The habit of smoking tobacco cigarettes have been around since the 16th century. It was in the 20th century that the public were finally becoming aware of tobacco industries hiding the negative impact of tobacco on health.
According to the CDC, cigarette smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States. Approximately $9.36 billion was spent on advertising and promoting cigarettes in 2017. Scientific research has long confirmed that smoking causes cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes and many more.
Tobacco kills up to 8 million people each year, which includes both active and passive smokers. Public health officials are trying their best to help smokers quit, but how? The nicotine found in tobacco causes an addiction which is hard to beat.
A brief background on the vaping industry
Vaping, also known as “e-cigarettes,” are electronic devices that contain a heating element which converts liquids into vapour. This vapour is then inhaled. Different from smoking, vape juice contains only a handful of chemicals compared to the thousands in cigarettes. It also lets users make many modifications such as choosing how much nicotine it contains, flavouring etc.
Vapour products are found in specialty shops, convenience stores, and adults can also shop for e-cigarette starter kit online. In addition, vape kits cost less than a daily cigarette habit. Less cost and no smoke is hard to resist for those struggling with smoking.
This is why vaping has become widely popular in the last decade. There has been a surge in the number of people who vape going from 7 millions in 2011 to 41 million in 2018.
At first glance, it seems to have many upsides making it an attractive alternative for smokers. This is despite the fact that vaping nicotine is still addictive. However, the recent cases in the US of over 2,000 people falling ill due to vaping-related illnesses has raised serious concerns on whether or not vaping is safe.
The CDC has confirmed that vitamin E acetate is responsible for the outbreak. This chemical thickens THC, a psychoactive component of marijuana. The CDC recommend sellers not to use this chemical in products and for vapers not to buy any products from informal sources. On the other hand, the FDA warns consumers to stop using vaping products containing THC.
Unfortunately, vaping is also attractive to non-smokers especially since marketing campaigns seem to target them specifically. The FDA has been criticized widely for not regulating the sale of e-cigarettes sooner. However, in light of the outbreak, they do not recommend non-smokers, teenagers and pregnant women to start vaping at all.
Is vaping more dangerous than smoking?
For smokers, vaping is either a do-it-yourself toolkit to stop smoking, or a way to continue the habit without the scary adverse health effects. Choosing e-cigarettes over traditional cigarettes is seen as a gentler means of quitting. It offers a gradual transition as opposed to quitting cold turkey or using more traditional but scientifically proven methods. For example a nicotine patch.
Most vape juices are a mix of vegetable glycerin, propylene glycol, nicotine and flavouring. All of these play their own vital role in creating an enjoyable vape experience. It is important to research thoroughly before making a decision. Many vaping accidents have also called for industries to improve their own safety protocols.
E-cigarettes may or may not contain nicotine, depending on the preference of the user. Some can even expose users to more nicotine than traditional cigarettes, and then the concern becomes overdosing on nicotine.
One research showed using an e-cigarette containing nicotine increased the chances of smoking cessation in the long term. But, there is not enough data to see if there are any adverse health effects of switching to vape.
What about non-nicotine e-cigarettes?
It is possible to reduce the amount of nicotine you consume until you do not need it at all. One study found that using e-cigs could help people quit nicotine with benefits of behavioral and sensory gratification. However, smokers tend to remain vaping to maintain the habit of smoking because of the social value it carries.
There are alternatives to smoking nicotine vapes. We already discussed cannabis vapes, and the dangers currently associated with them. Yet there are other options out there. These include vitamin vapes, energy vapes, and even the practice of vaping essential oils.
So, vaping or smoking?
With all this back and forth, what is the verdict on whether or not vaping is a healthier alternative to smoking? The CDC agrees that e-cigarettes can help smokers provided they completely substitute them for their traditional cigarettes.
Some doctors actually advocate for vaping to become a nicotine-replacement therapy (NRT). There are many personal testimonies from patients who benefit from vaping as a quitting aid. A vast majority of them have tried every other way to quit before and failed.
There is also research pointing out that the damage to the cells from smoking cigarettes and vaping is the same, but that largely depends on the vape products. Did they get it from a from a trusted seller? This question should be homework for the public, healthcare providers and regulatory boards.
If you are considering a healthier alternative and wish to make the switch, consult your doctor first. We know that smoking is bad based on a lot of research. Meanwhile, we do not know the true long term effects of vaping due to lack of research. Remember, vaping companies have been pushing their products long before any scientific evidence could prove their benefit.
There is a global call for more action taken regarding vaping because it leaves the public confused. There are specific circumstances in which vaping is a healthier alternative for smokers.