Vaping Vs. Smoking: Which is the Healthier Choice?

Health Vaping Guides

Discussions on vaping’s health risks should begin with a comparison to cigarette smoking, as vapes are meant to be less harmful alternatives, especially relevant to smokers and ex-smokers.

According to a study from the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco, misleading information downplays vaping’s relative safety compared to smoking.

The researchers advocate for acknowledging e-cigarettes’ potential in helping adult smokers quit. They argue that vaping’s effectiveness in smoking cessation could be enhanced if accurate information about its risks and benefits were more widely disseminated and if public health policies were more supportive of vaping as a smoking cessation tool.

Currently, they note that this approach is not adequately implemented. That said, which exactly is the healthier choice between the two?

The Impact of Vaping on Your Lungs

Cigarette smoking inflicts well-known damage on the lungs. Chronic inhalation of burning tobacco leads to serious diseases like lung and esophageal cancer, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Since cigarette smoke contains thousands of chemicals including over 70 carcinogens and particulate matter, it can increase the risk of cancer and COPD when it gets deeply embedded in the lung tissue.

In contrast, vaping does not produce known carcinogens in significant quantities, nor does it contain the solid particles found in smoke. The most harmful elements of burning tobacco – tar and carbon monoxide – are absent in vaping, which involves heating e-liquid with a metal coil to create an aerosol, mimicking smoke without actual combustion.

However, vaping isn’t completely risk-free for lung health.

There are still concerns about the long-term effects of inhaling the common e-liquid ingredients: propylene glycol (PG), vegetable glycerin (VG), and flavorings. While extensive human studies are lacking, animal studies haven’t shown significant issues with PG inhalation.

PG can cause minor airway irritation, but this isn’t typically seen as a major concern.

A Link Between Vaping and Cancer

Cancers develop when toxins damage cell DNA, leading to uncontrolled growth and multiplication. While tumors can be localized, cancer can also spread or metastasize to other organs.

Lung cancer is commonly linked to smoking which affects smokers and ex-smokers predominantly.

Smoking can cause various other cancers too. The CDC notes that smoking can lead to cancer almost anywhere in the body, not just from direct smoke exposure but also from smoke byproducts in the bloodstream and organs.

While vaping does contain carcinogens, it’s at a level that suggests a very low cancer risk. A 2017 study in Tobacco Control found vaping’s cancer risk comparable to nicotine gums or patches, less than one percent that of smoking. The study noted a risk from carbonyls, which form when vaping devices overheat.

A 2016 study in Mutation Research compared e-cigarette vapor and cigarette smoke on their ability to cause cell mutations in bacteria. Cigarette smoke was mutagenic and toxic while e-cig vapor was neither.

Nicotine, which is also present in cigarettes, vapes, and other products, hasn’t been proven to cause cancer. Studies on nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and Swedish snus users show no clear link between nicotine and cancer, though concerns remain about nicotine’s potential role in promoting tumor growth.

The 2016 Royal College of Physicians report, citing the 5-year Lung Health Study, found no association between long-term NRT use and cancer (lung, gastrointestinal, or any) or cardiovascular disease, reinforcing the idea that nicotine, when separated from the harmful components of smoke, may be less dangerous than previously thought.

The Bottom Line

Cigarette smoking causes extensive damage to the body, and it’s a fact that’s well-established and proven. However, evidence of similar harm from vaping is limited, with the main concern being nicotine dependence.

Notably, nicotine itself is not directly linked to the severe health issues associated with smoking.

Public Health England (PHE) has been clear in its assessment: vaping is at least 95 percent safer than smoking. This perspective is crucial as vaping primarily serves as an alternative to smoking. PHE’s stance highlights the importance of comparing the potential, but lower, risks of vaping to the well-documented dangers of smoking.

Overall, vaping presents a significantly reduced risk to users compared to traditional smoking.

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