Cigarettes Versus Vaping: Are E-Cigarettes Really Better for You?
As vaping has grown increasingly popular, people have begun to question whether this high-tech way to kick cigarettes to the curb is too good to be true. What kind of chemicals are in e-cigarettes? Are vapers just trading out one dangerous habit for another?
Studies conducted over the past few years are starting to provide answers...and ones that will make e-cigarette users breath a little easier.
What Chemicals Are in E-Juice?
For years, we’ve known that cigarettes contain a toxic cocktail of carcinogens. In fact, an unlit cigarette contains around 600 chemicals – everything from acetone and arsenic to lead and tar. Light that baby up and you’ve just upped the chemical level to over 7,000. What’s worse: at least 69 of the chemicals contained in cigarettes have been proven to cause cancer.
With e-cigarettes, vapers get to ditch the tar and most of the other chemicals. E-juice contains a base made of vegetable glycerine (VG) and propylene glycol (PG). The VG in e-juice, responsible for creating the vapor, is a plant-based material.
Meanwhile, PG has been the subject of numerous clickbait headlines denouncing it as “antifreeze” and frightening people into believing that e-juice contains formaldehyde. In fact, PG is used as an antifreeze, but not the poisonous kind most of us are familiar with. It’s usually in areas where food is being stored or handled, as it’s a food-safe chemical. Meanwhile, the study touted as revealing that e-juice contains formaldehyde actually found that the chemical is created when e-juice is vaped at higher temperatures than most e-cigarettes can possibly reach.
E-juice flavorings are a bit of a variable in the equation, as there are so many different ones. These types of flavorings have been approved by the FDA for consumption in food, but inhaling them is a newer matter. There haven’t been many studies on the longterm effects of e-juice flavorings. However, many tobacco products also have such flavorings (and in much higher amounts). While e-cigarettes may still contain some ingredients that need more research, they’re still better than lighting up a traditional cigarette that contains flavorings, as well as hundreds of dangerous ingredients.
How Does Nicotine Factor In?
Moving right along with our discussion of e-juice ingredients: e-cigarettes may also contain nicotine. E-juice can be purchased with or without any nicotine content, which is helpful for those who are trying to wean themselves off of traditional cigarettes.
Nicotine is addictive. That’s why so many cigarette users are willing to continue inhaling choking clouds of cancer-causing chemicals year after year. However, when you remove all of the ingredients found in traditional cigarettes and boil it down to just nicotine, the negative health effects disappear. In fact, researchers in a 1996 study found no indication of “any harmful effect of nicotine when given in its pure form by inhalation.”
This is why e-cigarettes provide a healthier alternative for those seeking to kick their tobacco habit or wean themselves off of nicotine entirely. Nicotine levels in e-juice are customizable to give users a full-on dose, smaller amounts of nicotine, or none at all.
What About Secondhand Vapor?
Secondhand smoke is a huge concern with tobacco. Not only do nonsmokers get annoyed when someone sits down near them and lights up, the smoke emitted from cigarettes has been proven to be dangerous to those nearby. This is particularly true for the children and family members of cigarette smokers, as loved ones are often exposed to secondhand smoke much more frequently.
While e-cigarette vapor does contain some chemicals, it contains fewer of them and at much lower levels than regular cigarettes. This is according to a Popular Science article that explored the issue.
Another plus of secondhand vapor is that it doesn’t create as much of an odor as smoking cigarettes. People who are in the vicinity of vapers often report smelling a slightly sweet aroma that quickly dissipates – much better than a thick cloud of tobacco smoke!
Is Vaping Really Safer Than Smoking?
Multiple studies and health organizations think so. In 2014, the American Heart Association put out a policy statement on electronic cigarettes. They said, in part, “E-cigarettes either do not contain or have lower levels of several tobacco-derived harmful and potentially harmful constituents compared with cigarettes and smokeless tobacco.” They also pointed out that e-cigarettes present “an opportunity for harm reduction if smokers use them as substitutes for cigarettes.”
In 2015, Public Health England agreed, publishing a report that said that not only are e-cigarettes helpful for tobacco smokers who would like to quit, they are 95% safer than their tobacco counterparts.
The public – and particularly younger people – are starting to catch on. A Gallup poll published in December 2015 showed that e-cigarette use has caused the number of young adult cigarette smokers to plummet from 34% to 22%. With those kinds of numbers, may we soon start seeing a drop in the numbers of smoking-related illnesses?
While vaping is relatively new on the nicotine scene, it’s now been around long enough for studies to give us some real comparisons between the use of e-liquid and regular tobacco. The results are clear: in every respect, vaping is safer – both for the user and those around them.