Vaping Vs. Smoking: The Safety Debate
Vaping came as a result of the desire to offer a less harmful alternative to cigarette smoking that also provided the same sensation as smoking. Since the advent of vapes there has been debate around whether they are safe or not. There has been consistent back and forth around the benefits or detriments of vaping The following is an overview of the various arguments within the Vaping Vs. Smoking debate.
We’ve known the detriments of smoking since early days of research into the topic during the 50’s. These negative impacts are all too familiar and include, lung cancer, COPD, cardiovascular disease, bronchitis, emphysema, etc. The addiction revolves around ingesting nicotine, but the challenge pertaining to health is around the tar that is created by combusting all the other chemicals that make up cigarettes. 70 known carcinogens are present within cigarettes and some of them occur within the tobacco itself.
The fundamental reason vaping is less harmful than cigarette smoking is because there is no tobacco being combusted, which means there is no tar, or smoke which are the substances that lead to health issues. The e-juice used in vapes contains few ingredients, which include Propylene glycol (PG) and/or vegetable glycerin (VG), nicotine (usually) and flavouring. Bar nicotine, none of these ingredients are linked to adverse health issues.
The basis of the liquid is comprised of PG and VG, which are the carrier oils for the nicotine and flavouring. They are the ingredients that create the smoke cloud when you inhale and exhale from the vape. PG and VG are widely used and known products being included in everything from food to cosmetics. Although there are some who have sensitivities to the products, for the most part people can readily ingest them.
It is true that nicotine has a negative connotation to it due to its relationship with cigarettes. Although many believe it is linked with cancer, this is actually false. It is the other products in cigarettes that contribute to causing cancer. Nicotine is relatively harmless and it can be compared to caffeine. In its pure form, nicotine is toxic but it depends on the dosage. If you ingest a whole lot of nicotine you are likely to get sick, just like if you overdo it on drinking too much coffee. Nicotine is considering a drug though and its ingestion should be taken with care. However, it is not harmful in and of itself.
The flavourings are for the most part, what present the issue when it comes to vaping. Due to the fact that they are artificial many believe that flavourings are harmful. Currently there is no evidence to prove this. There are now strict guidelines that contribute to the safe manufacturing of e-liquids but there are also other considerations to take into account when discussing toxicology of these substances. It is important to consider potential contamination, what bottles they are stored in etc. Currently, because vaping is a newer phenomenon we are still unaware of the long-term impacts of vaping.
So what are the concerns when it comes to vaping?
There is a belief floating around that vaping is a gateway to smoking for children. The statistics point to the opposite of this myth indicating that e-cigarettes actually drive people away from smoking. There is also a belief that vaping is as bad or worse for people than traditional smoking. This is just a case of misinformation as there is certainly no scientific evidence to point to this as truth. People are intrigued by bad news not good news, so when a bad news story gets out it travels quickly. According to current study which are beginning to examine the long term impacts of vaping, the important message is that vaping is 95% safer than cigarette smoking. It must be qualified that this does not mean that vaping is ‘safe’. Inhaling anything other than clean air is never going to be safe but it is an increasingly viable alternative to smoking cigarettes.
Aside from the actual process of smoking there are also public concerns about vaping products. There are now strict regulations in place governing the provision of products in order to maintain a level of consistency in the industry. All products must be reviewed and approved under these regulations before being sold on the market. Child safety caps are considered an industry standard and warnings are included on all bottles and products. Although these regulations have been seen as a setback in the eyes of some retailers and manufacturers due to the increased effort and financial commitment they must put forth to ensure compatibility with the regulations the rules are in place to make sure everyone is safe.
As noted, e-cigarettes are a relatively new phenomenon so there is still work to do in terms of gathering research around their long-term impact. What is certain at this point though is that vapes are 95% safer than cigarettes, which from a harm reduction perspective is a win. If it is possible to prevent people from developing chronic diseases and suffering pre-mature death it is important to consider vapes as an alternative to smoking. If people are going to be smoking anyway, certainly a less harmful option should be considered.