Is Vaping on the Same Harm Spectrum as Smoking?

Is Vaping on the Same Harm Spectrum as Smoking?

Let's be real for a second: vaping e-cigarettes have historically received negative press, with some people and institutions claiming e-cigarettes are just as bad for you smoking cigarettes. Simply put, that's just not true. Each year, cigarettes kill around 480,000 people and can cause a host of health problems including cancer, heart disease, lung disease, stroke and diabetes, just to name a few.

A few years ago, there were contaminated cannabis vapes that unfortunately made their way to the market and 59 people lost their lives. Outside of that isolated incident, there have been no additional deaths related to vaping - and none of those deaths were attributed to nicotine-containing e-cigarettes.

If you're still not convinced that vaping is in fact, much less harmful than the analogs, let's dig into the health risks associated with vaping, and compare them with the laundry list of established health risks associated to smoking cigarettes.


Let's start here by stating the obvious. Inhaling anything besides oxygen into your lungs has health risks associated with it. E-cigarettes aren't completely harmless and they were never designed to be. E-cigarettes were designed to a less harmful alternative to cigarettes; they reduce secondhand smoke, which kills about 40,000 people a year. The e-liquids contained in the e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is a highly addictive substance.


Smoking cigarettes is one of the worst things you can do to your lungs. Smoking is known to cause lung cancer, mouth cancer, and esophageal cancer as well as other deadly conditions like COPD - Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease - and emphysema.

All smoke is carcinogenic, but cigarettes is especially dangerous to your health. In addition to the wide variety of cancer-causing chemicals found in cigarette smoke, small particles, pieces of burned tobacco, paper, ash, and tar get inhaled right along with the cigarette smoke. These microscopic particles attach to the walls of your throat and lungs, where they can become stuck and wreak havoc on your respiratory system. Tar is an especially nasty substance that causes tons of damage all on its own. It's toxic, damages your lungs as it builds up over time and causes tons of problems for your body.

E-cigarettes, on the other hand, don't require combustion and fire to use, so there's no smoke. Instead, e-cigarettes produce vapor. The vapor is created by heating up e-liquid with a heating coil (rather than fire) which converts the liquid to vapor so it can be inhaled. The process is similar to boiling water on an electric stove: the coils get heated, then heats the liquid and is converted to vapor, a much-cleaner process than using combustion to burn tobacco. This cleaner process also means you won't be inhaling tar.


Have you ever noticed how bad the breath of a cigarette smoke smells, even when they're not smoking? There's a reason for that, and it might surprise you. In addition to making your teeth yellow and your breath smell, cigarette smoke is extremely destructive to your oral health. The tar alone, a byproduct of burning tobacco, can rot and blacken your teeth, damage your gums and desensitize your taste buds. Tar is also extremely carcinogenic and known to cause several forms of mouth cancer. The other chemicals found in cigarette smoke take its toll on your oral health as well, mutating cells - the process that creates cancer - and destroying the good bacteria in your mouth that helps keep your body balanced and healthy.

E-cigarettes, thankfully, don't involve burning tobacco at all, so there is no tar residue to contend with. And, since there's no fire, there's no smoke; allowing vaping to avoid the 7,000-or-so toxic and carcinogenic chemicals that destroy, not just smokers' respiratory systems but their mouths as well.


Cigarettes contain roughly 600 different ingredients, and when they're burned the process, and when they're burned the process creates 7,000 new chemicals, many of which are toxic and known to cause cancer. Some of the scariest chemicals found in cigarettes include acetone, the active ingredient in nail polish remover, arsenic, common in rat poison, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, also known as embalming fluid, and lead, just to name a few.

In stark contrast with the 600 ingredients found in cigarettes, e-cigarettes have very few ingredients, typically five include water, nicotine, propylene glycol, and glycerin, all of which are approved by the FDA.


The last ingredient in e-cigarettes, the chemical concoctions used to create the assortment of e-liquid flavors you know and love, is the only ingredient that would benefit from more testing.

There are quite literally thousands of e-liquid flavors available to vapers out there. And while some of them are perfectly fine to inhale, some of them are, undoubtedly, produced without observing industry standards and requirements, and could pose potential risks to your health. Many of the chemicals that give e-liquids their powerful flavors are already approved to use in food, but its effects when inhaled have not been properly studied.

Despite the lack of studies and research into the flavor compounds in e-liquid, there has been some uproar around one particular chemical found in e-liquid: diketones, specifically, diacetyl. Diketones are most often associated with a deadly disease called popcorn lung, a lung disease that plagued popcorn factory workers who suffered long term exposure to diketones. Diketones aren’t found in all e-liquid and after one study brought the risks associated with inhaling diacetyl to the attention of producers, many companies chose to reformulate their e-liquid, eliminating diketones altogether. 

But what about diketones in cigarettes? As you might have guessed, the amount of diketones found in cigarettes is between 100 and 750 times the amount found in e-liquid, and still popcorn lung is not on the list of diseases associated with cigarette smoke. While diketones will do damage when inhaled over long periods of time, the risks associated with diketone exposure don’t seem to be associated with either smoking or vaping.


Exploding e-cigarettes has been one of the biggest stories in the vape industry over the past couple years. Malfunctioning devices have exploded and caused serious injury to users, and this has, unfortunately, been used to fuel an anti-vaping agenda, without any regard for the actual facts. After much research, battery misuse and malfunctions were found to be the root of the exploding vape crisis. Loose batteries exposed to metal, modified vapes, improper charging, mixing of accessories, and improper care are all factors that can increase the chances of an exploding e-cigarette, and they're all things that are easily avoided.

E-cigarettes were intended to be a safer alternative for cigarette smokers concerned about their health. When all is said and done, vaping e-cigarettes are not without its risks, but when compared with the risks of smoking, it becomes crystal clear that vaping poses far less of a health risk. Then again, the choice is yours. What do you think of the comparative risks between vaping and smoking?

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