Vaping – Top 3 Pros and Cons
E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that heat a liquid into an aerosol vapor for inhalation. The liquid used in e-cigarettes is also known as e-liquid or vape juice. The main components are generally flavoring, nicotine, and water, along with vegetable glycerin and propylene glycol, which distribute the flavor and nicotine in the liquid and create the vapor. Popular flavorings include mint, mango, and tobacco.
E-cigarettes are also known as “e-cigs,” “e-hookahs,” “mods,” “vape pens,” “vapes,” “vaporizers,” “e-pipes,” and “electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS).” Some e-cigarettes are made to resemble regular cigarettes, cigars, or pipes, while others look like pens or USB flash drives.
The JUUL brand of e-cigarettes, a vaporizer shaped like a USB drive, launched in 2015 and captured nearly 75% of the market in 2018, becoming so popular that vaping is often referred to as “juuling.” Juul’s market popularity has since declined to 42% in 2020.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has regulated e-cigarettes as a tobacco product since 2016. On Sep. 11, 2019, the Trump administration announced plans to have the FDA end sales of non-tobacco e-cigarette flavors such as mint or menthol in response to concerns over teen vaping. E-cigarette manufacturers were required to request FDA permission to keep flavored products on the market. The FDA had until Sep. 9, 2021 to make a decision.
On Sep. 9, 2021, Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, MD, and Director of the FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products Mitch Zeller, JD, announced that the FDA had made decisions on 93% of the 6.5 million submitted applications for “deemed” new tobacco products (“‘deemed’ new” means the FDA newly has authority to review the products but the products may already be on the market), including denying 946,000 vaping products “because their applications lacked sufficient evidence that they have a benefit to adult smokers to overcome the public health threat posed by the well-documented, alarming levels of youth use.” The FDA had taken no action on JUUL products as of Sep. 9.
On Oct. 12, 2021, the FDA authorized the Vuse e-cigarette and cartridges, marketed by R.J. Reynolds one of the world’s largest cigarette manufacturers. The move is the first time the FDA authorized any vaping product. According to a statement from the FDA, the organization “determined that the potential benefit to smokers who switch completely or significantly reduce their cigarette use, would outweigh the risk to youth.”
Nearly 11 million American adults used e-cigarettes in 2018, more than half of whom were under age 35. One in five high school students used e-cigarettes to vape nicotine in 2018. E-cigarettes were the fourth most popular tobacco products with 4% of retail sales, behind traditional cigarettes (83%), chewing/smokeless tobacco (8%), and cigars (5%) as of Feb. 2019. The global e-cigarette and vape market was worth $15.04 billion in 2020.
According to the most recent CDC data (2018), 9.7% of current cigarette smokers were also current vapers, though 49.4% of current smokers had vaped at some point. Of former smokers who had quit within the last year, 25.2% were current vapers and 57.3% had tried vaping. Of former smokers who quit one to four years ago, 17.3% were current vapers and and 48.6% had tried vaping. Of former smokers who quit five or more years ago, 1.7% were current vapers and 9% had tried vaping. And of people who have never smoked, 1.5% were current vapers and 6.5% had tried vaping.
Is Vaping with E-Cigarettes Safe?
E-cigarettes help adults quit smoking and lowers youth smoking rates.
A July 2019 study found that cigarettes smokers who picked up vaping were 67% more likely to quit smoking. A New England Journal of Medicine study found that e-cigarettes are twice as effective at getting people to quit smoking as traditional nicotine replacements such as the patch and gum. E-cigarettes caused a 50% increase in the rate of people using a product designed to help people quit smoking.
Peter Hajek, PhD, Professor of Clinical Psychology at Queen Mary University London, said, “smokers who switch to vaping remove almost all the risks smoking poses to their health.”
Vaping has likely contributed to record low levels of youth cigarette smoking, which hit a record-low of just 4.6% of high school students in 2020, down from 19.8% in 2006 (the year e-cigarettes were introduced in the United States).
Further, a report from Public Health England found no evidence that vaping is an entry into smoking for young people.Read More
Vaping is a safer way to ingest tobacco.
A UK government report stated that the “best estimates show e-cigarettes are 95% less harmful to your health than normal cigarettes.”
Matthew Carpenter, PhD Co-director of the Tobacco Research Program at the Hollings Cancer Center, said, “Combustible cigarettes are the most harmful form of nicotine delivery.”
E-cigarettes are safer for indoor use. Researchers found that the level of nicotine on surfaces in the homes of e-cigarette users was nearly 200 times lower than in the homes of traditional cigarette smokers. Nicotine left behind on surfaces can turn into carcinogens; the amount of nicotine found where vapers live was similar to the trace amounts in the homes of nonsmokers.
Traditional cigarettes are known to cause health problems such as lung cancer, heart disease, and stroke. Worldwide, smoking is the top cause of preventable death, responsible for over seven million deaths each year.
The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine found conclusive evidence that switching to e-cigarettes reduces exposure to toxicants and carcinogens. Burning a traditional cigarette releases noxious gases such as carbon monoxide. Cigarette smoke contains tar, which accounts for most of the carcinogens associated with smoking. E-cigarettes don’t have those gases or tar.Read More
E-cigarettes reduce health care costs, create jobs, and help the economy.
Sally Satel, MD, a psychiatrist specializing in addiction and resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, argued, “promoting electronic cigarettes to smokers should be a public health priority. Given that the direct medical costs of smoking are estimated to be more than $130 billion per year, along with $150 billion annually in productivity losses from premature deaths, getting more smokers to switch would result in significant cost savings — as well as almost half a million lives saved each year.”
Grover Norquist, MBA, and Paul Blair, both of Americans for Tax Reform, stated, “e-cigarettes and vapor products are the Uber of the product industry. They’re a disruptive and innovative technology… Thousands of good-paying jobs are being created by an industry that is probably going to save hundreds of thousands of lives.”
Tax policy economist J. Scott Moody calculated that the harm reduction from smokers switching to vaping could save $48 billion in annual Medicaid spending.
Juul created more than 1,200 jobs just in 2018. A letter signed by a coalition of anti-regulation groups warned that efforts to limit the e-cigarette industry would destroy tens of thousands of jobs for manufacturers of the devices and the stores that sell them.Read More
Vaping among kids is skyrocketing: addicting a new generation to nicotine and introducing them to smoking.
An Oct. 25, 2021 study found marijuana vaping by teens doubled between 2013 and 2020, and the number of minors who stated they’d vaped marijuana in the past 30 days rose from 1.6% to 8.4% in the same time.
US Surgeon General Jerome Adams, MD, declared youth e-cigarette use an “epidemic,” noting a 900% increase in vaping by middle and high school students between 2011 and 2015.
As of 2020, 19.6% of high school students used e-cigarettes, the most-used tobacco product among the age group, followed by cigars (5%). Teens who use e-cigarettes are four times more likely to try regular cigarettes than their peers who never used tobacco, and 21.8% of youth cigarette use may be attributable to initiation through vaping.
Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association, stated, “The tobacco industry is well aware that flavored tobacco products [such as e-cigarettes] appeal to youth and has taken advantage of this by marketing them in a wide range of fruit and candy flavors.”Read More
Vaping causes serious health risks, including depression, lung disease, and stroke.
Nicotine use by young people may increase the risk of addiction to other drugs and impair prefrontal brain development, which can lead to ADD and disrupt impulse control. Adult vapers are also more than twice as likely to be diagnosed as depressed than their non-vaping peers.
The CDC confirmed six vaping-related deaths and over 450 possible cases of lung illness associated with e-cigarettes as of Sep. 6, 2019. People who use e-cigarettes have a 71% increased risk of stroke and 40% higher risk of heart disease, as compared to nonusers. Studies have shown that e-cigarettes can cause arterial stiffness and cardiovascular harm, and may increase the odds of a heart attack by 42%.
Researchers who found increased risk of blood clots from e-cigarettes wrote, “these devices do emit considerable levels of toxicants, some of which are shared/overlap with tobacco smoking; and thus their harm should not be underestimated.”
Scientists at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that e-cigarettes leak toxic metals, possibly from the heating coils, that are associated with health problems such as kidney disease, respiratory irritation, shortness of breath, and more.
Some ingredients in the liquids used in e-cigarettes change composition when they are heated, leading to inhalation of harmful compounds such as formaldehyde, which is carcinogenic.Read More
E-cigarettes can catch fire and even explode.
E-cigarette explosions have led to the loss of body parts (such as an eye, tongue, or tooth), third degree burns, holes in the roof of the mouth, and death.
Researchers at George Mason University found that 2,035 people sought emergency room treatment for burn or explosion injuries from e-cigarettes between 2015 and 2017, and believe there were more injuries that went untreated. They also found more than 40 times the number of injuries reported by the FDA between 2009 and 2015.
Airlines prohibit e-cigarettes in checked baggage due to the possibility of their lithium batteries catching fire. In Jan. 2019, a passenger’s e-cigarette overheated and caught fire in the airplane cabin. That same month, a Texas man died when debris from an e-cigarette explosion tore his carotid artery. In 2018, a man in Florida was killed by shrapnel from his e-cigarette exploding.
The US Fire Administration (USFA) found 195 reports of e-cigarette explosions and fires including 133 acute injuries, of which 29% were severe. The USFA stated, “No other consumer product that is typically used so close to the human body contains the lithium-ion battery that is the root cause of the incidents.”Read More
1. Is vaping safe? Explain your answer.
2. Should vaping restrictions or prohibitions be placed on teens? Why or why not?
3. While this article focuses on nicotine e-cigarettes, consider the safety of marijuana vaping.
1. Consider Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association’s take on vaping as a cigarette alternative
2. Learn about e-cigarettes at Encyclopaedia Britannica.
3. Analyze the science of vaping at the American Heart Association.
4. Consider how you felt about the issue before reading this article. After reading the pros and cons on this topic, has your thinking changed? If so, how? List two to three ways. If your thoughts have not changed, list two to three ways your better understanding of the “other side of the issue” now helps you better argue your position.