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Vaping vs Smoking: Two Habits, One Burning Question - Which Is Safer?

by Shaker naseem 28 Mar 2024

Cigarettes have been a prevalent nicotine source for quite a long time now. However, research conducted on the composition of cigarettes and its impacts on the human body proved to be devastating. From cigarettes, we advanced to even more complex and severe forms of nicotine consumption like cigars and hookas.

According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, a one-hour session of hookah equals 100 - 200 times the amount of smoke inhaled from a cigarette. Furthermore, users are nine times more exposed to carbon monoxide and 1.7 times more to nicotine.

Another research by the National Cancer Institute suggests that Cigars pack a nastier punch than cigarettes. The fermentation process in cigar tobacco creates more cancer-causing nitrosamines. Additionally, cigar wrappers trap more toxins due to slower burning, resulting in higher tar and toxin content compared to cigarettes.

Luckily, while significant research has been done towards smoking and its impacts, the manufacturing of vapes and its growing popularity has been a significant countermeasure towards public health. 

Vaping vs Smoking Health Outcomes:

Let’s compare the impacts of smoking and vaping on health, starting with smoking:

Smoking, a relatively older practice, has had enough time to be studied deeply. Cigarettes contain over 7000 different chemical toxins, all of which pose a severe threat to the body. Some of these include:

Cancer: 

The chemical components of a cigarette can damage DNA, especially the genes responsible for protecting our body against cancer. Worst of all, these toxins cease the body’s natural repair response, making it extremely hard for the DNA to repair the damage. DNA damage can build up, and if it occurs in the cell, it can lead to cancer.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD):

Cigarettes contain tar, besides other toxins. It accumulates in the lungs, causing emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Breathing becomes a difficult process, and even more serious is the fact that this disease has no cure.

Strokes and Heart Diseases:

Two chemicals, nicotine and carbon monoxide, damage the cells that line the blood vessels. These cells become swollen and inflamed, causing the vessels to narrow. Plaque also starts to build up in the artery walls.

This increases the risk of high blood pressure, leading to heart attacks and Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD), which reduces the blood flow to the legs and feet. 

Other problems:

Some other commonly associated diseases with smoking include:

  • A weak immune system
  • Vulnerability to diseases and infections
  • Diabetes
  • Pregnancy complications

But Is Vaping Safe?

Vaping is a significantly safer nicotine source, but it still has some limitations. Vape juice contains vegetable glycerin, commonly used food, medicines and cosmetics, and propylene glycol, used as an antifreeze in grocery stores and pharmacies. In addition to these two components, e-liquids also contain flavours and nicotine. 

A study conducted by the University College London states that e-cigarettes are safer than conventional cigarettes because the amount of nicotine they provide is significantly different. This can lead to people quitting nicotine addiction but in a much safer way.

Another interesting claim by the Royal College Of Physicians confirms that the health risks associated with vaping are not even 5% compared to smoking traditional cigarettes. Even though the concept of vapes is fairly new, the research conducted so far suggests similar views. 

Is Vaping as Bad for Your Heart as Conventional Cigarettes?

According to research by Johns Hopkins University, nicotine itself is a toxin which increases blood pressure and spikes adrenaline. The high blood rate leads to strokes and early death. Nicotine is why people smoke in the first place. Although vapes offer nicotine strength adjustments and users can slowly reduce their nicotine levels, we cannot rule out the fact that nicotine is highly addictive and causes withdrawal symptoms if avoided. 

A recent myth that The Sun, The Daily Mail, The Mirror, The Telegraph and The Times highlighted featured a research claim by the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Italy. Professor Charalambos Vlachopoulos led the team from the University of Athens Medical School. The report claimed that vaping not only enhanced aortic stiffness but also increased blood pressure, which could potentially cause a stroke. 

However, these complications also arise from drinking coffee or doing intense workouts. This study was later rejected by the director of the Tobacco Dependence Research Unit at the Queen Mary University, London, Professor Peter Hajek, who added:

The study reports on a well-known short-term effect of nicotine – stiffening of arteries – that accompanies all types of stimulation. The same effect is generated by watching a thriller or a football match or sitting an exam. Drinking a cup of coffee produces a larger response that lasts a much longer duration. The key heart health risks of smoking are not caused by nicotine but by other chemicals in tobacco smoke that are not present in e-cigarette vapour.”

So, vapes are free from the 7,000 unnecessary toxins, but here are some health risks associated with vaping:

Lung Problems:

MD Anderson Cancer Center has discovered the impacts of diacetyl, sometimes used as a sweetener, and its association with bronchiolitis obliterans. This disease, also called popcorn lungs, is caused by the build-up of scar tissue in the lungs. Furthermore, it blocks airflow and creates difficulty breathing. Fortunately, this disease is not a form of cancer, and not all vape brands use diacetyl as a sweetener in vape liquids.

Underage Vaping Trends:

Although vapes were introduced as a better alternative to smoking, a report by the National Institutes of Health has revealed that the promotion of e-cigarettes through various sources has developed an increasing trend of underage vaping. Teenagers have considered vapes to be an epitome of fashion and class. Therefore, more teenagers are being exposed to nicotine addiction.

Conclusion

Extensive research on this subject has put forth clear results indicating three important points:

  • Cigarettes are much more harmful than vapes due to the thousands of chemical toxins which they are composed of. 
  • Vapes, on the other hand, are free from those toxins, so it’s a relatively safer alternative to nicotine intake.
  • Nicotine itself is a toxin, so whichever form it is consumed will contribute to harming the body in one way or another. 

Although more research is currently in process, we may be introduced to new facts about vapes anytime soon.

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