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WARNING: This product contains nicotine. Nicotine is an addictive chemical.
WARNING: This product contains nicotine. Nicotine is an addictive chemical.
Is Vaping As Bad As Smoking? The Health Facts Compared

Is Vaping As Bad As Smoking? The Health Facts Compared

  1. Quick Answer
  2. Introduction
  3. How Does Vaping Affect the Lungs?
  4. How Vaping May Affect Oral Health
  5. What Are the Cancer Risks of Vaping and Smoking?
  6. What Are the Cardiovascular Effects of Vaping
  7. What Are The Dangers of Nicotine Addiction
  8. What Are the Unknown Effects of Long-Term Vaping
  9. Vaping as a Cessation Tool
  10. The Bottom Line on Vaping vs. Smoking

Quick Answer

No, vaping is not as bad as smoking cigarettes when it comes to health risks. According to current evidence and expert analysis, vaping poses substantially less harm to health compared to regular tobacco cigarette smoking.


Vaping devices heat liquids containing nicotine, flavorings, and other ingredients into an inhalable aerosol that provides a physical sensation similar to smoking without burning tobacco. While many view vaping as a less harmful substitute for cigarettes, concerns linger over its potential health effects. This article examines what research says so far about how vaping may impact lung health, oral health, cancer risk, and more compared to traditional cigarette smoking.

How Does Vaping Affect the Lungs?

One of the main appeals of vaping for smokers is that it avoids burning tobacco and creating smoke. This may expose users to lower levels of lung carcinogens and toxicants found in tobacco smoke. However, inhaling vapor still introduces foreign substances into the lungs that may cause damage.

Propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin, the main ingredients in e-liquid, are considered safe to ingest, but research on long-term inhalation exposure is limited. Some studies found propylene glycol can irritate airways but at lower levels than tobacco smoke. High levels of food flavorings in e-liquids also raise concerns, as most safety data relates to ingestion, not inhalation.

The potential dangers of the flavoring chemical diacetyl gained attention when it was linked to a serious lung condition in popcorn factory workers. Though found in many e-liquids, diacetyl exposure from vaping is at much lower levels than from cigarette smoking. Ongoing research is needed to better understand flavorings and carrier ingredient risks. However, available evidence indicates vaping likely exposes the lungs to fewer harmful chemicals than cigarette smoke.


How Vaping May Affect Oral Health

Cigarette smoking is known to cause gum disease, tooth loss, and oral cancer. But do vaping devices pose similar threats to oral health?

Based on limited available research, vaping does not appear to substantially increase the risk of severe oral health issues the way smoking does. However, potential oral side effects of vaping may include:

  • Nicotine stomatitis: lesions in the mouth associated with exposure to heat and nicotine. Typically minor and goes away when vaping stops.
  • Bacterial changes: A small study found vaping may alter oral bacteria profiles, but more research is needed.
  • Explosions: Though very rare, defective vape batteries can explode and cause oral injuries. Following proper battery handling reduces risk.

Overall, dental professionals do not see vaping as nearly as detrimental to oral health compared to smoking. However, more research on the long-term oral effects of vaping is still needed.


What Are the Cancer Risks of Vaping and Smoking?

Carcinogens in cigarette smoke directly damage cell DNA and cause mutations that lead to cancer. According to the CDC, smoking causes cancers of the lungs, mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, kidney, liver, stomach, pancreas, colon, rectum, and more. So what about vaping?

Studies detecting carcinogens in vapor have found levels much lower than in tobacco smoke. Additionally, vaping has not been linked to cancer in humans so far. Unlike combustible tobacco products, evidence does not indicate vaping substantially raises cancer risk. However, the long-term effects require further study.

Concerns were raised about formaldehyde in vapor after a study found very high levels. But it was later determined the formaldehyde formed under unrealistic conditions, resulting in a dry puff no vaper could tolerate. There is little evidence this poses an actual cancer risk. Overall, available research shows vaping appears far less likely to cause cancer compared to smoking cigarettes.


What Are the Cardiovascular Effects of Vaping

Cigarette smoking is a major cardiovascular risk factor, causing blood vessel damage and raising the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and blood clots. Can vaping affect the heart and circulatory system too?

The nicotine in e-cigarettes causes a temporary rise in blood pressure and heart rate upon use. However, there is no evidence vaping increases the risk of cardiovascular disease like smoking does. Propylene glycol may have mild effects on circulation that merit further research. Overall, vaping nicotine does not seem to pose the same level of heart risks as smoking, but potential long-term cardiovascular effects require more study.

What Are The Dangers of Nicotine Addiction

Both cigarettes and e-cigarettes contain the highly addictive drug nicotine. While not cancer-causing like tobacco, nicotine poses other health risks:

  • It can harm adolescent brain development and impact attention, learning, and memory
  • Withdrawal when quitting causes anxiety, mood swings, and difficulty concentrating
  • Safety concerns with long-term nicotine exposure remain, though low for nicotine replacement products

Additionally, vaping can lead to dependence and compulsive use, especially among non-smoking youth. Comparatively, vaping nicotine appears safer than smoking but has risks, especially for developing brains.


What Are the Unknown Effects of Long-Term Vaping

The modern e-cigarette has only been around for a couple of decades. So, evidence on the long-term health effects of vaping is limited since diseases like cancer can take many years to manifest. While existing research has not raised major alarms, the full spectrum of vaping's health impacts will require more time and data to unravel.

For now, health experts generally agree vaping poses fewer long-term risks than continuing to smoke cigarettes. However, uncertainty remains, and ongoing research is warranted. As evidence emerges, recommendations may evolve on whether vaping benefits public health versus unintended consequences.

Vaping as a Cessation Tool

For smokers unable or unwilling to quit nicotine cold turkey, some view vaping as a less hazardous alternative to cigarettes. E-cigarettes may improve smokers' chances of quitting compared to going it alone.

However, some health groups oppose promoting vaping for cessation due to concerns it may perpetuate nicotine addiction or serve as a gateway to smoking for youth. But with proper regulations and messaging, vaping could help reduce smoking-related illness for those unable to otherwise quit cigarettes.

The Bottom Line on Vaping vs. Smoking

Current evidence conclusively shows smoking cigarettes causes substantial cardiovascular, pulmonary, and cancer risks, leading to high rates of morbidity and mortality. So far, research suggests vaping nicotine does not come close to the level of health hazards caused by smoking. However, vaping is not harmless. The full scope of its long-term effects remains unknown.

For non-smokers, avoiding vaping and all nicotine products remains the safest choice. For smokers unable to quit through other means, vaping may offer a less hazardous substitute, especially if it leads to completely quitting nicotine use. But more research is still needed. Speak to your doctor about whether switching to vaping may benefit your health compared to continuing to smoke cigarettes.

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