Smoking vs. Vaping

The practice of tobacco smoking use has been around as early as 5000-3000 BCE. Native Americans and other ancient cultures harvested the plant and then smoked it for medicinal and ceremonial purposes. Yet as discussed in class, it was not until the late 1950’s that humans began to realize it’s harmful and dangerous side effects. On the other hand, vaping is a relatively new idea (with the first electronic cigarette being developed in 2003) that has been argued by some to be a safer alternative to smoking. While others debate the new substitute to be just as bad, if not worse, than traditional smoking. So, who is right?

When smoking the heat from the fire causes the tobacco to go from it’s solid state to vapor. In cigarette’s this releases nicotine which gets absorbed into your bloodstream through the lungs and in result causes constricted blood vessels, increased heart rate, feelings of alertness, and the release of dopamine in your brain. However, since nicotine is a stimulate, once it is no

longer available you “crash” and begin to crave more, which in the long run could cause addiction. Being addicted to anything isn’t good, especially something so harmful like tobacco. From the extensive research that has been done on tobacco use, it is common knowledge that smoking not only causes addiction, but can create cancer causing effects, development of tar in your lungs, blackening of your teeth, and destruction of taste buds. This certainly magnifies the cons of cigarette smoking. According to the American Lung Association smoking kills approximately 443,000 Americans each year. To a reasonable person the side-efffetcs of smoking should appear not only very dangerous, but also extremely harmful.

Now what about vaping? Electronic cigarette’s transport a nicotine-containg aerosol (vapor) by heating a solution containing nicotine, glycerol, and sometimes flavoring agents. Theoretically this results in the same effects as smoking, without the process of inhaling the dangerous smoke entering your lungs. The amount of nicotine in the solution (e-liquid) can be regulated and may range from 0-30µg of nicotine per puff. This way users can chose not only the flavors and brands of their product, but also the strength. A study conducted by the Society for Research of Nicotine and Tobacco on popular e-cig brands determined that the level of nicotine spawned from 15-20 puffs varied from 0.5µg to 15.4µg. They concluded that the amount inhaled from 15 puffs is much lower compared to one puff from smoking a traditional cigarette. This could leadus to believe that e-cigarette’s are in fact a safer alternative and could help wean users off a smoking habit. On the contrary, the contents of the e-liquid found in this alternative can widely vary from company to company and are sometimes mislabeled. In addition e-liquids contain a base that helps contain moisture without causing sogginess. This base is found in cosmetics and theatrical smoke, that have been known to cause eye irritation and respiratory infections. Scientists are yet to determine prolonged effects of exposure to this base and therefore the FDA has been able to easily approve these products. To me it seems logical that smoking something that’s used in theatrical smoke may not be so good for you. Another argument against vaporizers is that the wide variety of flavors can cause the product to become more appealing to younger people. With delicious names such as Blueberry Cheesecake or Sweet Tangy Melon, I can see how the product could easily attract a younger crowd.

So which option is safer? By examining all the evidence it is hard to say. Since smoking has been around for so long, all the information we have is from prolonged studies and can be much more heavily relied on. With vaping being relatively new we simply don’t have access to longitudinal studies and therefore cannot draw a clear conclusion on what is worse. The gray area in e-cigarette’s and similar products is way too foggy to say that vaporizers are a better option, and if anything could support the fact that they’re are just as bad or even worse than traditional smoking.  But for the sake your own health, maybe you should put both products aside and wait for scientists to determine the true dangers of vaping.



2 thoughts on “Smoking vs. Vaping

  1. Rory McGowan

    The two methods of ingesting chemicals seem to both provide some measure of harm. However, according to this article, the relative impact of vaping upon the health of an individual versus the relative impact of smoking cigs seems to tilt in favor of vaping. For the most part I find that this article is somewhat reliable, as the study was funded by the government rather than a private firm.

  2. Aidan Quinn Graham

    Awesome post! I had once googled this exact question and was surprised to find a lack of a clear answer. Your post helped explain that, while there is good scientific understanding of traditional smoking, the scientific community is yet to come to a consensus about vaping, making the comparison hard to make. This relates a lot to what we have discussed in class.

    Myself, and several other people I know, generally assume that caping is better for your health, but your post made me challenge that assumption, and reinforce the idea that “bad science kills.”

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