In an in-depth article on using vaping to quit smoking, the NHS stated that vaping is substantially less harmful than smoking. However, despite recommending vaping as an effective tool for quitting smoking, the NHS advises non-smokers and young people against taking up the habit because it is not completely risk-free. This is an important distinction to make when discussing whether or not vaping is any less toxic than smoking.
The Toxicity of Vaping vs. Smoking
Several studies carried out over the years have proven time and time again that traditional cigarette smoking can harm health irreparably. Smoking releases thousands of chemicals including tar, carbon monoxide, and numerous carcinogens into the lungs and the surrounding air. These toxic substances are linked to a number of serious health issues such as lung cancer, heart disease, respiratory problems, and a weakened immune system.
While vaping eliminates the combustion process and the production of harmful smoke associated with traditional smoking, it does not make it a completely safe practice. E-cigarette manufacturers would argue that since their products do not produce tar and some of the harmful chemicals found in cigarettes, vaping is a less toxic alternative. Even if that were true, however, several concerns remain regarding the safety of vaping.
Vaping Safety: Important Things You Should Know
- Ingredients Found In E-Cigarettes
According to the American Lung Association, e-cigarettes contain a long list of toxic ingredients including carcinogens, nicotine, diethylene glycol, propylene glycol, benzene, cadmium, lead, and acrolein, among others.
That’s an alarming list. Almost all of these toxic ingredients are known to negatively affect the lungs in one way or another. In addition, e-cigarettes also contain ultrafine particles that travel deep into the lungs when inhaled.
- Nicotine and the Addiction Factor
The one similarity between e-cigarettes and traditional cigarettes is that they both contain nicotine, an addictive substance responsible for the dependency on smoking. Nicotine addiction remains a significant health concern and can lead to long-term use, both through vaping and traditional smoking.
For smokers trying to quit the habit, taking up vaping instead is a safer alternative to their smoking addiction. On the other hand, for non-smokers who take up vaping, this can be a particularly risky addiction. E-cigarette users can ingest more nicotine than regular cigarettes due to the availability of high-strength nicotine cartridges. Alternatively, they can get a greater hit of the substance by simply increasing the voltage of the e-cigarette.
- Second-Hand Vapour Exposure
Although vaping may produce fewer harmful substances than smoking, second-hand exposure to e-cigarette vapour is not risk-free. Research has found that exposure to secondhand e-cigarette vapour has been linked to a higher likelihood of developing bronchitis and experiencing shortness of breath, particularly in young adults who neither smoke nor vape.
- Unknown Long-Term Effects
Now this is a really big concern. Vaping is a relatively new phenomenon, and its long-term health effects are still largely unknown. Many studies have suggested that vaping increases the risks of lung injuries, heart problems, and respiratory issues, but more research is needed to fully comprehend the short and long-term effects.
How To Vape “Safely”
Learning how to vape safely is key to reducing the associated risks. Keep these few safety tips in mind when vaping:
- Choose quality products from reputed brands – Avoid purchasing cheap, unbranded products, as they may lack proper safety features and could be made with substandard materials. It’s better to pay more and buy vaping devices and e-liquids from trusted manufacturers that are more likely to adhere to UK safety regulations.
- Always read the instructions carefully before you start – Each e-cigarette may have specific instructions for safe usage, maintenance, and charging. Reading and following the user manual that comes with your vaping device will ensure you don’t make any mistakes.
- Choose the right nicotine strength – If you’re new to vaping or trying to quit smoking, start with a lower nicotine strength e-liquid. Higher nicotine concentrations may lead to nicotine overdose or adverse effects, especially if you’re just starting.
- Be careful with additives – Avoid adding substances or chemicals not intended for vaping into your e-liquids. This includes anything beyond the manufacturer’s recommendations, as it can be dangerous and may cause health issues.
- Monitor e-liquid levels – Keep an eye on your e-liquid levels to prevent the device from running dry. Vaping an empty cartridge or tank can damage the heating element and affect the overall safety of the device.
- Avoid overheating – Avoid overheating your vaping device. Prolonged use or chain vaping can cause the device to get excessively hot, leading to potential malfunctions or even injuries. Allow the device to cool down between sessions.
- Store e-liquids safely – Store e-liquids out of reach of children and pets, preferably in a cool, dark place. Always keep e-liquids in their original child-resistant containers to prevent accidental ingestion.
- Don’t vape around others – More and more places are beginning to put vaping regulations in place but even if there aren’t any, it’s good practice to be mindful of others around you. In general, adhere to the same social practices associated with smoking.
UK Vaping Regulations
With all the debate swirling around vaping vs traditional cigarettes, the UK Government has put some laws in place to regulate e-cigarettes such as restricting tanks to no more than 2 ml capacity, restricting nicotine strength of e-liquids to no more than 20 mg/ml, and banning certain ingredients such as caffeine, colourings, and taurine. These restrictions aim to ensure that consumers have a safer vaping experience.
Laws notwithstanding, you should know that despite vaping being considered less harmful than traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes are not entirely safe. The addictive nature of nicotine, the unknown long-term effects, and the presence of potentially harmful chemicals in e-liquids all contribute to concerns about the overall safety of vaping.