Vapes have been commonplace for over a decade now, and we’re starting to hear more about the advantages and drawbacks of this alternative to smoking.
Today, we’ll be looking at the pros and cons of both vaping and smoking.
One thing will become clear as you read on. Vaping is still in its infancy, meaning we don’t have the benefit of any data concerning the long-term health risks. Research is ongoing, and we’ll gain a fuller picture about vaping as the market continues to mature, and for as long as vaping is presented as a tool to quit smoking.
We’ll be comparing vaping to smoking today rather than studying it in isolation. After all, the only reason this product hit the market in the first place was to help people quit smoking, so you would assume it’s safer, right?
Well, before we start analyzing the safety angle, what is vaping, and why should you care?
In the early days of electronic cigarettes, these devices didn’t have an attractive image. Viewed purely as a method to stop smoking, these were simply utilitarian nicotine-replacement devices.
That changed when the term vaping was used to market these devices. While you are technically inhaling an aerosol rather than vapor, manufacturers got far more traction when marketing these devices as vapes. Indeed, the way in which vapes are marketed to non-smokers and youngsters mirrors cigarette advertisements of the 1950s and 1960s.
Today, vapes are still mainly used as a smoking cessation aid, but they are also increasingly used as a delivery system for marijuana. As with vaping to replace cigarettes, vaping marijuana is promoted as a safer alternative to smoking weed.
Opinion concerning the safety of vaping has shifted over the years. The American Cancer Society was a proponent of vapor products, but that all changed with a position statement in early 2018. The ACS urges medical professionals to explore regular, approved methods of smoking cessation rather than relying on vaporizers to eliminate exposure to ongoing health risks. That said, the ACS still positions vaping as a safer alternative to smoking even if the long-term health effects are not known.
The official line regarding vaping is fluid, then.
In early 2019, the state of Michigan banned the sale of flavored vape liquids after a spate of illnesses potentially linked to these liquids.
2019 also saw a glut of cases where vape-related lung damage was diagnosed. Hundreds of vapers were affected with several vapers dying. Later in 2019, CDC determined that vitamin E acetate in the samples of victims was the likely culprit. Black market THC cartridges can also contain damaging ingredients as we’ll explore below.
These mixed messages leave you with a challenging question…
Is vaping safer than smoking? Beyond that, is vaping safe, period?
We can’t answer that directly, because we simply don’t know. This won’t become apparent until the current generation of vape dabblers become long-term vapers.
Until then, we would suggest speaking openly and honestly with your doctor if you want to stop smoking.
Our goal today is not to arrive at an answer for which we lack hard data. Instead, we hope to flesh out your understanding of vaping so you can make the best-informed decision. The more you educate yourself about any addiction, the better your chances of conquering it.
The bottom line, you don’t need cigarettes or vapes. Nicotine is a toxin with no redeeming merits. You’ve simply conditioned your body to need this poison.
Maybe you’re still smoking cigarettes and you need some added impetus to put down the package. Let’s scope out some of the many reasons why that’s a smart move.
What Is Smoke?
Smoke is a by-product of combustion and includes solid, liquid, and gaseous particles.
Combustion occurs when a substance reaches auto-ignition temperature. This varies from substance to substance. This sequence of rapid and turbulent chemical reactions leaves behind many toxic by-products.
Cigarette smoke is especially damaging. It’s known to contain more than 7000 chemicals. At least 250 of these chemicals are extremely harmful and include ammonia, carbon monoxide, and hydrogen cyanide. 69 of these chemicals are carcinogenic
As you can see, many of the health risks we associate with smoking stem directly from combustion. Any smoke contains chemicals, but cigarette smoke is even more poisonous.
To inflame the issue, the tobacco you find in cigarettes is not in its natural state. Instead, it’s heavily treated with chemicals so the tobacco burns quicker and absorbs nicotine more rapidly. Both of these elements translate to more cigarettes smoked and more money for the tobacco companies.
What else can you find in cigarette smoke beyond this laundry list of toxins and carcinogens, then?
What Does Tobacco Smoke Consist Of?
Here are some of the most common chemicals you find in cigarette smoke:
- Carbon monoxide
- Hydrogen cyanide
Now, even if we’re still not clear about the long-term effects of vaping, it has to be better than smoking, right?
Well, we’ll dive deeper into the world of vaping so you can make your own mind up.
What Is Vapor?
Despite the name – it’s just a marketing trick, remember – vapor is the by-product of vaporizing and inhaling an aerosol.
When you heat liquid to the point that it’s converted into gas, vapor is the end result. This is what you’ll be inhaling when you pull on a vaporizer.
So, no combustion is involved in vaporizing, and no smoke is produced. The process doesn’t change the chemical composition of the liquid. Also, and unlike with smoking, no new chemicals or substances are introduced either.
A vaporizer heats liquid – this is known as e-liquid or vape juice – to the point of vaporization.
So far, so good, but what’s in this vapor?
What’s In Vapor?
The main ingredients in vape juice are:
- PG (propylene glycol)
- VG (vegetable glycerin)
E-liquids also commonly contain nicotine and assorted flavorings.
Increasingly, people are vaping THC liquids.
The PG, VG, nicotine, and flavorings are all converted to vapor.
Studies have not shown that second-hand vapor significantly impacts air quality. Nevertheless, you should still refrain from vaping when you’re in close proximity of others. Again, we’re unclear about the long-term effects, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Since vapor is the original substance in liquid form, any contaminants present in the vape juice will also be present in the vapor.
Only buy e-liquid that’s been professionally manufactured under laboratory conditions.
It should be clear by now that smoking involves a huge number of toxins while vaping gives you the ingredients of the juice in gaseous form.
How about the chemicals involved, though? Are they really that harmful?
Smoking vs Vaping: The Chemicals
Your lungs are not designed to breathe in either smoke or vapor. Both smoking and vaping have health implications.
While we have ample evidence for the long-term damage caused by smoking, the infancy of the vape industry means only time will tell.
Chemicals in Smoke
Burning tobacco exposes you to thousands of chemicals, many of them toxic.
Nicotine is an addictive chemical that leads to dependence on cigarettes.
Cigarette smoke also contains the following carcinogens:
- Carbon Monoxide
- Hydrogen Cyanide
These chemicals are not present in the tobacco leaf, but rather result from the combustion process. All these chemicals are strongly associated with serious health conditions like cancer, heart disease, and lung disease.
What’s the story with vaping, then? What do those huge clouds of vapor contain and is it really damaging?
Vaping does not involve combustion, so there are far fewer harmful chemicals produced than you find in cigarette smoke.
Here are the common components of e-liquid:
- Vegetable Glycerin
- Propylene Nitrosamines
The remaining chemicals you find in vape juice are the result of flavorings. While these flavorings are food-grade, they are tested based on being eaten rather than vaporized. Once more, we simply don’t know what will happen over time as a result of this.
As far as the vapor itself goes, the University of California’s Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education has identified 9 chemicals on the list of carcinogens and reproductive toxins in the vapor from e-cigarettes. Not all of these harmful chemicals are found in all vape juices, though.
While there is much about vaping that we don’t know, it’s clear that the safety of vaping is relative to smoking rather than absolute.
Now, we mentioned that more and more vapers are using marijuana in vaporizers. What’s this all about?
Vaping Marijuana and THC Liquid
Traditionally, people have smoked marijuana by rolling up dried parts of the flower into a hand-rolled cigarette called a joint or Blunt.
In many countries, smokers mix tobacco with marijuana to reduce potency and promote even burning. This, obviously, exposes the user to all the dangers of smoking cigarettes. In some ways, the damage is worse since joints are unfiltered.
With vaping, you use a concentrated extract to achieve an even greater high without the many drawbacks of smoking.
Research shows that vaping can deliver a more intense high. First-time marijuana users may find the effect of vaping THC too extreme. Infrequent users may also find the high is stronger than they are accustomed to when vaping THC.
Whether you smoke or vape, the effects are short-lived, peaking within 10 or 15 minutes.
Another trend developing mirrors the original use case of vapes as a smoking cessation tool. Today, more and more heavy weed smokers are using vapes as a way to continue getting high without as many damaging effects as smoking. For a heavy weed smoker, the cost soon becomes prohibitive. Switching to vaping gives you a much more cost-effective delivery system.
So, now for the $64,000 question…
Is Vaping Safer than Smoking Cigarettes?
The core difference between vaping and smoking is that vape juice doesn’t contain any tobacco.
Now, although this is obviously beneficial, tobacco is not the only harmful component of cigarettes. As we’ve outlined at length, there are thousands of toxins and harmful chemicals that come about when combustion is introduced.
While the issues caused by smoking like heart disease and cancer are lethal, they typically don’t manifest for decades. With vaping, by contrast, the CDC has already reported hundreds of illnesses potentially related to vaping.
Many of the chemicals in cigarettes can bring about long-term inflammation leading to chronic diseases like emphysema and bronchitis. E-cigarettes also contain some of these chemicals, even if they are less abundant.
The CDC report the following long-term effects from smoking:
- Increases risk of pregnancy loss and congenital disabilities
- Reduces sperm count
- Increases inflammation
- Impairs functioning of immune system
- Increases risk of cataracts
- Triggers asthma attacks
- Can cause cancer
- Blocks veins and arteries
- Increases risk of stroke
- Damaging to overall health
As the vaping industry matures, more research will become available.
Here are some potential drawbacks of vaping:
Damages the lungs
Weakens the immune system
Releases free radicals into the body
Future studies may show that vaping has long-term health effects not yet discovered. Without long-term studies, we just don’t know what damage vaping will cause over time.
How To Stop Smoking and Vaping
For many cigarette smokers, vaping has proved a good way to quit smoking.
Having said that, vaping is not approved by the FDA for smoking cessation. Studies have not shown that vaping is effective in this regard. As with so many aspects of this young industry, only time will reveal whether or not using a vape to sidestep tobacco is effective in the long-term.
The other issue that arises with vaping as a smoking cessation tool is dual-use. This happens when you vape and smoke interchangeably. Again, there is insufficient hard data to flesh out these concerns right now.
The CDC urges you to use FDA-approved methods if you want to stop smoking. They also suggest you speak with your healthcare provider.
Whatever your addiction, when you decide enough’s enough, get in touch with our friendly team at the District Recovery Community. We can help you assess your problem and we can help you with a personalized treatment plan. Call us today at 844.287.8506.