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By: Matt Richtel.
Last Updated: September 7th, 2018.
What Brought Us To This Question
I have been writing about vaping for the best part of 10 years, and how the devices have catapulted into mainstream use amongst the general public and more concerningly young people. I remember reading a report from the United States Surgeon General, stating that electronic cigarettes are now the most commonly used nicotine product among youths, actually surpassing tobacco cigarettes. This was back in 2016, you can read my full finding here, but as the report didn’t really answer the question of whether this was a good thing or not I thought I should investigate further.
It’s an interesting thing when asking people about their perceptions of vaping. Speaking to vapers, the vast majority had nothing but positives to give to their experience with vaping and the health implications that they believe vaping has. Many said they feel healthier and fitter thanks to vaping. Finding smokers who have tried vaping but stuck to smoking traditional cigarettes the stories were quite different. Many said they didn’t notice any obvious change to their health and thought that they are pretty much the same thing. While speaking to non-vapers who have never smoked, their impressions were again different. Believing that passive smoking of vape products was just as harmful as traditional cigarettes and vapers have the same health risks as smokers including damaged caused to the lungs.
So it became obvious in my research that depending on who you ask, the answer seems somewhat different. This is mainly due to the relatively negative reports we read in the media, although they may appear to be negative on the outside, are they actually really that bad in comparison to the foreign objects and environment we expose our bodies to on a daily basis. For example, there have been reports about the contamination of lead-free exhausts from cars, contaminating our streets. But this we consider a part of the everyday exposure, we don’t worry too much about walking down the streets. Do we, therefore, all have a clouded judgment on vaping, or are their aspects of truth we should be worried about.
The big question remains: Is vaping a good thing?
The answer to this simple question is actually quite complex, but with my years of vaping experience along with the research I have conducted for The New York Times since 2012, I have a relatively simple answer:
No, vaping is not good for you, it is, after all, a foreign mist containing propylene glycol (PG), Vegetable glycerin (VG), flavorings, and nicotine you are exposing to your body. There are many studies supporting this evidence, but it doesn’t take a highly educated reader to actually realize. The question should be redrafted to fully understand the risks.
1. Which is better, Vaping or Smoking? Obviously vaping wins here, no doubt that the lack of the toxins produced by burning tobacco is a good thing. A study published on Pub med (a resource for all the latest government studies) was conducted comparing the vapor from e-cigs to traditional cigarettes and they found that there was “No Significant Risk” of harm to human health with e-cigs. There are many more studies supporting this claim, too many to list here!
2. Which is better, Vaping or vehicle pollution? Again, believe it or not, vaping wins. As reported by The EXHALE programme, (Exploration of Health and Lungs in the Environment), researchers believe children in London are most at risk from the negative effects of pollution on respiratory health. Compared to vaping, where only small traces of nicotine were exposed to the environment.
3. Which is more harmful; caffeine or nicotine? Believe it or not, the Royal Society for Public Health study states that nicotine is no more harmful than the caffeine in a cup of coffee
4. Do we have all the answers? No, we don’t! The longevity of vaping is still very much an unknown, although studies are being released examining the immediate safety and harm, we do not know what the long-term effects will be. Take the poor workers who worked in a popcorn factory, simply the fumes from the cooked butter flavor caused bronchiolitis obliterans or popcorn lung over time.
My Personal Advice
My advice is simple: Electronic cigarette, e-cigs or vaping, whatever you want to call it, is far better than smoking traditional cigarettes. Start with a simple kit high in nicotine to quit smoking. Slowly reduce the amount of nicotine over time until you are on 0%. Then start to think about quitting vaping altogether.
Don’t vape around others, although you can say that studies show there are no harmful effects of passive vaping, it’s just polite and the right thing to do. People are very anal when it comes to vape clouds or mist, and that they don’t have all the information, is not their fault!