Vaping versus smoking: what are the risks?

Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, are
handheld devices that recreate the feeling of smoking regular cigarettes but are widely
believed to be a much safer form of tobacco. That’s partly why there’s been a spike
in e-cigarette use, or vaping, over the past few years, especially in pre-teens and teenagers. So what are the differences between vaping
and smoking, and how safe is vaping? Let’s start with cigarette smoking, which
remains the leading cause of preventable deaths – killing nearly half a million people a year
in the United States alone, with nearly a tenth of those deaths among non-smokers who
are exposed to secondhand smoke. Cigarettes are usually composed of tobacco,
paper, a filter, and additives. These additives can be any number of hundreds
of things like sugars which improve the taste of the cigarette, ammonia which enhances the
effects felt by nicotine, and menthol which can ease the throat irritation caused by smoking. When the cigarette burns, it produces smoke,
which is then inhaled to deliver the nicotine to the lungs. Burning produces thousands of toxic chemicals
like formaldehyde and carbon monoxide which damage the inner lining of arteries which
increases the risk of cancers, heart attacks, and stroke. In general, it’s thought that nicotine is
responsible for the addictive qualities of cigarette smoke, while the toxins are responsible
for the negative health consequences of smoking. This is where e-cigarettes come in. These devices have a mouthpiece, a heating
element, a power source, and a reservoir filled with a liquid called e-liquid which contains
nicotine and other chemicals. Some of them, like the popular JUUL device,
are designed to look like a USB thumb drive to be more discrete. These devices work by heating the e-liquid
to create an aerosol, called vapor, that can be inhaled and delivers a similar dose of
nicotine as cigarette smoke. Because there’s no combustion, there are
10 to 100 times lower levels of toxic chemicals in e-cigarette vapor compared to cigarette
smoke. The vapor does contain potential hazards substances,
though, like ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs and cause respiratory
problems whether the particles are made from toxic chemicals or not; flavorings such as
diacetyl which has been linked to lung disease; volatile organic compounds which can cause
tissue damage and irritation; cancer causing chemicals like formaldehyde; and heavy metals
such as nickel, tin, and lead which can cause organ damage and memory loss. One worrying trend, however, is the rise of
vaping among young people. In 2018 the numbers have spiked with roughly
1 in 5 high school students and 1 in 20 middle schools students using e-cigarettes in the
past month. This translates to 3.6 million students that
are at risk for developing nicotine dependence and addiction, which can lead to the use of
regular tobacco products like cigarettes, chewing tobacco, pipes, and cigars to feed
that addiction. Furthermore, there’s growing evidence that
nicotine addiction can harm brain development, particularly in the first 3 decades of life. There are other risks with vaping as well. For example, nicotine can damage a developing
baby’s heart and lungs, so it’s recommended for pregnant women to quit all forms of tobacco
products including e-cigarettes. In addition nicotine is toxic in high doses,
and people can get poisoned by swallowing the e-liquid, or absorbing it through their
skin or eyes. Finally, defective e-cigarette batteries have
caused fires and explosions while getting charged. That said, because e-cigarettes have lower
levels of toxic chemicals than cigarettes, the American Cancer Society and the CDC support
current adult smokers who want to completely replace regular cigarettes with e-cigarettes. Complete replacement of smoking is key, though,
because there’s no safe level of smoking. On the other hand, because of the recent spike
in young people using e-cigarettes the FDA is currently proposing stricter regulations
around them. One proposal, is to ban the sale of e-liquids
with flavorings like vanilla, bubblegum, or watermelon which appeal to young people. All right, as a quick recap … e-cigarettes
are generally considered a safer way to get nicotine than smoking regular cigarettes,
because they contain lower levels of toxic chemicals. This is especially true for current, non-pregnant
adult smokers who are willing to completely replace smoking with vaping. E-cigarette use is particularly problematic
for young people, though, because they may become addicted to nicotine by using e-cigarettes,
and that can harm their maturing brain. No tobacco product is safe, so if you’ve
never smoked or used other tobacco products or e-cigarettes, don’t start. Thanks for watching! If you’d like to watch one of our more in-depth
videos on this topic, check out our video on Tobacco Dependence, on!


  1. You don't inhale pipe and cigar smoke though, and don't have nearly as much additives as cigarettes. People who smoke them aren't in for the nicotine.

  2. Why hasn't the stigma against vaping discouraged it's popularity? it's painfully uncool and synonymous with "douchebag". Funny how this contrasts with smoking, which is romanticized and glamourized so heavily. Not sure why tobacco is cool but vaping is vapid.

  3. I vape and I'm 15, I vape no nicotine though, and the popcorn lung disease is a hoax, even if it did cause popcorn lung, no one has got the disease anyway. However there are 100x more diacetly in regular cigarettes, so don't believe this shite

  4. The content is clear and concise as usual, but it would be great to see some form of referencing for stats and other figures (e.g. the numbers of students smoking). I know the ethos is about simplicity, but it would make these videos more credible to see claims backed up. I do love the channel though!

  5. Well done. Really underscores how the industry is trying to create users that get addicted and consume heavily. I hope the appeal to youth can be curtailed because industry needs to replace users that succumb to their habit with youth that will spend on their products for a longtime.

    What about effects of second hand vapors? I recall a study in rats found similar harmful effects. We should all be enabled to tell someone vaping near us to stop because it is bothersome.

  6. What a load of shit, e-liquid only contains PG VG flavour and nicotine if you want it. PG and VG are commonly used in foods. Cancer research UK and Public health england have done studies and found vaping is 95% safer and does not cause cancer and is not harmful to those around people who vape, this video saying vaping can cause cancer is complete nonsense. Stop fake news

  7. I have been vaping for 20 years. I make my own e-juice that contain – 5mg nicotine, glycerine, little water and menthol crystal. Which part is harmful? You are speculating! This is unscientific. Therefore, what you are advertising is pure rubbish.

  8. Cold turkey only is such horseshit. AMA and Lung association and others need to step off and get bent.
    E-cigs are not "tobacco related products" READ THAT at the end of this video. It is a LIE!!

  9. Let’s get some real facts about what nicotine actually does in the body with her vaping or smoking.
    Nicotine causes your body to Spike glucose causing a sharp rise in blood sugar but then nicotine suppresses your pancreas from releasing insulin to lower that blood sugar.
    your body stays in a hyper sugared blood state due to insulin resistance.
    this is called hyperglycemia.
    Now that you are hyper glycemic you are ripe for diseases and cash for the medical community.

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