Vape Culture: Safer Than Smoking?

More and more, you will hear about this activity known as vaping, the act of inhaling vapor from e-cigarettes. Since 2014, young Americans were more likely to vape than they were to smoke. There is a great deal of debate over whether vaping should be subjected to the same laws that cigarette smoking is, i.e., whether it should be banned in public spaces such as restaurants, bars, etc. Before making a decision on policy, people should learn about the health effects of e-cigs compared to those of traditional cigarettes.

Regular cigarettes contain 600 ingredients, which turns into 7,000 chemicals when burned. 69 of these chemicals are known to cause cancer (like arsenic, lead, and formaldehyde), and many more are poisonous (ammonia, carbon monoxide, etc.) The tar in cigarettes blackens the lungs in just one puff. Much like smoking meats to preserve them, cigarette smoke dries out the air passages in the lungs, making it harder for them to open up and let air through. Don’t think you’re safe from secondhand smoke either. Non-smokers who live with a smoker increase their risk of lung cancer by 20 to 30%. Secondhand smoke has an even higher percentage of carcinogens and toxins than that which is inhaled by the smoker. This is nasty, nasty stuff.

Unlike regular cigarettes, e-cigarettes (or e-cigs) contain a fluid that generally consists of a fairly simple mixture of nicotine, propylene glycol, and glycerine — none of which are carcinogens — as well as flavorings, which may or may not be carcinogenic. However, carcinogens like formaldehyde and lead do find their way into e-cigs, albeit in trace amounts much lower than those found in traditional cigarettes. One study says that e-cigs are 95% safer than traditional cigarettes. However, some studies say that the long-term health effects are inconclusive. Research has focused on whether e-cigs help people quit tobacco cigarettes, with varying results.

However, e-cigs present a new problem that traditional cigarettes don’t — the risk of exploding. 80% of e-cig explosions occur during battery charging, 12% occurring while in the possession of the user. Batteries were most likely to explode when people used incorrect chargers, charged the battery while it was still connected to the atomizer, or overcharged the battery. This page suggests eight tips to avoid e-cig explosions.

Either way, more research should be conducted on the health impacts of e-cigs compared to those of cigarettes. A scientific consensus states that smoking tobacco cigarettes increases the risk of cancer. We have yet to know the true impact of e-cigs. Health experts say that there is no safe level of any carcinogen. However, there are numerous foods that contain carcinogens that continue to remain legal. French fries, sugary sodas, and salty snacks are horrible for your long-term health. People need to understand that the best way to reduce long-term health care costs are preventative measures.

What I am curious to know is the exact chemical composition of tobacco smoke compared to that of vapor. Does vapor really have a lower percentage of carcinogens? And how much does convection reduce the risk of cancer compared to that of combustion? Until people become truly aware of the chemical composition of vapor, we will not have much to say about the bigger picture regarding the health effects of vaping.

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