Vaping vs. smoking: what are the differences?
Smoking and vaping nicotine both have negative health effects, but vaping is often seen as a safer alternative, especially when you want to kick the cigarette habit. While the long-term effects of vaping are not well known, it’s becoming clearer that there are potential risks involved.
Let’s find out the differences between vaping and smoking, how they affect your health and the solutions that exist to permanently quit.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE?
When you lit a cigarette, the combustion of the tobacco creates smoke that contains nicotine along with many toxic and cancer-causing chemicals which are harmful to your lungs when inhaled.
The liquid used in an electronic cigarette contains flavours with or without nicotine. When you vape, this liquid is heated to produce a vapor. The temperature required to create this vapor is lower than that reached by burning tobacco in a cigarette, but it is still enough to create toxic chemicals.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH VAPING?
The vapor created when vaping contains fewer and different chemicals than those produced by burning tobacco. This may seem gentler on the lungs, but it is not completely safe.
There are health risks linked to other chemicals found in vaping products, which means that using nicotine-free liquids may not be risk-free. For example, some chemicals in vape liquids, like vegetable glycerine and propylene glycol, are safe for ingestion (eating). However, when they’re heated, they create new chemicals that may not be safe for the lungs.
When heated, poorly manufactured devices can also let go of contaminants, such as nickel, tin and aluminum, that can cause additional lung irritation.
Here are some of the documented risks associated with vaping:
- Some vaping liquids contain large amounts of nicotine. High nicotine levels can form addiction and impact brain development in fetuses, children, and teens.
The liquid in vapes can be irritating to the eyes and skin.
Certain chemical flavourings contain diacetyl. Inhaling diacetyl causes inflammation and may lead to permanent scarring in the smallest branches of the airways, a phenomenon called popcorn lungs. There is no lasting treatment to it.
Device malfunctions may cause injury from fires and explosions.
When heated, certain chemicals found in vape liquids can form formaldehyde, which is dangerous to one’s health. High levels of exposure may cause certain types of cancer.
The long-term effects of vaping are still not well known. Other health risks may be uncovered over time, as was the case with cigarettes.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH SMOKING?
Cigarettes have been around much longer than vaping, and there have been decades of research showing that smoking is detrimental to one’s health. According to the Government of Canada, every 11 minutes, a Canadian dies from tobacco use, and thousands more are diagnosed with a tobacco-related illness.
Some of the risks associated with smoking include:
- Nicotine addiction
Reduced life expectancy and quality of life
Increased risk of developing lung cancer, and at least 15 other cancers
Increased risk of cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases
Dental problems, such as tooth loss and bad breath
WHICH IS BETTER?
Nicotine is addictive no matter how you consume it, so you can still get hooked on vaping just as quickly as you can get hooked on smoking. And since nicotine is a stimulant, it can also cause side effects like increased heart rate and anxiety.
Health Canada recognizes vaping is less harmful than smoking cigarettes. In fact, when used to quit smoking, vaping is associated with short-term general health improvements. That being said, vaping shouldn’t be a long-term solution.
The best way to improve your health is to quit all forms of nicotine.
WHAT ARE MY OPTIONS TO PERMANENTLY QUIT?
Anyone who’s ever tried to quit knows it’s not easy. If you’re looking to quit smoking, your pharmacist can be a valuable ally in your journey to becoming nicotine-free. Not only can they provide you with information and resources about quitting, but they can also help you develop a quit plan tailored to your needs.
They can also offer guidance on choosing the right nicotine replacement product, such as patches, gum, or lozenges. Depending on where you live, they may be able to prescribe medication that may be covered by your insurance.
Your pharmacist might ask you about your smoking habits, how long you’ve been smoking, and whether you’ve tried to quit before. They will also want to know if you have any medical conditions that could make quitting more difficult. With this information, your pharmacist can help you choose the best method of quitting, whether it’s gradually reducing your intake, using medication to ease withdrawal symptoms or quitting cold turkey.
Things to keep in mind
- Neither smoking nor vaping is good for you, especially in the long term.
- Quit smoking is the the best solution for your health.
- Your pharmacist can provide the appropriate support to help you quit for good!
The information contained herein is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide complete information on the subject matter or to replace the advice of a health professional. This information does not constitute medical consultation, diagnosis or opinion and should not be interpreted as such. Please consult your health care provider if you have any questions about your health, medications or treatment.