The debate over whether vaping or cigarette smoking is worse for your health has been raging for years. With vaping still being a relatively new technology, the long-term effects are still unknown. However, both cigarettes and vapes pose significant health risks. This article will analyze the history and health impacts of both to help you understand the pros and cons of each.
A Brief History of Tobacco & Smoking
Tobacco originates from leafy plants in the Nicotiana genus, native to North and South America. Tobacco was first discovered and used by Native Americans over 12,000 years ago for medicinal, spiritual and recreational purposes. Even today, tobacco retains ceremonial importance in native tribes.
When European settlers came to America, tobacco was instantly popularized overseas as well. It was hailed by doctors as a cure-all that could treat 36 illnesses. Smoking tobacco recreationally also became a widespread pastime throughout the 1600s-1800s.
Of course, we now know tobacco has many dangerous side effects. Let’s analyze the health risks of smoking cigarettes specifically.
Health Risks of Cigarette Smoking
While the nicotine in tobacco provides stimulation and pain relief, it’s highly poisonous in large doses. And with over 20,000 parts per million of nicotine, it doesn’t take much to feel adverse effects.
Nicotine poisoning causes nausea, anxiety, hiccups and more. In severe cases, it leads to vasoconstriction, heart issues, and even death. What’s worse is nicotine is highly addictive, making it hard to quit even if you want to.
On top of its nicotine content, curing tobacco with 600+ chemical additives poses further health issues. These chemicals help cigarettes burn more evenly but are toxic themselves, like ammonia, acetone, carbon monoxide and formaldehyde.
When burned, these 600 chemicals create over 7000 new compounds, 69 of which are proven carcinogens. This chemical toxicity strongly links smoking with higher cancer rates and other conditions like stroke, heart disease and diabetes.
The tar created from inhaled smoke also clogs lungs and causes severe respiratory damage over time. And secondhand “passive” smoke carries many same cancer risks. Studies show secondhand smoke exposure increases your stroke risk 20-30% and heart disease risk 25-30%.
In short, smoking undoubtedly wreaks havoc on nearly all aspects of human health. No wonder many long-time smokers are now switching to vapes instead!
Vaping as an Alternative – Is it Any Better?
Vaping technology is far more recent. The first mass-produced e-cigarette was invented in 2003 by Hon Lik as a cleaner and healthier smoking alternative. However, many vapes still contain nicotine and pose unique health threats.
How Vapes Work
While styles vary, vapes essentially vaporize “e-juices” electronically, allowing inhalation of nicotine without burning tobacco. This vaporization using propylene glycol seems much cleaner than inhaling cigarette smoke full of tar.
However, research shows vaping impacts health negatively as well. For example, EVALI (E-Cigarette/Vaping Lung Injury) has hospitalized thousands and kills up to 1 in 10 victims. EVALI appears linked to vitamin E acetate in unregulated liquids as well as other common additives.
Dangers of Vaping Additives
While e-liquids typically contain less toxic chemicals than cigarette smoke, their flavorings and vaporization pose issues too. When heated, even food-safe compounds can turn carcinogenic without proper oversight.
For instance, diacetyl safely adds a buttery flavor to foods but destroys lung function long-term if inhaled. Yet this and other hazardous chemicals are still found in many sweet-flavored, youth-friendly vape liquids.
Heating also disables critical lung cilia – tiny hairs pushing contaminants out through coughing. Various vape chemicals paralyze this defense system for weeks, enabling infections.
Does Vaping Help Smokers Quit?
Many vapers continue smoking alongside occasional vaping instead of quitting cigarettes completely. One study found limited evidence that vaping aids permanent smoking cessation. Tragically, even Hon Lik has been unable to quit himself.
Secondhand Vape Exposure
While vape clouds clearly contain fewer carcinogens than cigarette smoke, restricting public indoor vaping alongside smoking policies could provide protection until research paints a clearer picture.
In Closing – Should You Vape or Smoke?
Evidence continues mounting against both tobacco and e-cigarettes. And with vaping technology still evolving rapidly, long-term impacts remain uncertain. Ultimately, as the World Health Organization advises, the only sure way to avoid all risks is avoiding both vaping and smoking altogether.