Is Vaping a Safer Alternative to Smoking?

Woman using a vape cigaretteSo you grab a vape mod convinced that it will pull you off the smoking habit. Think again!

Most marketing materials promoting electronic cigarettes (AKA e-cigarettes) claim that they are safer than traditional tobacco cigarettes. These new electronic cigarettes come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and models such as Juuls, vape pens, and vape mods.

What Are E-Cigarettes?

Electronic cigarettes are battery-operated devices that used to look exactly like a cigarette when they first came out but are now available in all sorts of different shapes; however, regardless of their size and manufacturer, they all contain the addictive chemical nicotine.

Naturally found in tobacco, Nicotine is the element that is primarily responsible for making smoking addictive. Nicotine exists in both regular cigarettes and e-cigarettes and causes you to continue to desire a smoke. If you ignore the craving, you can suffer withdrawal symptoms such as a rise in blood pressure and spikes in your adrenaline. This increases your heart rate and narrowing of the arteries and subsequently, increases the chance of having a heart attack.

Assortment of vaping devices
Vape mods by Vaping360. Licensed under CC BY 2.0

In our previous blog about e-cigarettes and the oral health problems they may cause, we now go deeper into a more complete discussion about how they can affect the whole body. The key difference between conventional cigarettes and alternatives is that the latter doesn’t contain tobacco. But the problem is that tobacco is not the only harmful substance in a cigarette. Cigarettes contain a range of additional chemicals that are harmful to human consumption and electronic cigarettes have some of the same chemicals. E.G. Nicotine.

Since early 2009, the FDA has continually emphasized that e-cigarettes contain significant levels of toxins and carcinogens. Carcinogens are cancer-causing agents. A study conducted on 42 different manufacturers of liquid nicotine cartridges found that it contained formaldehyde, a chemical associated with causing cancer.

A study conducted by the American Chemical Society found that vaping could adversely affect an individual’s DNA. The study conducted on 15 adults examined their saliva before and after a 15-minute vaping session. The saliva of the adults had an increased level of dangerous toxins such as acrolein and formaldehyde.

If you care for the environment and think that e-cigs are better for the environment than conventional cigarettes because the vapor from them is smoke-free and odor-free, you have a wrong assumption. A study carried out by the International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health found that the use of electronic cigarettes increases airborne particle concentration and volatile organic compounds. Both of these substances pose a potential risk if inhaled. 

There have been no long-term studies conducted so far to find if the effects of vapor emitted from e-cigarettes are less harmful than smoke from normal cigarettes. Any cancer usually takes years to develop and electronic cigarettes are a relatively new phenomenon, but it is known that there are dangerous toxins in e-cigs as mentioned above.   

Can Vaping Help Cut Down or Quit Regular Cigarettes?

Any company that claims its e-cigarettes can be used to cure addiction or help cut down cigarettes must first provide studies to the FDA showing that the product does what it claims to do and is fit for consumption. So far, there is no substantial evidence through studies or otherwise to prove that electronic cigarettes can be a tool for diminishing usage of conventional smoking.

“Smoking still remains one of the most harmful activities and is responsible for 480,000 American lives lost each year.“

Downsides Outweigh the Upsides

E-cigarette marketers promote their devices as a healthier alternative to smoking. But actual results show that people tend to continue smoking along with vaping and this action is termed dual-use.

Perhaps the biggest health risk posed by e-cigarettes is that they are creating a trend where a perception about smoking being okay and normal is finding its way back after being on the decline for decades. Popular smoking accessories such as the vape pen and Juul are reversing the painfully won gains in the fight against smoking. Smoking still remains one of the most harmful activities and is responsible for 480,000 American lives lost each year.

An Alarming Increase Among Young People

The percentage of teenagers who have tried electronic cigarettes has quadrupled over the last 4 years alone. Nearly three million US students in middle school and high school have tried e-cigarettes. 1 in 5 of those kids who tried them said they never tried conventional smoking before.

The use of Juul and other alternatives to cigarettes by young adults is alarming for a variety of reasons:

    • Nearly 9 out of 10 people who are addicted to smoking started before age 18. Early usage leads to the development of a regular habit.
    • Nicotine found in electronic cigarettes is known to hamper brain development among teens.
    • Vaping can be looked on as a gateway to normal cigarettes as people are tricked into believing that it is harmless flavorful vapor.

The sharp increase in vaping among teenagers is attributed to attractive, candy-like flavors that manufacturers use to target the younger audience. No doubt the cigarette companies have not staged much of a protest against them.

Illinois will be raising the vaping age to 21 and New York State is looking to ban the sale of any e-cigarette product to anyone under the age of 21, as well as prohibit pharmacies from selling any tobacco or e-cigarettes.

Governmental Involvement

Doctor breaking a cigarette in halfNo doubt there is contention these days about how much the government should regulate health care. We will stay out of the political gamut and simply say based on what we already know about vaping, we agree with those states that are changing the laws. Teenagers are most vulnerable to this and so upping the age from 18 to 21 is a great start.

Illinois is changing the legal age from 18 to 21 and New York State is going further. Besides moving the legal age for smoking e-cigarettes to 21, they are also banning tobacco products from pharmacies, as well as prohibiting the use of coupons and rebates related to tobacco products and e-cigarettes.

Bottom Line

Vape pens, pods, Juul, and other forms of e-cigarettes have not been around long enough to make a solid assessment regarding their long-term effect on health.

Instead, many people including teenagers delusionally (based on the known ingredients) believe that these alternatives are safer than the traditional form of smoking and can even help a person quit regular cigarettes.

It has been proven by the FDA that do show that e-cigarettes contain some of the more harmful compounds found in normal cigarettes even though there is no tobacco involved. The fact that some of these chemicals can damage your DNA and become the cause of cancer should be alarming enough on its own.

More research is needed to determine the exact effects of e-cigarettes on health as compared to regular smoking, but the most practical conclusion would be to just stay away from it.