E-cigarettes have been on the market for a decade. Millions of smokers have switched to vaping. Ten years of user feedback and scientific research have mounted in order to help us answer the question: is vaping better than smoking?
Here are 12 scientific vaping studies and articles to help answer the question.
According to this study from the international journal Addictive Behaviours, "The prevalence of being quit was significantly higher among daily e-cigarette users compared to those who had never used e-cigarettes"
It's pretty easy to notice some big differences between smoking and vaping. For one, there is no smoke. Researchers say,
"Existing evidence indicates that EC [electronic-cigarette] use is by far a less harmful alternative to smoking. There is no tobacco and no combustion involved in EC use; therefore, regular vapers may avoid several harmful toxic chemicals that are typically present in the smoke of tobacco cigarettes."
Despite what you may have heard, "Surveys, clinical, chemistry and toxicology data have often been misrepresented or misinterpreted by health authorities and tobacco regulators, in such a way that the potential for harmful consequences of EC use has been largely exaggerated [Polosa and Caponnetto, 2013]. It is obvious that some residual risk associated with EC use may be present, but this is probably trivial compared with the devastating consequences of smoking."
Fake news, fear mongering and heavily biased research aside, vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking according to the Royal College of Physicians. "E-cigarettes appear to be effective when used by smokers as an aid to quitting smoking (...) the hazard to health arising from long-term vapour inhalation from the e-cigarettes available today is unlikely to exceed 5% of the harm from smoking tobacco."
Traditional cigarettes release at least 4,000 chemicals when burned, not to mention 43 known cancer causing agents and 400 toxins. Compared to the 3-4 ingredients vaporized in e-cigs. Or as these researchers came to believe, "(...) substituting tobacco cigarettes with an e-cigarette may reduce user exposure to numerous toxicants and carcinogens otherwise present in tobacco cigarettes."
Worldwide, millions of people succumb to smoking related cancers and illnesses every year. There doesn’t appear to be one such case that has been linked to vaping in the ten years vapes have been in users hands. While more data is being collected, scientists can agree,
"Long-term NRT-only and e-cigarette–only use (...) is associated with substantially reduced levels of measured carcinogens and toxins relative to smoking only combustible cigarettes."
While there has been a lot of fear mongering and speculation surrounding the possible addictive qualities of e-cigs, and nicotine without smoke in general, researchers have concluded. "Some e-cigarette users were dependent on nicotine-containing e-cigarettes, but these products were less addictive than tobacco cigarettes. E-cigarettes may be as or less addictive than nicotine gums, which themselves are not very addictive."
Nicotine alone, or when taken in through vaporized aerosol, hasn't been shown to cause cancer. This study comparing smoking to nicotine replacement therapy products states, "Although the surveillance time was short, smoking predicted cancer in this analysis and nicotine replacement therapy did not."
When asthma and smoking addiction are combined, the outcome can be lethal. But research shows promise for asthmatic smokers who switch to vaping, "By substantially reducing number of cigarettes smoked per day and exposure to their hazardous toxicants, e-cigs may not only improve asthma symptoms and pulmonary function but may also confer an overall health advantage in smokers with asthma."
Dr. Igor Burstyn discovered that, despite fear-mongering claims to the contrary, there was no cause for concern about second hand vapor. Even though it looks like smoke,
"Exposures of bystanders are likely to be orders of magnitude less, and thus pose no apparent concern." Even in cases of full-time exposure, like the workplace, there was no evidence of threat to the bystander. (Aside from smelling oddly of raspberries). "Current state of knowledge about chemistry of liquids and aerosols associated with electronic cigarettes indicates that there is no evidence that vaping produces inhalable exposures to contaminants of the aerosol that would warrant health concerns by the standards that are used to ensure safety of workplaces."
For all the talk of candy flavors and appealing dessert e-liquids, there is something incredibly disgusting that e-cigs can do when used incorrectly. This is called a "dry-hit". It occurs when the wicking materials inside the atomizer (the part that makes vapor) don't soak up enough e-liquid before being heated and puffed on.
Priming of the coils and proper use of newer devices usually prevents this entirely. On the occasion of user error a taste most foul is produced. It is highly avoidable and highly unpleasant, and no vaper would want it to happen twice. There have been several poorly designed studies that use smoking machines and equipment set at unrealistically high power levels to “prove” that e-cigarettes create dangerous formaldehyde. But in real life, it simply doesn’t happen. Or as this research study states, "Electronic cigarettes produce high levels of aldehyde only in dry puff conditions, in which the liquid overheats, causing a strong unpleasant taste that e-cigarette users detect and avoid. Under normal vaping conditions aldehyde emissions are minimal, even in new-generation high-power e-cigarettes."
In a perfect world, there would be no teen smoking or vaping. But in the real world, teen smoking is at an all time low while more kids admit to at least trying a vapor product.
The good news is reports show that even if kids are trying e-cigs, they aren't proving to be a gateway to combustion. "There is no evidence of any gateway effect where by youth who experiment with vapour devices are, as a result, more likely to take up tobacco use. The available evidence is that tobacco use by youth has been declining while use of vapour devices has been increasing."
It turns out that adults prefer candy and dessert flavored e-liquids in their battle to quit smoking. Perhaps sweet and savory flavors helps smokers distance themselves from the harsh experience of burning tobacco.. Researchers have found that,
"Among vapor store customers in the United States who use electronic nicotine delivery devices to stop smoking, vaping longer, using newer-generation devices and using non-tobacco and non-menthol flavored e-liquid appear to be associated with higher rates of smoking cessation."
It's always up to the individual to choose what's best for their health, and what they enjoy most. Many smoking cessation and addiction experts and public health leaders worldwide are embracing harm reduction. No solution is perfect, but vaping has been incredibly disruptive to smoking rates. As the millions around the world who have quit smoking using e-cigs can attest, it's more possible now than ever before to break free from tobacco's death grip.