health than tobacco cigarettes and less associated with cancers, but they have their own acute symptoms to be aware of. There’s a recent epidemic of e-cigarettes because of market increase and adulterated agents that you can put in the vaporizers, causing more individuals to need emergency room visits.
If you smoke tobacco, you should certainly move to e-cigarettes. If you use e-cigarettes, work with your healthcare provider to come up with techniques for quitting permanently.
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I believe in the original meaning of the word doctor, ‘docere’, which means teacher. I’m here to help educate you on how to take care of yourself in ways that you may not have heard of before, but that are effective. I always want to hear your ideas and feedback so be sure to leave me comments below!
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