Vaping vs Smoking: Assessing Risks and Effects

When it comes to the debate between vaping and smoking, both activities come with their own set of risks and consequences. Despite ongoing research, the long-term health effects of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are not yet fully understood, and scientific evidence points to them not being a safe alternative to smoking.

Vaping involves inhaling an aerosol mixture, containing various chemicals, such as nicotine and flavoring, through an e-cigarette or similar device. Particularly worrisome is the increasing popularity of vaping among teenagers.

The American Heart Association (AHA) notes that many individuals believe vaping to be safer than smoking, but this belief is not necessarily accurate. A mounting body of evidence indicates the potential dangers of vaping.

This article delves into the risks associated with vaping compared to smoking and explores the potential long-term effects and hazards of both activities.

Which is the Lesser Evil?

It is essential to recognize that neither smoking nor vaping promotes human health. Based on current evidence, smoking appears to pose a greater risk than vaping. However, this does not imply that vaping is devoid of risks.

Secondhand smoke comprises over 7,000 chemicals, with hundreds of them being toxic and around 70 being carcinogenic. The American Heart Association (AHA) acknowledges that while vaping liquids contain fewer contaminants than cigarettes, they are by no means safe.


Individuals who vape may be at risk for several reasons:

  • E-cigarettes can contain a high dose of nicotine, which is known to hinder brain development in fetuses, children, and teenagers.
  • The liquid used for vaporization can be hazardous to adults and children if ingested, inhaled, or comes into contact with the skin.
  • Vaping introduces harmful substances like diacetyl, cancer-causing agents, heavy metals, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the body.
  • The increasing popularity of vaping may normalize smoking behavior once again.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), up to early 2020, there had been approximately 2,800 cases of hospitalizations or deaths linked to vaping, with 68 confirmed vaping-related deaths.

Nevertheless, the CDC also acknowledges that since the removal of harmful ingredients like vitamin E acetate from vaping products, the number of vaping-related symptoms has decreased.


In contrast to vaping, which is a relatively recent phenomenon, there is extensive research to support the assertion that smoking is detrimental to human health.

According to the CDC, smoking:

Harms every organ in the body.

Results in over 480,000 deaths annually in the United States. Accounts for 90% of lung cancer deaths. Contributes to about 80% of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) deaths. Increases mortality risk and the likelihood of developing conditions like heart disease and stroke.

Long-Term Effects of Smoking

Smoking leads to numerous long-term adverse effects on the body. The CDC highlights that smoking:

  • Reduces sperm count.
  • Raises the risk of pregnancy complications and congenital defects.
  • Elevates the risk of cataracts.
  • Compromises immune system function.
  • Induces general inflammation.
  • Is linked to cancer development in various body parts, including the lungs, kidneys, and stomach.
  • Triggers asthma attacks.
  • Causes vascular blockages.
  • Elevates the risk of stroke.

Long-Term Effects of Vaping

Research generally acknowledges that vaping can have negative impacts on the lungs and other bodily systems, but its consequences are milder than those of tobacco smoking.

However, a 2019 study on the long-term health effects of vaping indicated that individuals who used e-cigarettes were more prone to respiratory diseases compared to non-smokers.

Vaping may:

  • Impair lung function.
  • Release cancer-promoting free radicals into the body.
  • Weaken the immune system.
  • Lead to a loss of taste.
  • Stall brain development in fetuses, children, and adolescents.
  • Reports also exist of burns sustained due to defective batteries causing e-cigarettes to explode during recharging.

Quitting Smoking and Vaping

Health authorities in the United Kingdom suggest that vaping can serve as a useful tool for quitting smoking. Additionally, in 2021, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the marketing of specific e-cigarette products for their potential in aiding smoking cessation.

However, the CDC points out that insufficient evidence exists to fully endorse vaping as an effective smoking cessation method.

Utilizing Vapes to Quit Smoking

A 2021 study discovered that daily e-cigarette usage among tobacco smokers significantly increased the likelihood of quitting smoking. The research analyzed data from the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) study between 2014 and 2019, focusing on smokers not initially intending to quit.

At the end of the study, 28% of daily e-cigarette users had completely quit smoking, while 45.5% had discontinued daily tobacco smoking.

However, the impact on smoking cessation rates was statistically significant only for those using e-cigarettes daily. In comparison, only 5.8% of non-e-cigarette users had quit smoking altogether, and 9.9% had ceased daily tobacco use.

Another randomized controlled study from 2019 found that daily e-cigarette use resulted in almost double the smoking abstinence rate compared to other nicotine replacement products after one year.

Addictive Nature of Smoking and Vaping

Nicotine is a highly addictive substance. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reveals that around half of all smokers attempt to quit each year, but only 6% succeed.

A 2019 study suggests that nicotine-containing e-cigarettes might have a higher potential for addiction than conventional cigarettes among young adults. The study indicated that participants using both forms of smoking exhibited a greater nicotine dependence related to e-cigarettes.

Nevertheless, nicotine by itself is relatively low in harm, and transitioning from daily tobacco smoking to daily e-cigarette use can be a significant step toward complete smoking cessation.

Vaping vs. Smoking

Weed Vaping devices can be used to inhale tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive chemical in cannabis. A 2018 study exploring infrequent cannabis smoking in adults found that vaping THC produced stronger mind-altering effects than smoking an equivalent amount of cannabis. Consequently, vaping THC may lead to a faster, more intense high but potentially more adverse effects as well.

In Summary

Smoking and vaping share numerous detrimental effects on health, including lung damage and an increased risk of cancer.

While more is known about the long-term consequences of smoking, vaping products contain far fewer harmful substances than cigarettes and can serve as an effective tool for quitting smoking.

However, while vape products may decrease exposure to tar and other harmful elements, they can heighten nicotine dependency.

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