By definition, vaping is “the act of inhaling and exhaling the vapor produced by an electronic cigarette or a similar device.” Vaping, which has been steadily gaining popularity since the early 2000s, is seen by many as a healthier alternative to traditional cigarette smoking. The primary reason vaping is considered better for you than cigarettes made from tobacco is because when tobacco and the other additives in cigarettes burn, the smoke inhaled into the lungs and dispersed in the air around the smoker is filled with harmful chemicals. This article is a vaping 101 guide.
Vaping 101 *
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tobacco smoke “contains a deadly mix of over 7,000 chemicals. Hundreds are toxic. About 70 can cause cancer.” These chemicals include:
- Formaldehyde (the same chemical used to embalm bodies)
- Benzene (an additive in gasoline)
- Polonium 210 (a radioactive substance)
- Arsenic (a common ingredient in pesticides)
- Carbon monoxide
It is due to the deadly mix of chemicals in tobacco cigarette smoke that most countries and states restrict smoking in public places. Over the last 20 years, smoking tobacco cigarettes has gone from a common, acceptable public practice to something seen as a bad habit due to the dangers not only to the smoker’s health, but to the health of those around the smoker due to second-hand smoke.
When a person uses an e-cigarette, or “vapes,” no tobacco burns. A vapor is produced, but there is no cloud of smoke hanging in the air. The main difference between e-cigarettes and tobacco cigarettes is that e-cigarettes use liquid, which does not contain tobacco, but does contain nicotine and possibly other harmful chemicals. This means that while e-cigarettes may be safer than traditional cigarettes, they could still cause damage to a person’s lungs. See more regarding the safety of vaping later in this article.
Whether you are switching your smoking methods because of health reasons or from a preference to try something new, transitioning from traditional cigarettes to e-cigarettes may be intimidating – you do not simply light up and smoke. Below is a short vaping 101 on how e-cigarettes work.
What Is an E-Cigarette? *
While not all e-cigarettes are created equal, for the most part, they contain the same basic elements:
- A lithium battery, or even a way to recharge using a USB cable
- A cartridge containing the liquid, also called e-juice, which is made up of nicotine, propylene glycol (PG) and/or vegetable glycerin (VG), non-oil food-grade flavorings, and possibly other chemicals (pay attention to labels, although e-juice does not have to have every ingredient labeled)
- An atomizer with a heating coil
- An LED light to mimic the burning of a real cigarette
- A sensor that picks up when you inhale, activating the atomizer and the LED light.
Most e-cigarettes have an “on/off” button. Read the instructions to learn how to turn your e-cigarette on and off. Sometimes you may need to click the button three to five times to turn it on. To atomize the liquid and breathe in the vapor, you either need to push a button or the e-cigarette will vaporize the liquid automatically as you inhale, depending on the type of e-cigarette you use.
When you fill the e-cigarette with the liquid and activate the atomizer, either by inhaling or pushing a button, the atomizer heats the liquid to its boiling point, turning it into the vapor which you inhale.
Is Vaping Less Damaging to My Health? *
Many people believe that, since they are not inhaling tobacco, vaping is a healthy alternative to traditional cigarette smoking. It is true that it is probably healthier, but that does not mean it is good for you, or that you should take up vaping if you are not already a smoker. The primary concern is the fact that the e-liquids that e-cigarettes vaporize still contain nicotine.
The problems with nicotine: *
- When pregnant women smoke, nicotine exposure to the developing fetus can cause birth defects, long-term developmental issues, low birth weight, or even death for the fetus.
- Nicotine impacts adolescent brain development. This is a concern especially when adolescents see vaping as a risk-free way to smoke.
- Nicotine is highly addictive.
Other chemicals in e-juice: *
As mentioned above, e-juice (and the use of e-cigarettes in general) is not uniformly regulated throughout the world. This means that, depending on the country or state you live in, the e-liquid you purchase may not be legally required to list all of its ingredients. In multiple studies, the presence of the following chemicals have been found in some e-liquid vapor:
- Formaldehyde. Like the formaldehyde found in traditional tobacco cigarettes, formaldehyde is used in embalming fluids and may cause cancer.
- Acetaldehyde – A possible carcinogen.
- Acrolein – A chemical formed when the glycerin in the liquid is heated. Acrolein is a chemical that can damage the lungs and may contribute to heart disease.
If you are interested in using vaping to ease the transition to quit smoking, it is important to consider that you may still be inhaling damaging chemicals, possibly damaging your lungs, blood vessels, and increasing your chances of heart disease or cancer.
Does Vaping Produce Second-Hand Smoke? *
Most of the people who oppose the regulation of vaping argue that, because no tobacco is burning, no second-hand smoke is produced to harm non-smokers. It is true that the same levels of second-hand smoke are not produced from e-cigarettes as from traditional, tobacco cigarettes; however, there has been at least one study which concludes that the vapor emitted from e-cigarettes and from the smoker him or herself contains nicotine and reduces the air quality around the smoker. In some countries, vaping in public is treated the same way tobacco smoke is treated – you may only vape in designated areas. In other countries, the use of e-cigarettes is not restricted, even in enclosed public spaces.
Will Vaping Help Me Quit Smoking? *
There are a lot of smoking cessation aids on the market – nicotine patches, gum, and even prescription and over-the-counter medications. Of course, some smokers decide to go “cold turkey.”
There is not a fool-proof, guaranteed way to quit smoking, and what works for one person may not work for another. Despite the possible risks involved with e-cigarettes; however, vaping has been shown to be a viable and successful method to help tobacco cigarette smokers quit smoking. There are a few theories about why vaping is a good choice for people who wish to quit the habit:
- The “ritual” of smoking is maintained. Using an e-cigarette to vape is similar to smoking a tobacco cigarette. You inhale and exhale the vapor which contains the nicotine, rather than the nicotine entering your blood stream through a patch, gum, or other alternate method. For many, the act of using a cigarette-like device and inhaling and exhaling is soothing and can ease the craving for actual tobacco.
- Rather than going cold turkey, vaping allows the smoker to access nicotine in order to curb cravings, leading to less “falling off the wagon.” And, unlike patches or gum, it is easier to control how much nicotine you are breathing in.
If you are learning about vaping 101 because you are considering using it as a method to quit smoking, or as an alternative to tobacco cigarettes, you should remember that there is no such thing as healthy smoking. The best thing for anyone is to quit the use of nicotine altogether. Sometimes, though, going cold turkey is easier said than done. As smoking cessation tools go, using e-cigarettes to take the edge off has proven to be a good option for many tobacco smokers. If you choose to become a vaper, as people who use e-cigarettes are sometimes referred to, make sure to read the e-liquid labels and follow any regulations when you are in public.