More and more lately, I see people “vaping.” I know this makes me extremely uncool, but I’m honestly not really clear on what vaping is or how it works. I know that it’s popular and that it is seen kind of as a competitor to smoking (or maybe as an alternative to it), but I don’t know much else. What’s actually in that vapor that people are breathing in and out? What’s going on inside of the devices they use to smoke it (or “vape” it, I guess)? Experts, can you help me with this?
We sure can!
Vaping is indeed popular–more popular, in fact, than cigarette smoking among teens. That may be good news, given the scientific consensus that vaping is better for us than smoking, or it could be seen as bad news, since the jury is still out on whether or not vaping is safe, and vaping’s popularity is seen by some as a threat to the progress we’ve made in fighting cigarette use by the public. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves: you asked what vaping was, so let’s talk about that first.
Vaping is indeed an alternative–and competitor–to smoking. As with cigarettes, users breathe something in and then exhale it, enjoying the flavor and (quite often in the case of vaping, and always in the case of cigarettes) the addictive nicotine. But what are they actually breathing in?
What we call “vapor” is, in this case, technically an “aerosol”: a mixture of small particles and gas, with the tiny particles suspended in the gas. That gas is created by a heating element inside of the vaping device, which heats up an “e-liquid” and turns it into the aerosol the user breathes. The heating element is powered by a lithium battery within the electronic device.
Users can fill their e-cigarettes with e-liquids of all sorts of types, say e-liquid wholesalers at Ejuice. The wide variety of flavor options available for e-cigarettes makes the activity quite versatile and adaptive to all kinds of tastes, which helps explain the rising popularity of e-cigarettes.
But e-liquids also often include nicotine, the addictive substance made famous by tobacco. Is nicotine harmful in and of itself? Is vaping completely safe, or should we worry that it is addictive? And can an addiction be unhealthy even if the addictive activity or substance is not itself unhealthy?
These are all fair questions. What we know right now is that vaping is almost certainly significantly healthier than smoking cigarettes. That’s good, and it means that vaping could provide a way to avoid the dangers of cigarette smoking without actually having to quit nicotine–a good thing for those who find themselves unable to break addiction’s hold on them. But experts aren’t yet sure whether vaping is perfectly healthy on its own, so we’ll have to wait on further research before we know whether or not picking up vaping is a healthy choice for non-smokers.
“Even the most ardent opponents of vaping agree that although not absolutely safe, vaping is much safer than smoking.” — Dr. Michael Siegel