Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Vaping Vs. Smoking
Answering the question of if vaping is better than smoking cigarettes can be surprisingly tricky, that’s why we made this handy guide
Understanding the real value of vaping always requires comparing it with traditional smoking. Just as e-cigarettes were invented as a way to help smokers kick their bad habit, the overwhelming majority of people who vape today are former smokers. As such, without vaping most of the over 20 million regular vapers around the world would likely still be smoking. That’s not to mention the millions of more smokers that could successfully quit in the future if public health officials appropriately utilize it.
That’s why it’s such a shame to see e-cig vs. cigarette such a hotly debated topic when it should be a clear cut choice for anyone. Too many people ask is vaping worse than smoking, when the evidence is clear. With that in mind, we’ve created this article that goes over everything you ought to know about vaping vs. smoking. Making this task harder is the lack of long-term and replicated research on the relatively brand new e-cigarettes. So let’s sort out the facts from the myths in our quest to understand vaping vs. smoking.
Is Vaping Safer Than Smoking For Your Health?
We can all agree that smoking is one of the worst things you can do for your short and long-term health. Even Big Tobacco companies can no longer deny the grave effects of their products after nearly 70 years of hard evidence on the myriad of damage they cause. In fact, smoking is the leading cause of preventable death and disease around the world to this day.
A 2014 report by the Surgeon General’s Office concluded that over 16 million Americans are dealing with one form of smoking-related disease, with almost half a million deaths every single year. To fully understand if vaping is better than smoking, we’ll first go over the most significant and common conditions attributed to tobacco and compare it with the research on vape smoke.
Probably the most well known and feared condition caused by exposure to cigarette smoke is various forms of cancer, including most commonly lung cancer which is one of the most easily spread types. While not all cases of lung cancer can be attributed to first or second-hand smoke, the vast majority are, and given its spreadability, it kills more Americans than any other cancer annually. But cigarette smoking has been connected with a much longer list of cancers, including but not limited to blood, liver, colon, kidney, pancreas, and stomach.
While there isn’t one single substance that causes all of the cancer cases, we know of thousands of potentially dangerous materials found in the smoke and tar produced by burning cigarettes. Fortunately for vapers, the only substance shared between smoke and vape, nicotine, has never been shown to increase the chances of developing cancer. Several long-term studies have shown that nicotine replacement therapies, as well as some forms of snus, do not lead to cancer.
In 2016, the Royal College of Physicians published a report called, “Nicotine Without Smoke” that went in depth for the first time about the effects of nicotine use on the body without the typically associated chemicals from cigarette smoke. Their findings were fantastic for vapers, as they confirmed “no association between sustained NRT use and the occurrence of cancer (lung, gastrointestinal or any cancer) or cardiovascular disease.”
Likely the most deadly substance is the thick tar which coats the lungs and over time dramatically increases the chances of developing tumors. Vaporizers do not produce any tar at all because they don’t burn anything. That being said, there is still a relative lack of long-term information on chemicals in vape. But that doesn’t mean the peer-reviewed research we do have isn’t encouraging.
Backing up these results was a recent study published by the University of St. Andrews that concluded the cancer risk posed by vape smoke is likely to be around the same as nicotine patches and gum, much less than 1%. These findings were exceptionally well received by both the vaping community as well as researchers who still had questions about the harm reduction value of vaporizers.
Heart Disease / Stroke
Around one-third of deaths caused by heart disease in the US, every year can be directly attributed to smoking. These can come in several different forms, from heart attacks, strokes, and aneurysms. There is a ton of research that indicates how much smoking increases your chances of developing one of these conditions. Just like with cancer, it’s the plethora of dangerous chemicals and substances that cause the smoke and vape health debate to be relatively easy to judge.
That being said, the primary CAUSE of these heart conditions is the havoc these substances wreck on your biome. Smoking has been shown to increase your triglycerides while simultaneously lowering your “good” cholesterol. Both of these factors can significantly increase the prevalence and endurance of plaque buildups in the arteries. When these blockages break free, it can lead to clots, which can become very deadly when they cause a stroke.
Similarly to cancer, nicotine has never been shown to be a cause of heart disease. However, once you’ve been diagnosed with a heart condition, it becomes essential to monitor your nicotine intake. But this is the same with another substance that people hardly ever think of as dangerous, caffeine. Both caffeine and nicotine act by constricting the blood vessels, which may cause spikes in blood pressure or heart rate.
Vaping vs. Smoking Cigarettes With Lung Diseases
The most common form of disease caused by smoking is lung conditions. These vaping vs. smoking lung conditions are all very serious. While the short-term side effects of smoking can be relatively innocuous, such as a sore throat or nausea, long-term use of cigarettes leads to several debilitating lung conditions. Let’s go over the most common afflictions.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
One of the most common groups of diseases that long-time smokers face is known as COPD. It can include anything from emphysema to chronic bronchitis and drastically reduces your ability to breath deeply. Watching someone die from a COPD condition can often be dramatic with the patient gasping for air, to no avail.
The effects of COPD are relatively small in scope but have severe consequences for anyone diagnosed. The alveoli (the little airbags that make up the lungs) lose their ability to stretch and adequately absorb oxygen as the COPD progresses. At the same time, the walls between the alveoli and that make up the airways become porous and less able to transfer enough oxygen. If that wasn’t bad enough, your lungs try to fight the condition by increasing the amount of mucus produced, which sometimes blocks airways further.
This happens because the lungs are attempting to fight off the chemicals by making more mucus which when left unchecked only causes more damage. There is no cure for COPD, but there are two things about it that should have vapers excited. First, no evidence has ever connected vaping with an increased likelihood of developing COPD. What’s more is that some studies have even indicated that switching from smoking to vaping could improve the condition of patients.
While not all forms of Asthma are related to cigarette smoke, several different types are made a lot more severe by continued tobacco use. This is most likely due to smoke triggering the same set of responses from your lungs as Asthma flare-ups would. That being said, no evidence suggests vaping increases the rate of flare-ups or the severity of their condition. In fact, research published earlier this year by Dr. Riccardo Polosa concluded that e-cigarettes might be helping patients increase their quality of life. Mainly through effective smoking cessation help.
The Myth of Popcorn Lung
While it’s never been proven in any way whatsoever, there continues to be no shortage of articles claiming that vaping directly leads to a debilitating condition known as Bronchiolitis Obliterans or popcorn lung. It hasn’t even ever been associated with traditional cigarette smoking either, which begs the question, where did these stories come from?
The answer is that a few questionable additives in the early days of vaping such as diacetyl were painted as directly leading to popcorn lung. While these claims are misleading at best, regardless the truth is that no reputable e-liquid makers have used any of the offending substances in many years. If you’re a vaper today, you simply don’t have to give more than two thoughts to the prospect of popcorn lung.
Vaping vs. Smoking During Pregnancy
Most people understand that smoking during pregnancy can cause severe damage to the unborn child. One of the primary reasons it’s so dangerous is that the increase in carbon monoxide significantly decreases the amount of oxygen in the blood and ultimately to the child. This reduction in oxygen when left unchecked can lead to complications as well as miscarriages. There’s also research which indicates smoking while pregnant is a significant factor in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS.
That being said, nicotine itself has been shown not to cause any harm to the unborn child. Given that the only ingredient shared between vaping and smoking is often the nicotine, this is good news for expecting mothers who are having trouble quitting smoking outright. A study published on ResearchGate indicated that not only are traditional nicotine replacement therapies such as patches, safe for the baby but possibly, more importantly, it suggested they aren’t very effective at helping smokers quit during pregnancy.
On the other hand, several well-respected researchers, including Prof. Linda Bauld believe that vaping should be encouraged for pregnant women if the alternative would be continued smoking during the pregnancy. She even released a report that aimed to help healthcare providers and midwives understand the significant harm reduction value of e-cigarettes. This could be a significant step forward in ensuring that expecting mothers know what their options are and how they can affect the development of their baby.
It’s long been understood that smoking helps users lose weight, creating a hard to give up bonus of the extremely deadly habit. But it turns out that the primary reason why smoking has this effect is the nicotine. That means anyone worried about gaining weight by switching to vaping shouldn’t worry. The appetite suppressing effects of nicotine have been noted in vaping as well as smoking. Vaping has proven so effective at this task, that some researchers have even begun studying the prospect of e-cigarettes as a weight control aid.
Side Effects of Smoking Vs. Vaping
Finally, we’re going to briefly go over some of the most significant side effects of smoking and then compare that with the significant side effects of vaping. You may still somehow be asking yourself is vaping worse than cigarettes, or if there is a difference in e-cig vs. vapes, so let’s go over more information. That way you’ll have a clearer picture of precisely the differences of each habit.
Effects Of Smoking
In addition to the laundry list of debilitating conditions caused by tobacco smoke, including cancer, heart disease, COPD, and asthma, there are several other side effects of smoking that should be noted in any discussion of the risk. In the interest of time we’re just going to list a small selection of the alternative effects of tobacco use:
- Eye cataracts, macular degeneration
- Loss of sense of smell and taste
- Yellow teeth, tooth decay, and bad breath
- Possible hearing loss
- Contributes to osteoporosis
- Chronic bronchitis
- Stomach ulcers
- Early wrinkles
- Slower healing wounds
- Increased likelihood of back pain
- Increased susceptibility to infection
- Early menopause
- Damaged sperm and reduced sperm
As you can see, and already probably know, smoking is one of the worst things you can do for your long-term health and happiness. But how do the common side effects of vaping compare with this listing?
Effects Of Vaping
As we’ve gone over, vaping hasn’t ever been connected to any serious long-term health effects, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any side effects at all. We’re going to briefly go over a few common side effects of vaping as well as what causes them and if they’re long-term issues.
The most common side effect of vaping is simple dehydration, which can come in the form of dry skin, mouth, throat, and even eyes. This happens because most of the ingredients in e-liquids are what’s known as humectants, which actively absorb the moisture in any environment. If left unchecked, this simple dryness can lead to a sore throat, prolonged coughing, headaches, as well as nosebleeds. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to avoid any of these issues as long as you keep up on your fluid intake.
The next most common side effect noted by vapers is related to the nicotine usually present in e-liquids. As such, these particular effects could be viewed as side effects of nicotine, as opposed to vaping, but it directly impacts a significant portion of daily vapers. Putting too much nicotine in your system can have some uncomfortable effects such as dizziness, headaches, nausea, cold sweats, insomnia, racing heart, and even ringing ears. The best way to avoid this is by just being aware of how strong your e-liquid is and not using too much in one session.
Next, it’s important to note that while there are people who were born allergic to propylene glycol (PG) and vegetable glycerin (VG), most people would already know about this before picking up a vape because both these ingredients are commonly found in foods. That being said, mild sensitivity to these substances has been noted and would be much more likely to go unnoticed until picking up vaping. These cases generally manifest as something similar to dry skin or dehydration.
But be careful! You may be allergic to one of the wide variety of flavorings added to e-liquids. In these cases, you could potentially be exposing yourself to something you’re deathly allergic too. So if you know you’re allergic to anything used as a flavoring, always double check the ingredients to ensure your safety.
While there has been lots of media attention to the dangers of e-liquid poisoning, the actual threat is much tamer. It is true that ingesting a strong e-liquid can potentially become deadly, especially for young children, the truth is that these incidents are extremely rare. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take care to ensure your e-liquids are appropriately put away if you’ve got any little ones in the house. It only takes one mistake!
Safety and Risks of Vaping vs. Smoking
Understanding the health effects of vaping vs. smoking is important, but there is also danger outside of the health effects that should be noted.
Smoking-related fires accounted for nearly 20% of all house-fire related deaths, according to a 2013 report by the National Fire Protection Association. That means over 17,000 structure fires occurred due to smoking alone. Vaping, on the other hand, doesn’t lead to fires in the same way, but explosions and subsequent fires are still a concern. According to a report published last year by the United States Fire Administration, there have only been 195 separate cases of critical battery failure and explosion between January 2009 and December 31st, 2016.
Of these incidents, only 38 (or 29%) of them lead to severe injuries. As you can see, vaping still presents a potential for harm, but this risk is dwarfed in comparison with the rates of tobacco-related fires each year. Even when taking into account how many more smokers there are, the numbers still strongly support vaping. After all, we’re talking 121,000 tobacco-related structure fires compared with only 195 vaping explosions over a seven-year span.
Another important to discuss comparison between vaping and smoking is the difference between second-hand smoke and vapor. As you probably know, second-hand smoke has been directly tied to increased rates of many of the same deadly conditions as first-hand smoking. These include various forms of cancer and heart disease. Second-hand vapor, on the other hand, has never been shown to extend the risk to bystanders. In fact, a recent study by the San Diego State University tested the indoor air quality of homes around the area and sorted them by the households stance on smoking and vaping. After analyzing the findings, they concluded, “We observed no apparent difference in the weekly mean particle distribution between 43 homes reporting any electronic cigarette usage and those reporting none.” This is fantastic news for anyone wondering if their vaping habit is severely affecting their loved ones.
Cost of Smoking vs. Vaping
One of the best reasons most people reference as to why they made a switch is a dramatic reduction in costs over time. Depending on which state you live in, smokers in America can spend upwards of $5,000 every year on cigarettes. This number is only going to increase as legislators continue their mad dash to add as much tax on tobacco products as the market can stand.
Vaping, on the other hand, will save you huge chunks of cash over time. The only issue is the startup costs can be quite high depending on what type of vaporizer you opt for. The most basic, disposable cig-a-like vaporizers go for around $9, but last, as long as three packs of cigarettes, cutting your per pack cost down to $3. Using these vaporizers you’d only spend around $1300 every year, and these are the least cost-effective e-cigarettes. If you opt instead for a box mod and refillable tank, which does require a steeper starting cost, you’ll only be purchasing new coils and e-liquid after that, both of which are very cheap, especially when bought in bulk. At this point, the same smoker who spent $5000 per year on cigarettes could cut their yearly cost down to a mere $500.
Is Making The Switch For You?
As we’ve gone over, there as a massive number of reasons to make the switch to vaping. Not only is vaping much safer than smoking regarding both long and short-term health, but also in cost savings as well. While a lifetime of tobacco will likely lead to cancer or stroke, vaping hasn’t been shown to increase your risk for any of these deadly diseases. That being said, it’s not harmless and care still must be taken when using and charging batteries, or storing your e-liquids so children cannot reach them.
The bottom line is that smoking is terrible for you and vaping is not only a fantastic harm reduction tool, but it’s also the absolute best smoking cessation tool we currently have at our disposal according to research. A study published by researchers at the University of Louisville analyzed the success rate of all the most common smoking cessation devices from cold-turkey all the way through prescription drugs. They concluded that vaping was even better at helping smokers quit once and for all than the prescription cessation aids like Chantix.
You’ll never know if vaping works for you unless you give it a shot. For a growing number of people, vaping has proven to be the thing that helped them finally kick their smoking habit. But that doesn’t mean it’s quick for everyone. You must first decide if the benefits are significant enough for you to commit to a switch. If your question is simply is vaping better than smoking cigarettes, the answer is a resounding yes!
These days we have a large selection of products to choose from which can help more people find precisely what’s perfect for them. As these vapes get more advanced, it becomes easier to foster the exact experience you’re looking for. So if you’re a smoker that wants to avoid the terrible ailments listed above, it’s on you to make the switch. We showed you all how smoking compares with vaping, so now the choice is up to you.