Quitting Smoking & Vaping For Dummies
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Yes, probably — but with numerous caveats. In a head-to-head contest, smoking appears more dangerous than vaping. Think of smoking like playing professional football without a helmet or protective gear. Chances are, you’re going to get hurt. Badly. You may even die. Half of all chronic smokers will eventually die from illness directly linked to smoking.

However, if you suit up in appropriate protective clothing and a helmet, you’ll have a much better chance of surviving that football game. Nonetheless, you’ll still be running substantial risks of getting hurt, especially over time. Consider all the serious brain injuries increasingly reported among former professional football players, even though they used helmets. For that matter, even in the short run, it’s a rare NFL game that you don’t see at least one player carried off on a stretcher. So, let’s say that vaping is more like playing football for years with protective gear: safer but far from safe.

vaping vs. smoking ©adriano.cz/Shutterstock.com

Yet, many in the public don’t realize that vaping is probably safer than smoking. Surveys have found that increasingly, the public views e-cigarettes as equally, if not more, dangerous than regular, tobacco cigarettes. That may be because of frequent news articles about the dangers of vaping. Relatively few news articles appear that detail the dangers of cigarette smoking. That’s because those dangers have been well known for decades and the topic is neither newsworthy nor controversial.

Scientists know that cigarette smoking kills, and the risks are well established. A lot of the damage from regular smoking is caused by the combustion of tobacco, which produces toxins that damage the cell linings of the lungs. That damage makes the cells more vulnerable to the effects of cancer-causing chemicals (some caused by the combustion itself) found in regular cigarettes.

Vaping appears safer, but many of the risks associated with vaping are not yet fully known. Long-term studies are sorely lacking because vaping is a relatively new phenomenon. Nevertheless, scientists have reached a reasonable consensus that vaping is safer than regular cigarettes.

Although vaping potentially exposes vapers to an array of toxic chemicals, there are fewer chemicals and the levels of those chemicals are much less toxic than those found in regular, combustible cigarettes.

You should know that conclusions about the safety of vaping are complicated because of the variety of devices and substances. In fact, there are literally hundreds of different types of vaping devices that produce variable levels of heat and amounts of vapor. There are almost an infinite variety of e-juice combinations. And the concentrations of these substances also fluctuate widely. For example, some e-liquid contains exceptionally high levels of nicotine. Other formulations contain no nicotine whatsoever. Still others deliver various flavors, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD), and so on. Different risks likely depend on the actual device and specific ingredients in the e-liquid.

Although most forms of vaping appear generally safer than smoking cigarettes, we want to be clear that we do not advocate starting vaping if you’re not a smoker. Using vaping as one means of either quitting smoking or reducing overall harm from smoking is only recommended for the small percentage of people who smoke heavily, have tried quitting by a number of other means, and are either unable or unwilling to quit smoking entirely.

Because vaping in the United States is still lightly regulated, using e-cigarettes may confer greater risks than if purchased in the United Kingdom, where there are strict controls over the industry. So, for now, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends against using vaping to quit smoking.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is often cited as having not found e-cigarettes to be a safe and effective method for smoking cessation efforts. One reason it hasn’t reached this conclusion is that it hasn’t yet studied e-cigarettes for this purpose. In the United Kingdom, the National Health Service (NHS) has assessed the issue and recommends e-cigarettes for the purpose of quitting smoking. More research is badly needed on vaping as a smoking cessation strategy because what we have now is both conflicting and controversial.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Charles H. Elliott, PhD and Laura L. Smith, PhD are clinical psychologists with years of experience treating people with emotional problems, including addictions. They are authors of a variety of For Dummies books including Overcoming Anxiety For Dummies and Borderline Personality Disorder For Dummies.

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