A new study out of the United Kingdom is good news for the e-cigarette industry. Vaping, it turns out, really is better for your lungs than smoking cigarettes.
The study by Public Health England, a division of the UK Department of Health, concluded that vaping is roughly 95 percent less damaging than tobacco smoking. That finding was based on the agency’s most recent “best estimate.”
“While vaping may not be 100 percent safe, most of the chemicals causing smoking-related disease are absent and the chemicals which are present pose limited danger,” researchers wrote.
There exists a widespread belief that e-cigarettes are as dangerous as the real thing. That perception, the study’s authors wrote, was “based on misinterpreted research findings.”
“E-cigarettes are not completely risk-free, but when compared to smoking, evidence shows they carry just a fraction of the harm,” said Prof. Kevin Fenton, director of health and wellbeing at Public Health England. “The problem is people increasingly think they are at least as harmful and this may be keeping millions of smokers from quitting. Local stop smoking services should look to support e-cigarette users in their journey to quitting completely.”
People are uneducated on how vaping works
Evidence that cigarette smoking causes cancer and serious respiratory problems is widespread and well known. But people generally know very little about vaping or how it works.
In a traditional cigarette, burning tobacco produces smoke that delivers nicotine to the lungs. That smoke contains a host of other chemicals, many of them highly toxic. Marijuana is smoked on the same principle.
A vaporizer, on the other hand, gently heats the tobacco (or weed) until it’s just hot enough that it gives off a hot water vapor. This mist is inhaled and delivers nicotine to the lungs just as smoke would.
E-cigarettes delivery solely nicotine
But e-cigarettes produce just one vaporized chemical: nicotine. This substance, one of the most addictive known to man, is nonetheless nowhere near as hazardous as the other lethal molecules found in tobacco smoke.
Some public health experts say e-cigarettes could help wean smokers off real tobacco and make it easier to quit entirely. In the meantime, a switch to vaping could cut back on both short- and long-term health consequences.
But a significant part of the anti-addiction industry is based on an all-or-nothing approach. Under that model, any attempt to quit that isn’t as grueling as possible simply doesn’t count. This wing of the healthcare world is starting to lose its clout, but could continue to fight the evidence on vaping.
The study notes that few non-smokers ever vape, meaning e-cigarettes appeal mostly to nicotine addicts who want to reduce the harm of inhaling smoke. Anti-tobacco groups often miss that fact and insist e-cigarettes will lure non-smokers into addiction.
“It just shows that people who are attracted to e-cigarettes are the same people who are attracted to smoking,” said Peter Hajek, one of the authors of the new study. “People who drink white wine are more likely to try red wine than people who do not drink alcohol.”
The report didn’t examine the differences between smoking and vaping marijuana, but previous studies have found vaping to be less aggravating to the lungs. Unlike smoking cigarettes, smoking pot isn’t known to cause cancer or other serious diseases.