E-cigarettes have quickly become an extremely popular alternative to smoking, although there is still much debate as to the extent of health benefits associated with vaping versus tobacco smoking.
One thing is for sure: e cigarettes are comparatively healthier than normal cigarettes. Smoking burns tobacco in order to produce large quantities of nicotine quickly. Nicotine is the addictive ingredient, but the most harmful aspect of smoking is the smoke itself.
Why is vaping considered healthier than smoking?
Along with nicotine, burning tobacco also releases a dangerous mixture of other toxic chemicals that have been found to contribute to various cancers, heart disease and other serious illnesses – carbon monoxide and tar, to name just a few.
Vaping does not involve the process of burning tobacco to produce smoke, therefore it avoids the harmful chemicals that are ingested by the body when puffing on a cigarette.
For regular smokers who are addicted to nicotine, e-cigarettes are a far healthier alternative to tobacco – similar in theory to nicotine gum or patches. The various levels of nicotine contained within e-liquid allow vapers to gradually lessen their dosage of nicotine over time, eventually removing it completely from their daily routine.
What do the studies say?
The BBC recently conducted a study of a small sample group, geared to find out what the health benefits of vaping over smoking were.
Following a period of smoking and vaping, the people were asked to give saliva, urine and breath samples for analysis, which were then tested for levels of harmful chemicals.
They found that while the vapers got a similar dose of nicotine from their eliquid, their levels of carbon monoxide and other dangerous chemicals were significantly lower than the smoking group. The levels of harmful chemicals in the vaping group were actually more similar to those found in non-smokers.
PHE England also conducted a much larger, in-depth study in August 2015 that concluded that e-cigarettes have potential to help smokers quit their habit. The report also found that:
The current best estimate is that e-cigarettes are around 95% less harmful than smoking
Nearly half the population (44.8%) don’t realise e-cigarettes are much less harmful than smoking
There is no evidence so far that e-cigarettes are acting as a route into smoking for children or non-smokers
University College London (UCL)
One of the most recent studies on vaping conducted by researchers at UCL in March 2016 found that e-cigarettes helped approximately 18,000 smokers to quit in 2014.
The UCL team has been tracking the rapid rise in use of e-cigarettes using monthly national surveys and estimates that in 2014 almost 900,000 smokers used one of these products to try to quit.
Professor Robert West, who led the research team, said: “E-cigarettes appear to be helping a significant number of smokers to stop who would not have done otherwise – not as many as some e-cigarette enthusiasts claim, but a substantial number nonetheless.”
Understanding the health impact of e-cigarettes
You may have read headlines that e-cigarettes are ‘not safe’, but that certainly doesn’t mean they are not safer than smoking cigarettes. In fact, e-cigarettes could well be our most powerful weapon when combating the biggest preventable cause of cancer – smoking.
However, we believe it is still important to be aware that there is no healthier substitute than stopping smoking or vaping completely. If you don’t already smoke then it’s not wise to start vaping as there are no positive health benefits for doing so.
Research into the long term health effects of vaping are ongoing, though again it is more than likely that any negative effects are far less than those associated with smoking tobacco.