Since vaping emerged as a mainstream “alternative” to tobacco cigarettes, there has been much debate on its safety. In this article, we’ll explore vaping, its rise in popularity, statistics on its safety, how it compares to traditional smoking, and potential treatment options for vaping addiction.
But What Is Vaping?
Vaping is inhaling water vapor from an electronic cigarette (e-cigarette). You’re inhaling the smoke from burning tobacco when you smoke a cigarette. Vaping uses a battery-powered heating element to turn liquid into a vapor, which you then inhale and exhale like smoke.
Also known as e-cigarettes, they essentially heat liquids, usually containing nicotine, propylene glycol, and flavorings, to create vapors which are then inhaled.
Some people claim that vaping has helped them quit smoking and improve their health; others claim that vaping may cause cancer and other long-term illnesses.
Vaping vs. Smoking: The Harmful Effects
Vaping and smoking may seem similar, but these two activities differ. Some say vaping is the new smoking, and some say that it’s not – but what exactly are the harmful effects of smoking? Are they that harmful?
Harmful Effects Of Vaping
In recent years, more and more people have been vaping as a replacement for smoking. In many cases, it has been very effective in helping consumers transition from traditional cigarettes to a vapor-based alternative, giving them their nicotine fix without the harmful physical effects of inhaling smoke.
E-cigarettes were designed not to contain as many chemicals as traditional cigarette smoke, but most people don’t realize that the product is not entirely safe. Also, different vape liquids have different ingredients that users may or may not pay attention to. Here are some of the most common harmful effects of vaping:
- Can worsen asthma and other lung conditions: vaping can worsen existing asthma, increase the risk of suffering from asthma, and increase the risk of other lung conditions.
- Could cause permanent lung scarring: diacetyl (a flavoring ingredient) can cause “popcorn lung,” which can cause lung tissue to scar and thicken permanently.
- Increased risk of heart and brain damage: some e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is known to hurt brain development in young people and raise blood pressure.
- Higher risk of addiction: due to the presence of nicotine and other substances.
- Increased risk of cancer: some ingredients might be associated with cancer, especially after long-term use.
- This may lead to smoking traditional cigarettes: vaping is associated with smoking later on.
Harmful Effects Of Smoking
It’s common knowledge that smoking is seriously bad for your health. Thousands of chemicals and toxins are released when you light up a cigarette. Many of these chemicals would need to be used long-term to cause harmful effects. Here are some common effects of smoking:
- Harms nearly every organ in the body: more than 16 million Americans live with diseases caused by smoking. Smoking-related conditions include cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and more.
- Exposes others to second-hand smoking: exposure to smokers contributes to 41,000 adult and 400 infant deaths yearly in the U.S.
- Increases the risk of breathing problems and other respiratory diseases: smoking causes at least 90% of lung cancer cases in the US.
- This may lead to dental problems and vision and hearing loss: more than 4 in every ten adults aged 20 to 64 smoke cigarettes and have untreated tooth decay.
The first e-cigarettes entered the Chinese market in 2003, rapidly gaining popularity in their home country and expanding to other continents in the following years. In 2011, there were an estimated 7 million adult users worldwide, but by 2020 that number had grown to 68 million, and 82 million in 2021. In 2022, about 1 in 10 or more than 2.5 million U.S. middle and high school students currently use e-cigarettes.
Other vital statistics include the following:
- 14.1% (2.14 million) of high school students and 3.3% (380,000) of middle school students reported current e-cigarette use.
- Nearly 85% of users prefer fruit-flavored vapes.
- Over 4 in 10 youth e-cigarette users report using them at least 20 of the last 30 days.
Vaping among children, teenagers, and young adults has generated particular controversy. According to the CDC, vaping is harmful to them, and most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is highly addictive and may harm brain development until the mid-20s.
Additionally, younger people who vape have a higher chance of eventually smoking traditional cigarettes.
Vaping Safety Measures
While vaping poses a smaller risk to your health than cigarettes, it’s still not entirely safe. However, you can take some safety measures if you are in the process of quitting or if you have not yet decided to quit.
- Avoid vaping products that contain THC (the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis).
- Don’t obtain vaping devices from friends, family, or untrustworthy online dealers.
- Only use substances that the manufacturer intended. Don’t add any foreign substances to your devices.
- Keep your devices and vaping products away from pets and children.
- Keep the e-liquid away from your skin. The concentrated nicotine may cause side effects if it touches it.
- Immediately stop using a vape if you feel dizzy, nauseous, or sick.
Overcoming Vaping Or Tobacco Addiction
Vaping and tobacco addictions are not that different from most other addictions. The tricky part comes in the form of social acceptance. Since vaping and smoking are highly socially acceptable, it can be hard even to recognize you have a problem – especially for younger vapers.
Interventions like taking advice from a healthcare worker or reading informational materials can be an excellent first step toward treatment. There are also FDA-approved medications to help with tobacco addiction, such as bupropion and varenicline. There are no FDA-approved medications specifically for vaping, though. Medications used for tobacco may help vapers, but there’s no solid evidence.
For most addictions, a combination of medication and behavioral therapy is proven very effective for recovery. If you think you are addicted to vaping or smoking, seek help, and your physician will provide you with a recovery plan.