Smoking or vaping: Which one is safer?
October 29, 2019
On Aug. 23, the first death caused by a vaping-related illness was reported in Illinois. Since then, 29 people from at least 21 states have died from this illness as of Oct. 10. According to the Center of Disease Control, all the people who have died have had a history of using e-cigarettes and other vaping products, some of them being laced with other substances.
Because of this sudden and rapid outbreak, many states have taken government action to reduce or ban the use of e-cigarettes and juuls with the intentions of increasing public safety. Many people support this decision as they believe that getting rid of all vaping products will deter people from using them, decreasing overall public risk, however, there are people who do not support the ban, worrying that this will promote black-market vapes or regular cigarettes.
E-cigarettes and other vaping products, such as the juul, are promoted as safer alternatives to smoking and are even being pushed by promoters to help people quit smoking, according to the American Heart Association. Without the tar and with fewer possible contaminants than smoking, the e-cigarette has been commercialized as the “healthier” and “cleaner” version of cigarettes. However, according to the American Cancer Society, it has been found that most e-cigarettes and vaping products—especially juuls—contain nicotine, the same addictive chemical found in cigarettes.
Although e-cigarettes do not contain cyanide, carbon monoxide, lead, arsenic and other poisonous chemicals found in cigarettes, they do contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), formaldehyde and diacetyl—a chemical found at different levels in different flavors of vape products for flavoring. According to the National Institutes of Health and the American Cancer Society, formaldehyde can be found in aerosol emissions of e-cigarettes if the e-liquid is overheated or not enough of the liquid is being heated. In addition, diacetyl has been linked to bronchiolitis obliterans, a serious lung illness that damages the lung’s smallest airways (the bronchioles) leading to scarring and blocking of the airways which can have serious consequences.
Unlike cigarettes, much of the e-cigarettes’ target audience has been not only teenagers and young adults, but also children. Most children today have been exposed to the idea that smoking a cigarette is probably the unhealthiest thing someone can do, however, not enough attention of this sort has been brought to children with vape products. According to the American Heart Association, nearly 4 out of 5 middle and high school students have been exposed to advertising for vape products. In addition, 5 million middle and high school students have used an e-cigarette in 2019, according to tobaccofreekids.org. In the same environment, countless anti-smoking campaigns have been discouraging the use and exposure of cigarettes towards children and teenagers for decades.
Whether or not one believes that vaping is healthier than smoking or not, or vice versa, it is important to know what people are inhaling into their lungs. No matter what a person uses, they are most likely putting potentially harmful chemicals into their airways, which can damage lungs, bodies and leave people more susceptible to various illnesses.