Smoking vs. Vaping
The question “is vaping bad for you” cannot be taken in isolation. The reason is that if one were to discuss the health risks of vaping, then it is only appropriate if it were compared to cigarette smoking. This is critical because of two reasons.
The first is that vaping by their very nature were made to be a less harmful way of taking nicotine as compared to cigarettes. Second, most vapers tend to be smokers or ex-smokers. Hence, it is important to compare smoking against vaping.
Scientifically speaking, we do not have enough scientific studies directly comparing smoking and vaping. It is a missed opportunity that needs to be taken, given the many benefits of vaping.
As it currently stands, the health risks of smoking are well documented. But we do not have that much data on vaping. Separate from determining how safe vaping is, it is important to find out whether vaping as an alternative is safer than conventional cigarette smoking.
In a study conducted by Public Health England, it was established that vaping was at least 95% safer when compared to cigarette smoking. However, the study acknowledges that the research covers only half the subject since vaping is designed and exists as an alternative to cigarette smoking.
There is a dearth of studies that have conducted a direct comparison. Thus, the current needs are to measure the safety and health risk of vaping against cigarette smoking instead of in isolation.
What Are the Risks of Vaping to Heart Health?
Inhaling anything other than clean air into the lungs always carries some risk. Hence, to be completely safe from health risks, one needs to live without regular vaping or smoking.
While vaping is significantly safer as compared to conventional cigarette smoking, it poses some risk to the heart, and hence you should stay away from vaping if you are a non-smoker.
Some chemicals found in some vaping products could cause some health risks. Aside from the nicotine, propylene glycol and glycerin are the main ingredients in e-juice and oil. These are deemed safe for human use as they are used in many consumer products such as sweeteners, inhaled medicines, cosmetics, foods, and kai.
However, the long-term safety of some of the flavoring substances used in vaping products is still unknown. This is also complicated by the fact that there are new flavors coming out every day even though most are carefully assessed and monitored. Research is still ongoing on the long-term effects of the many ingredients found in e-liquids.
Could You Get Cancer from Vaping?
Cancers are known to result from toxins which mutate or damage cell DNA, making it grow out of control. Cancer can spread, or the tumor can remain local or in some instances, spread from one organ to another. Most people know that cigarette smoking is a leading cause of lung cancer. More Americans die from lung cancer than from any other kind of cancer. However, not everyone who has lung cancer is a smoker.
Smoking has also been linked to other types of cancers. The reason for this is that cancers develop not only in areas and organs that come into contact with smoke but also from byproducts that enter the organs and the bloodstream. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has asserted that one could develop cancer anywhere in the body as a result of smoking.
Vaping has been found to have carcinogens though the risk of one developing cancer is very low. According to a study by the Tobacco Control journal in 2017, you have about a 1% chance of developing cancer when you vape, which is similar to the risk for pharmaceutical products such as nicotine patches. The only byproducts you have to worry about are carbonyls. The only time these are produced is when you overheat the device.
Similar research, including a Mutation Research journal study in 2016, reached a similar conclusion. The study compared cigarette smoke and e-cig vapor on their effectiveness at causing mutations in bacterial cells. The vapor was found to be non-toxic and non-mutagenic while the smoke was toxic and caused bacterial cell mutations.
Nicotine, the ingredient in vapes, cigarettes, and other nicotine products does not definitely cause cancer. In fact, long term studies on Swedish snus users and nicotine replacement therapy patients show that there is little if any link between cancer and nicotine.
A 5 year-long health study by the Royal College of Physicians in 2016, showed no association between sustained use of NRT and cardiovascular disease or cancer. It was one of the most comprehensive studies on the subject that had participants use NRT over several months rather than a few weeks.
Is Vaping Bad for Lung Health?
Smoking has been known to cause all manner of lung diseases. Long term smoking can cause a variety of conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), chronic bronchitis, emphysema, esophageal, and lung cancer. But will vaping have similar risks?
There are several ways your lungs can get damaged by cigarette smoke due to many chemicals in cigarettes. Cigarettes have thousands of chemicals of which over seventy are established carcinogens.
It also came with solid particles in the form of paper and burned tobacco, which can be deposited in the lungs – buried deep in the delicate tissue. Vaping does not contain particulate matter and has little, if any known, carcinogens in quantities that would increase the risk of disease.
In fact, most of the dangerous substances that you ingest from smoking tobacco in cigarettes are not found in vapor. Given that vaping does not have any combustion, you do not have to worry about carbon monoxide or tar – which are some of the worst dangers of smoking tobacco.
Vaping turns e-liquid into an inhalable aerosol by heating it using a coil. The aerosol looks like smoke, but it is more of a vapor. Nonetheless, vaping could present some risks to lung health just like anything you inhale.
There have been concerns raised over the ingredients in e-juice such as vegetable glycerin, propylene glycol, and flavorings. However, there has been no serious research done on the long-term effects of extended inhalation of VG or PG daily.
Studies conducted on animals that used PG inhalation did not show any side effects. PG did show minor irritation in animal studies, but that is not a major health issue itself.
What Are the Dangers of Flavorings for Lung Health?
The flavorings in e-liquids may pose dangers that have not yet been well studied. Flavorings come in a concoction of chemical compounds, and some pose a greater danger to lung health than others. Until very recently, most of the flavorings found in vapes were used in edible products rather than inhalants.
As such, most toxicology studies have been an attempt to determine the safety of flavorings for consumption. Studies still need to be conducted to determine if inhaling these chemicals poses any risk for the lungs.
One of the biggest headliners when it comes to vaping is the presence of diacetyl, a diketone, in some e-liquids. When inhaled in large quantities, the chemicals can result in a deadly disease known as popcorn lung. It gets its name from workers who developed the condition from working in popcorn manufacturing plants.
While not all e-liquids contain diketones, Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos in a 2014 study, came to the conclusion that acetyl propionyl and diacetyl are avoidable risks. Since then, most manufacturers reformulated their products to reduce the levels of diketones or to completely eliminate them.
Diketones are found in cigarettes at rates about 100-750 times what can be found in vaping liquids. But even as smoking causes all manner of lung conditions, popcorn lung is not one of them.
Given how much of diketones are in cigarette smoke, the minute traces in e-liquids should not pose any significant danger. That is not to say that one can take diketones without worrying about side effects. However, vaping is definitely the safer option over cigarette smoking going by the amounts of the chemicals present in each.
So is vaping bad for you? I would have to say that, if you need to have the best health, you should probably go vape free and smoke free.
If you have never smoked, you should not get into vaping. If you are a smoker, vaping can be a significant step that could help you on the road to give up smoking. Vaping is a cheaper and safer alternative.
While we continue to assess and monitor risk for some unknowns, vaping is significantly less harmful as compared to conventional cigarette smoking.
You need to keep in mind that if you decide to quit smoking and get into vaping as an alternative, you need to completely stop smoking. Because even a day of smoking increases the risk of developing heart disease.
Government-funded smoking cessation programs by the Ministry of Health now support vaping as an effective way to help smoker stop smoking all across New Zealand.
You can also get vaping products direct from expert and experienced retailers. They will provide technical information on the maintenance and use of your vaping devices.