Joanna Athina Lau

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“Does vaping have the same health impact as tobacco smoking?”

“Does vaping have the same health impact as tobacco smoking?”

One of the latest trends in smoking is the use of e-cigarettes and vaping devices as an alternative option to tobacco smoking. It is often assumed that vaping could be safer but since the concept is fairly new, there is a lack of health related research on the long-term effects of vaping and therefore lack of information on the health impact of vaping. The misconception that vaping is completely safe can encourage tobacco smokers to quit smoking by vaping instead (BMJ, 2018; Notley et al., 2018), but it can also encourage an earlier onset among adolescents (Jamal et al., 2016). Here is a little summary of what we know regarding the use of e-cigarettes:


Long-term vaping is significantly less harmful than long-term tobacco smoking

According to a study carried out by Public Health England, it has been found that between tobacco smokers and those who use an e-cigarette for at least six months, those who vape showed lower levels of toxic chemicals and substances that can lead to cancer diseases (carcinogens) from samples of their breath, saliva, and urine samples (PHE, 2015). However, this does not suggest that e-cigarette liquids contain no toxic chemicals. Another study has found 22 toxic substances in e-cig liquids besides nicotine but in lower concentration than tobacco (Rehan et al., 2018).

Vaping has shown no significant health impact to non-smokers

Other findings suggest that vaping may have no significant health changes to those who have never smoked before and have used e-cigs for 3.5 years (Polosa et al., 2017). Health outcomes that were measured include blood pressure, heart rate, body weight, lung function, respiratory symptoms, exhaled breath nitric oxide, exhaled carbon monoxide, and high-resolution computed tomography of the lungs. There were also no pathological findings based on the tomography of the lungs and no respiratory symptoms. However, the sample size of this study was small (a total of 16 participants) and it cannot be assumed that the results will be consistent for the next years of continuous use of e-cigs.

Toxicological effects of  e-cigarettes can contribute to cancer

A few studies using rats and mice suggest that e-cigs can damage DNA (Canistro et al., 2017) and reduce the ability of cells to repair themselves in lung, heart, and bladder (similar findings with lung and bladder were found among humans) (Lee et al., 2018). Furthermore, more recent findings from a pilot study suggest that e-cigarettes with nicotine or without can have the same effect on one’s vitals, blood pressure, and heart rate which leads to an increase in cardiovascular risk (Franzen et al., 2018).

Conclusion

There is limited research on whether vaping is ‘safer’ than smoking and the available studies seem to show mixed results. The majority suggest that vaping can be ‘safer’ in the sense that the concentration of toxic chemicals is less compare to tobacco smoking but it still unknown what are the long-term effects of vaping on health and there is a rising concern on the early use of e-cigarettes.

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