Smoking versus Vaping
Authors: Ms. Maryam Al-Thani, Dr. Sohaila Cheema, Dr. Karima Chaabna
Electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes, vape pens, and vapes, have gained increasing popularity in recent years. Smoking an e-cigarette is referred to as vaping, which involves inhaling vapor generated by a battery-operated device that contains nicotine - a highly addictive substance also found in cigarettes.
Cigarettes versus vapes – are vapes a safer alternative to smoking?
Cigarette smoke contains nicotine (extracted from tobacco) along with thousands of toxic substances that are detrimental to human health. E-cigarettes heat small amounts of an e-liquid containing nicotine (extracted from tobacco), flavoring, and other chemicals to produce a vapor that can be inhaled. Like cigarette smoke, the e-liquid contains harmful substances, such as diacetyl, which damages passageways in the lungs; formaldehyde, a toxic chemical that can cause lung disease and plays a role in heart disease; and acrolein, which can also damage the lungs. Vaping can also cause EVALI – a serious medical condition in which a person’s lungs are damaged from substances contained in e-cigarettes and vaping products.
Both cigarettes and vapes contain nicotine. However, some vapes contain even more nicotine than traditional cigarettes. In addition to being highly addictive, nicotine can result in increased blood pressure, heart rate, blood flow to the heart, constriction of arteries, and heart attacks due to the hardening of arterial walls.
Vapes can be more problematic than cigarettes! Vapes are favored by teenagers and kids due to the use of appealing flavors. More than 80% of teenagers claim that their first vape was flavored. Flavored vapes invite young people to start vaping, increasing the risk of them progressing to traditional cigarettes. Vape devices also facilitate more frequent use as compared to traditional cigarettes.
Can vapes help people quit smoking?
Vaping has been reported as a mechanism to help people quit smoking. However, more evidence is required to determine if this is an effective means to quit. Proven tobacco cessation therapies should be used prior to considering the use of vapes.
A study conducted in 2018 reported an increase in high schoolers usage of e-cigarettes by 78% and middle schoolers by 48%. Vaping at a young age could lead users to switch to traditional cigarettes as time progresses. This halts the efforts of decades trying to curb the smoking epidemic, one of the most preventable causes of disease and death worldwide. In Qatar, the smoking rate in adolescents aged 15 and above decreased from 13.5% in 2000 to 11.80% in 2020. While this is slow progress, it is nevertheless a positive one. Normalizing vaping could back-pedal this progress.
Overall, there is no evidence to support the replacement of cigarettes with vapes as an advantageous course of action. Current evidence shows that both cigarettes and vapes are damaging to health and should be avoided.
If you are trying to quit smoking or help a friend quit, please contact the WHO Tobacco Control Unit at Hamad Medical Corporation.
Sources: YaleMedicine | American Heart Association (AHA) AHA 1 & AHA 2 | Hopkins Medicine | Kids Health | Hamad Medical Corporation
Image credits: “Smoking and Vaping: Their damage on the human body” by Ms. Maryam Al-Thani
Editor: Ms. Julietta Mirghani