Mostly everyone knows that smoking tobacco cigarettes is dangerous and causes cancer and lung ailments, contributes to heart disease, increases suffering, and is responsible for the early deaths of millions. More people died during the 20th century (100 million) from the ill effects of cigarette smoking than the total number of people killed in the two World Wars. From that perspective, cigarette smoking caused the greatest genocide in human history and it continues to kill millions more. Vaping comes as a supposedly healthier alternative; here is what we know about vaping vs. smoking.
Quitting Smoking *
Because of the loss of life and the great deal of suffering, massive public health campaigns all over the world are trying to get everyone to quit. Over the past few decades in some places, like America, smoking has gone down significantly. Currently, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that there are now more former smokers than active smokers, in the United States.
In other places, like China, the World Health Organization reports there is an increase in smoking. There are now over 300 million smokers in China, which is about one-third of the total one billion global smokers. Half of these Chinese smokers, 150 million people, will suffer an early death because of smoking.
For those still smoking, who want to quit, many struggle with the process of quitting. The UK Daily Mail reported that the average person, who quits smoking, takes up to five years to succeed with up to seven attempts. They try different methods in order to be successful in permanently quitting.
Is There a Less Harmful Alternative to Tobacco Smoking? *
One development that initially showed a lot of promise was the increasing popularity of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) and their use as an aide in quitting smoking.
E-cigarettes have significant advantages over tobacco cigarettes, which include:
- The “smoke” made by e-cigarettes is a vapor that comes from heating a liquid (e-liquid) in an atomizing device. This vapor has fewer dangers than the smoke from burning tobacco.
- E-cigarettes have the look and feel of tobacco cigarettes. They provide psychological comfort, create a substitute for smoking rituals, and calm the desires caused by having an oral fixation.
- E-liquid for vaping comes in thousands of flavors.
- Different base formulations using propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, or a combination of the two, make the kinds of smoke that appeals to as many tobacco cigarettes smokers as possible.
- E-cigarettes deliver nicotine in the vapor, which reduces the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal that are very severe when tobacco cigarette smokers try to quit.
- The amount of nicotine delivered by an e-cigarette is adjustable by using e-liquids that contain lesser amounts, until finally using a nicotine-free e-liquid is possible.
E-cigarettes became extremely popular over the last few years, going from miniscule sales when first introduced to reaching billions in annual sales now. The Wall Street Journal noticed in November 2015 that e-cigarettes sales are not growing like before, yet still achieved about $2.5 billion for annual sales in America during 2015.
Vaping vs. Smoking *
An e-cigarette is a type of vaporizer, so the use of an e-cigarette is called “vaping.” Many wonder about safety and want to know: is vaping better than smoking? The answer is a qualified yes. When considering vaping vs. smoking, vaping is better with some serious exceptions.
Public Health England (PHE) is the government organization in charge of health issues for the United Kingdom. During 2015, they announced the results of their study considering the safety of e-cigarettes. The report, which came out in August, concluded that e-cigarettes were 95% less harmful than smoking tobacco cigarettes and that e-cigarettes could play an important role as a smoking cessation device to help people quit smoking. That almost sounds like a product endorsement by a big government.
The results of this UK official study were widely published globally. Those making and marketing e-cigarettes and accessories were ecstatic. Most of the advertising for e-cigarettes promotes them as a safer alternative to tobacco cigarette smoking. However, the vapor from e-cigarettes might not be as safe as once thought.
Here is a comparison between some of the dangers from tobacco smoke and from e-cigarette vapor:
|Carbon Monoxide (poison)||Yes||No|
|Nicotine (addictive)||Yes||Yes and No (nicotine-free)|
|Cadmium (toxic metal)||Yes||Yes|
|Nickel (toxic metal)||Yes||Yes|
|Lead (toxic metal)||Yes||Yes|
|Creates Nitric Oxide||Yes||Yes|
|Toxicity from Flavorings||Yes||Yes|
|Propylene Oxide (carcinogen)||No||Maybe|
|Other Carcinogens||Yes – over 40||Probably – undetermined|
Some of the scientific research notes that while toxins exist in e-cigarette vapor, the levels are usually significantly lower than the levels found in tobacco smoke. Nevertheless, it is clear from the comparison above that while vaping may be less harmful than smoking, vaping is not safe.
The base of many e-liquids is propylene glycol. Propylene glycol is the liquid used to make theatrical smoke. Warnings on bottles of propylene glycol used for this purpose clearly state that inhalation exposure might cause lung irritation. Propylene glycol, when heated enough, becomes propylene oxide, which is a carcinogenic (causes cancer).
Lawsuit Against E-Cigarettes *
The Center for Environmental Health (CEH) conducted a serious research study in 2015 of e-cigarettes and e-liquid sold in California. This was the first comprehensive study of this kind that tested so many e-cigarette products at the same time. They found that the majority of the 97 products tested contained illegal levels of the carcinogens – formaldehyde and acetaldehyde. This research is now the basis of a lawsuit filed by CEH against e-cigarette companies.
One of the e-cigarettes tested produced formaldehyde that is 470 times higher than the legal limit in the State of California. The results of these recent toxicity tests conducted by CEH are very serious and extremely negative. They only tested for two cancer-causing chemicals, formaldehyde and acetaldehyde, and found an abundance of these dangerous chemicals. Even the e-liquids that were nicotine-free produced these carcinogens.
Previous studies done in Japan, with only a few popular e-cigarette brands, found that these carcinogens were present in amounts up to ten times higher than those found in tobacco smoke.
This reflects poorly on the e-cigarette industry that promotes e-cigarette vaping as a “safe” alternative to tobacco smoking. Claims that e-cigarettes produce only water vapor are clearly false and that e-cigarettes are somehow healthy are deceptive advertising.
Popcorn Lung *
Another disturbing development has recently come to light. It is the likelihood that vaping with e-cigarettes may cause the illness of obliterative bronchiolitis, commonly called “popcorn lung.” This is a respiratory disease caused by inhalation of food flavorings reported by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
One of the flavorings known to cause this problem is diacetyl. Diacetyl is the artificial flavoring used to give microwave popcorn a buttery flavor. This is how the disease got the name “popcorn lung.”
In severe cases of this disease, workers have extreme difficulty breathing that mimics emphysema or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) that does not go away. There is no cure and the damage done to the lungs is irreversible. Factory workers get the disease simply by inhaling the chemical that is part of the manufacturing process.
One Colorado man, who loved eating microwave popcorn and ate two bags per day for ten years, contracted this disease. He won over $7 million in damages from a lawsuit.
Knowing these facts, intentionally inhaling the vapors that contain this chemical is a major health risk. Moreover, e-cigarette companies should expect a huge class-action lawsuit, especially if they continue to use this harmful substance as a flavoring in their e-liquid formulas.
A study done at Harvard, published in Environmental Health Perspectives during December2015, investigated fifty-one brands. The study found that around 75% of e-liquids used for e-cigarettes contain diacetyl as a flavoring. The knowledge of the dangers of inhaling diacetyl existed for over a decade. This revealing study shows how irresponsible the almost completely unregulated industry of e-cigarettes has been.
Beside the widespread use of the harmful chemical diacetyl, the Harvard researchers found two other potentially harmful flavorings used. These were 2,3-pentanedione and acetoin. These flavors make e-liquids for vaping that taste like cotton candy, fruits, or cupcakes. These flavors are especially appealing to children.
Call for FDA Regulation of E-Cigarettes *
Over thirty professional organizations, including the American Lung Association, formally asked the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate the e-cigarette industry to protect the public from the health risk of using these products.
Because of the discovery of more evidence about the dangers of using e-cigarettes, coming from solid scientific research, it is becoming very clear that the unregulated e-cigarette industry is acting in an irresponsible manner. They are using deceptive advertising with false safety claims about their products.
Teenagers and children are clearly being targeted with candy-like flavors, while the adult public is being duped into thinking that e-cigarettes are safe, when they are not.
In the “Vaping vs. Smoking” challenge, vaping is better only when temporarily used to stop smoking.
Smoking tobacco is very harmful to health and frequently results in early death. However, vaping is not safe either. The e-cigarette vapors contain unsafe amounts of known cancer-causing chemicals and flavorings known to cause pulmonary disease and severe damage to the lungs.
If a person stops smoking tobacco cigarettes by temporarily using e-cigarettes and then stops smoking e-cigarettes as well, a short time later, this is the only logical and helpful use of e-cigarette products.
In general, usage of e-cigarettes is harmful to the health. E-cigarettes need regulations for health safety and their use needs to be discouraged because of the health risks.