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HomeHealthVaping vs smoking: Which is more harmful?

Vaping vs smoking: Which is more harmful?

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Despite what some people might say, vaping should not be considered a completely safe alternative to smoking. There is still insufficient evidence on its long-term effects and the existing studies suggest it may come with many of the same risks that regular cigarettes have.

Health experts have argued and discussed the potential risks posed by e-cigarettes and vaping devices for years. Comparing their respective hazards is still a subject of debate.

The idea that vaping is safer than smoking was perpetuated by the fact that electronic cigarettes contain no tobacco and do not emit tar. However, with a surge in reported cases of lung injuries related to vaping in 2019, doubts were cast on whether vaping is really harmless.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), some experts tout vaping as a less harmful alternative to smoking cigarettes. However, the former is not without its own set of health risks. Furthermore, since e-cigarettes are a relatively new product, the long-term effects of vaping are still unknown.

Comparing the risks

Despite being very similar in terms of potential health risks, there are differences in the severity of these risks when it comes to vaping and smoking. To illustrate this better, here’s a comparison between the two when it comes to the most serious health issues:

Respiratory conditions

Inhaling cigarette smoke or vape fumes can irritate the respiratory tract, leading to numerous health problems such as:

  • asthma
  • chronic bronchitis
  • emphysema

Cigarette smoking is a major contributor to the development of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). COPD consists of two long-term respiratory problems, namely chronic bronchitis & emphysema. The risk factors associated with smoking are quite high, and people should take these warnings seriously.

Although the long-term effects of vaping are still being researched, a 2020 study indicated that current e-cigarette users have around 40% greater probability of having a breathing disorder than those who have never smoked or vaped.

A 2019 study revealed that those who smoke e-cigarettes and combustible cigarettes are more likely to develop respiratory diseases than people who exclusively use one or the other. This finding echoes a similar link established previously.

Some e-cigarette or vape products have been found to contain diacetyl, a chemical that imparts a buttery flavor to certain vape “juices”. If inhaled in large amounts, this chemical may lead to the development of popcorn lung, an irreversible condition resulting in scarring of the airways.

Heart disease

Smoking can be a major contributing factor to high blood pressure, irregular heart rate and poorer cardiovascular function. It can also lead to the ingestion of a vast amount of toxic chemicals which can negatively affect heart health, thus increasing your risk of developing heart disease.

As per a recent brief published by the World Health Organization, 20% of deaths related to heart diseases can be attributed to smoking.

The impact of vaping on cardiovascular health is still not fully understood, however some studiesTrusted Source point to an elevation in blood pressure & heart rate.

According to a 2022 study, the stress test results of people who vape, smoke, and those who don’t do either were compared. The findings revealed that individuals in the vaping group performed worse than those in the control group but slightly better than those in the smoking group.

Cancer

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), smokers are 30 times more likely than non-smokers to develop and die from lung cancer. Studies have also discovered links between smoking tobacco and higher risks of getting colon, throat, as well as breast cancer.

The long-term effects of e-cigarettes are still unknown, but studies have shown that some of the same carcinogenic ingredients found in regular cigarettes are present in certain e-cigarette products including:

  • formaldehyde
  • acetaldehyde
  • nitrosamines

Compared to conventional cigarettes, e-cigarettes contain fewer toxic chemicals which may decrease your cancer risk if you are an existing smoker. However, if you don’t smoke or vape already, using e-cigarettes may increase the probability of developing cancer. 

Learn more about the link between vaping and cancer.

What about switching between the two?

Compared to cigarettes, e-cigarettes cause fewer health risks and are gaining traction with people who want to cut down on smoking. It’s an effective way for them to reduce their cigarette consumption and make the switch from analogs to vaping.

As of yet, research on the mixed results of vaping and smoking has been relatively limited. Nevertheless, a 2022 review concluded that vaping and smoking are equally harmful or could even be more damaging than just smoking alone.

What about vaping to quit smoking?

Initially, manufacturers designed e-cigarettes as a way to help people stop smoking. While it is generally accepted that vaping is less harmful than smoking, the question of whether it actually helps people to quit smoking remains somewhat murky.

A different 2022 review suggested that e-cigarettes may help people quit smoking, possibly even better than nicotine replacement therapy. Nevertheless, the authors expressed their need for more high-quality studies to back up this claim and confirm the effectiveness of e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation tool.

The bottom line

Despite the potential risks, vaping is generally considered less detrimental in comparison to smoking cigarettes. Still, much of the long-term health impacts of e-cigarettes remain unknown and require further research for a full understanding.

If you are an existing smoker and want to reduce your risk of getting affected by harmful health effects, giving up smoking completely is the best thing to do. However, if quitting completely is not an option for you, switching to vaping can be a slightly better choice in terms of safety.

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