You might have heard that smoking electronic cigarettes, or vaping, could help smokers eventually kick the habit. But research on the subject is mixed. While e-cigarettes contain fewer chemicals than conventional cigarettes, e-cigs carry their own health risks.
How does vaping work?
E-cigarettes, or e-cigs, are battery-powered devices that release a vapor of flavored nicotine from a liquid heated by a coil. Traditional cigarettes, on the other hand, release smoke from burned tobacco and contain about 7,000 chemicals. Hundreds of these chemicals have been proven harmful. E-cigs contain fewer chemicals than conventional cigarettes, but those chemicals can also potentially negatively impact your health.
For some time now, e-cigarettes have been promoted as a safer option for smokers and as a tool to help smokers eventually quit. But it’s not as simple as it sounds.
Research on e-cigs is slightly promising, but there’s a catch.
A 2019 study found that 19 percent of participants who used e-cigs to quit smoking were no longer smoking a year later, while those who used nicotine replacement therapy, such as patches and gum, quit smoking at a rate of 9 percent. However, among the e-cigarette smokers, 80 percent were still vaping a year later, compared to only 9 percent of people in the nicotine replacement group.
E-cigarettes may be more addictive than conventional cigarettes.
In another 2019 study, e-cig smokers and dual smokers – those who smoke both e-cigs and conventional cigarettes – were more dependent on nicotine than conventional cigarette smokers.
The convenience of e-cigarettes, which are often allowed indoors, might make it difficult for smokers to resist them. The variety of e-cig flavors might also be adding to their popularity, especially among teens.
E-cigs contain fewer chemicals, but they’re not exactly "healthy."
E-cigarettes are appealing for harm reduction, or the idea that addicts should reduce harm if they cannot quit altogether. But e-cigs contain dangerous chemicals like diacetyl and vitamin E acetate, which can injure lungs, and heavy metals like lead. E-cigarette vapor is akin to secondhand smoke from traditional cigarettes in that it can also harm bystanders, including pregnant women.
Some advocates say e-cigs could save smokers from the dangers of combustion, or the burning chemicals in conventional cigarettes, and that alone is worth giving them a try. The British College of Physicians has promoted the use of e-cigarettes for harm reduction, and a 2017 study argued that e-cigs could save millions of lives.
“They could make cigarettes obsolete and be a more effective tool for any physician to help their patients stop smoking…and save their lives from debilitating preventable chronic diseases exacerbated or caused by cigarette smoke from combustion, and not from nicotine,” Dr. David Abrams, a professor at NYU College of Global Public Health, says.
E-cigarettes raise a number of health and safety concerns.
E-cigarettes have been the subject of several public health warnings from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). These include warnings about lung disease and injury, second-hand smoke, device explosions, dangers for pregnant women, and marketing targeting teens. In fact, the U.S. surgeon general has called the popularity of e-cigs among young people an “epidemic.”
It might be worth a try.
The CDC calls smoking the “leading preventable cause of death in the United States.” While vaping is a point of debate, e-cigarettes might be worth a try if other methods have failed.
It certainly isn’t easy to beat nicotine addiction, but in the end, using various tools, like therapy and nicotine supplementation, might be t