You've probably heard some differing opinions on the overall safety of vaping and how it compares to cigarettes and tobacco products. With statements ranging from "Vaping is totally safe and has no potential harm," to "Vaping is toxic, deadly, and worse than a nuclear disaster," it is no surprise that many people are asking “is vaping harmful? and are curious about the general safety of vaping. We took a look at some of the hard science and put together this guide to help you understand vaping and its effect on health.
This page will take a look at if vaping is harmful, if vaping is safe, vaping vs. smoking cigarettes, smoking cigars, and the addictive properties of nicotine.
VAPING VS. CIGARETTES
According to the Royal College of Physicians in the UK, e-cigarettes cause less than 5% of the harm of smoking tobacco. For the most part, e-cigarettes and vaporizers cause significantly less harm than cigarettes. Despite this fact, many media outlets and organizations continue to forward the idea that vaping is just as harmful as smoking cigarettes. While vaping delivers nicotine, it does not contain many of the harmful chemicals and cancer-causing tar that is prevalent in cigarette smoke.
A study carried out by the Roswell Park Cancer Institute, discovered that e-cigarette vapor toxicants “were 9-450 times lower than in cigarette smoke.” These findings indicate just how much less of the problematic chemicals someone using a vaporizer with premium liquid would get in comparison to someone smoking a cigarette.
Another study conducted by Konstantinos Farsalinos, a cardiologist and e-cigarette expert at the University of Patras in Greece, discovered that in comparison to cigarette smoking, e-cigarette use has little effect on the overall cardiovascular system. This study suggests that e-cigarette use over smoking cigarettes could result in improvements in the overall long-term health of users.
IS VAPING E-CIGARS HARMFUL?
Traditional cigar smoke contains more toxins and tar than standard cigarette smoke. While this is true, there are some differences in the way people use cigars in comparison to cigarettes and vaporizers. Cigarettes typically take a few minutes to smoke, and users tend to inhale the smoke. Most cigar users do not inhale the smoke and just savor the flavor of the smoke in their mouth. Smoking like this can still allow the smoker to absorb the nicotine. However, Cigars take much longer to smoke than a standard cigarette. Larger cigars can burn for as long as an hour.
Although most cigar smokers claim that they do not inhale, this may not be entirely accurate. Many cigar users end up inhaling a small amount of smoke without realizing it. A standard cigar can contain as much nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes. Because of this, cigars tend to be much worse than cigarettes or vaporizers when it comes to the effects on a person’s health.
COMMON VAPING MISCONCEPTIONS
Numerous studies illustrate the increased adverse effects of smoking tobacco over e-cigarettes. Even though these studies exist in high numbers, they do not tend to get the mainstream attention they deserve. One study that did get a huge amount of press was a study done by Portland State University that discovered e-cigarettes can produce formaldehyde when used at high temperatures.
The headline that e-cigarettes contained the known carcinogen formaldehyde quickly spread across the internet. After this study had come out, a headline at NBC.com read “Before You Vape: High Levels of Formaldehyde in E-Cigs,” and an article from Tech Times had the title “E-Cigarettes Not Safer Than Ordinary Cigarettes.” The biggest problem with this study and the articles that followed was that the voltages at which the vaporizers were producing formaldehyde were so high that no average person would ever be able to inhale the vapor produced.
Konstantinos Farsalinos has carried out studies similar to the one done at Portland State University. At the voltages that were producing formaldehyde, it was nearly impossible to inhale. No people using vaporizers are doing so at these voltages, and yet, this headline was pushed as a fact and given credibility. It is impossible to know how many millions of people read these headlines and continued to smoke cigarettes over the fear that e-cigarettes produce formaldehyde.
Media outlets wrote many sensationalist stories about this study without ever mentioning that the authors of the study stated that vaporizers produced no formaldehyde at lower and more average temperatures. Even the authors of the study felt frustrated that their data was being used to tout the idea that e-cigarettes are worse than tobacco. In a conversation with the New York Times, David Peyton, one of the authors of the PSU study stated, “It is exceedingly frustrating to me that we are being associated with saying that e-cigarettes are more dangerous than cigarettes. That is a fact not in the evidence.
IS NICOTINE ADDICTIVE?
While the vapor produced by e-cigarettes tends to have much fewer toxins and harmful substances than cigars or cigarettes, it does still contain nicotine. This chemical has gotten an enormous amount of negative press ever since the discovery that cigarettes and cigars can cause cancer. While nicotine is addictive, it does not cause cancer on its own. This statement may be an obvious fact to some, but to many others, this is not the case. A survey taken by the Royal Society for Public Health discovered that 90% of people in the UK believe that nicotine causes cancer, and is the primary cancer-causing substance in cigarettes.
Even though tobacco is one of the most addictive substances on Earth, falling short only to heroin and cocaine, nicotine on its own may not be as addictive as once thought. Nicotine is the primary addictive substance in tobacco, but recent research indicates that on its own it may not be nearly as addictive when consumed in tobacco. A study published in Neuropharmacology stated, “Tobacco use has one of the highest rates of addiction of any abused drug. Paradoxically, in animal models, nicotine appears to be a weak reinforcer.” Could it be that nicotine, along with a combination of other substances, may be what cause tobacco to be so addictive rather than just nicotine alone?
A 2015 study by Harvard University analyzed some of the additives typical in “light” cigarettes that are known as pyrazines. These chemicals were first added to cigarettes after major tobacco companies noticed that their sales started to decline following the discovery that cigarettes could cause cancer. The companies then began searching for ways to create a lighter cigarette that produced less tar. Their initial attempts failed, and “light” cigarettes failed to sell.
Enter pyrazines. These chemicals produced a unique blend of enticing aroma reminiscent of full flavor cigarettes and also contributed to the overall dependence that cigarette smokers developed when using the product. The Harvard study discovered that these pyrazines optimize nicotine delivery to the brain and aid in developing cued and learned behavior. The study concluded that these additives promote addiction by assisting in nicotine delivery. Nicotine may not be the only thing about cigarettes that is addictive.
While studies such as these are promising and indicate that nicotine alone may not be the primary culprit in tobacco’s incredibly addictive properties, there is still some speculation about how addictive nicotine is on its own. Whenever using nicotine, be cautious and understand that it is addicting on some level, although that level may be much lower than previously believed.
So, is vaping harmful? Is vaping bad?
At the end of the day, you have to decide for yourself.