Vaping devices or e-cigarettes have increased in popularity over the last couple of years. In fact, Public Health England issued a statement stating that vaping is 95% less harmful than smoking tobacco cigarettes.
By way of answering this question, let’s look at the way nicotine is ingested by smoking and by vaping.
“The cigarette is a very efficient and highly-engineered drug-delivery system.” According to the research report titled “Tobacco, Nicotine, and E-Cigarettes Research Report: How does tobacco deliver its effects,” the average smoker takes in between one and two milligrams of nicotine per cigarette.
Additionally, when tobacco is smoked, the nicotine levels in the bloodstream rapidly reach peak levels and enters the brain, where it stimulates the adrenal glands to release adrenalin and dopamine. As with other drugs like cocaine and heroin, nicotine stimulates the brain’s reward circuits, resulting in learned behavior that a cigarette must be smoked to feel better. Addiction occurs when the nicotine causes long-term changes in the brain, resulting in withdrawal symptoms and cravings when going too long without smoking.
Unfortunately, cigarette smoke also contains over 7 000 chemicals, of which hundreds are carcinogenic. While nicotine is addictive, the other chemicals released by burning tobacco are far more dangerous, resulting in lung cancer, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema. Incidentally, tar is released when the tobacco burns, coating the lungs’ airways, resulting in a reduced ability to take in air oxygen.
Vaping is now one of the most popular ways to consume tobacco. As an aside, vaping devices like the Smok Alien are used to vape e-liquids that contain nicotine. A vaping device or e-cigarette is a battery-powered device that converts the e-liquid into a mist or vapor which the user inhales. The nicotine in the e-liquid forms part of the mist and is absorbed into the bloodstream when the vapor is breathed into the lungs.
In other words, an e-cigarette is similar to a tobacco cigarette in that it uses heat to release the nicotine. However, the e-cigarette vapor does not contain all the harmful chemicals such as tar and carbon monoxide found in cigarette smoke.
Nicotine-based e-liquids come in different strengths from 12mg/mL right down to 0mg/mL. For instance, heavy smokers who smoked up to 30 cigarettes per day should start with the 12mg/mL nicotine-based e-liquid and slowly move down from the 12mg, 6mg, 3mg, and finally down to the 0mg/mL. In other words, the way to quit smoking is to vape nicotine-based e-liquids and to reduce the nicotine strength over time.
Vaping versus smoking: What the UK government says
As stated at the start of this article, the UK government, or more specifically Public Health England, actively promotes vaping to help smokers quit.
This viewpoint is based on a research study that shows what the lungs of a heavy smoker look like in relation to the lungs of a vaper who vapes the same amount of nicotine in a twenty-four-hour period. In summary, this research study showed the amount of the sticky tar that coated the lungs of a heavy smoker versus hardly a trace of residue in the lungs of a person who vapes.
As noted above, sticky tar is one of the chemicals released when burning tobacco. The cigarette’s heat converts the tar into a liquid form, and the smoker breathes it into the lungs. When this liquid tar cools down, it coats the lungs’ airways, preventing the smoker from absorbing air oxygen. As time goes by, the layer of tar grows until the lungs cannot absorb air oxygen, resulting in a disease called emphysema.