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Is a vape healthier?

Vaping has become increasingly popular as an alternative to smoking cigarettes. Many people view vaping as a healthier and safer option. But is vaping actually healthier than smoking? There are several factors to consider when comparing the health impacts of vaping versus smoking.

What is vaping?

Vaping involves inhaling vapor produced by an electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) or other vaping device. The vapor is created by heating up a liquid, called vape juice or e-liquid. This vape juice usually contains propylene glycol and/or vegetable glycerin, flavorings, and may or may not contain nicotine.

The vape juice gets heated into an aerosol that the user inhales. Vaping devices include vape pens, pod systems, mods, and electronic cigarettes. Unlike traditional cigarettes that burn tobacco, vaping devices heat the vape juice just enough to turn it into vapor without burning it.

What are the ingredients in vape juice?

The main ingredients in vape juice include:

  • Propylene glycol – a common food additive used in food production
  • Vegetable glycerin – a carbohydrate derived from plant oils
  • Flavorings – food-grade flavorings similar to those used in food products
  • Nicotine (optional) – typically pharmaceutical-grade nicotine

Vape juices do not contain the tar or carbon monoxide found in cigarette smoke. However, the flavorings and other ingredients may have health risks when inhaled. More research is needed on the long-term safety of vape juice ingredients.

What are the health risks of smoking cigarettes?

Cigarette smoking harms nearly every organ in the body and causes a variety of diseases and health conditions:

  • Lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and other lung diseases
  • Cardiovascular disease like heart disease and stroke
  • Increased risk of infections
  • Reproductive effects like infertility and low birth weight babies
  • Premature death

According to the CDC, cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., accounting for over 480,000 deaths per year.

Potential benefits of vaping over smoking

Here are some of the ways vaping may be less harmful than cigarette smoking:

Fewer chemicals

Cigarette smoke contains over 7,000 chemicals, over 70 of which are known to cause cancer. Vape juices contain far fewer chemicals. While we don’t know the long term effects of vaping, it likely exposes users to fewer carcinogens and toxic chemicals than cigarette smoke.

No combustion

Cigarette combustion produces tar and releases thousands of chemicals into cigarette smoke. Vaping does not burn anything, so it avoids the harmful byproducts of lighting cigarettes on fire.

Better lung health

Research has found vaping is less damaging to lung health compared to smoking. One study found smokers who switched to vaping had improved lung function after 3 months compared to those who continued smoking.

Reduced carcinogens

Studies have found substantially lower levels of carcinogenic compounds in the urine and saliva of vapers versus smokers. This suggests vaping exposes users to lower amounts of cancer-causing agents.

Lower cardiovascular risks

Cigarette smoking significantly increases your risk for cardiovascular disease. Research indicates switching from cigarettes to e-cigarettes reduces exposure to toxic chemicals known to contribute to heart disease.

Potential vaping benefits vs smoking Evidence
Fewer chemicals Vape juices contain fewer chemicals than the 7,000+ chemicals in cigarette smoke
No combustion Vaping does not burn like cigarettes, avoiding many toxic byproducts
Better lung function Studies show smokers who switched to vaping had improved lung function
Lower carcinogens Vapers have substantially lower cancer-causing compounds in their bodies
Reduced cardiovascular risks Switching from smoking to vaping reduces exposure to many heart disease-causing chemicals

Potential harms of vaping

While vaping may expose users to fewer toxicants than cigarette smoking, vaping still has risks and negative health effects:

Contains toxic chemicals

Vape juices contain nicotine, which is highly addictive, and flavoring chemicals whose long term safety is unknown when inhaled. Trace amounts of metals, VOCs, and other toxins have also been found.

Harms lung health

One study found vaping increased inflammation and inhibited immune defenses in lung cells. Other research links vaping to increased respiratory symptoms like coughing, wheezing, and asthma exacerbations.

Cardiovascular effects

Nicotine in vape juices increases heart rate and blood pressure. Flavorings may also negatively impact blood vessels. More research is needed, but these cardiovascular effects could increase heart disease risk.

Associated with seizures

The FDA has received reports of seizures occurring with vape use, particularly in youth. Flavorings like cinnamon may play a role.

Potential for addiction

Nicotine is highly addictive, and younger people may be especially susceptible to nicotine addiction. This can impair brain development.

Potential vaping harms Evidence
Contains toxic chemicals Vape juices contain addictive nicotine and flavorings with unknown long-term inhalation effects
Harms lung health Studies link vaping to inflammation, reduced immune function, and respiratory symptoms
Cardiovascular effects Nicotine from vaping affects heart rate and blood pressure
Associated with seizures FDA has received reports of vaping linked to seizures, especially in youth
Potential for addiction Nicotine in vapes is highly addictive, especially for youth

Is vaping safer than smoking?

Based on current evidence, vaping appears to expose users to fewer toxic chemicals and lower health risks than cigarette smoking. However, vaping still has many risks and long-term safety remains unknown.

Key takeaways on vaping risks

  • Vaping likely exposes users to lower levels of carcinogens and toxicants than smoking
  • But vaping still exposes users to harmful chemicals like nicotine and flavoring compounds
  • The long-term health impacts of vaping remain unknown
  • Vaping carries unique risks like seizures and addiction, especially in youth
  • More research is needed to better understand vaping risks and safety

While vaping seems to be less harmful than smoking, the healthiest option is to avoid both. For smokers unable or unwilling to quit nicotine altogether, switching from smoking to vaping may reduce some health risks. But vaping still has many potential risks.

Non-smokers and youth should not vape or smoke. Pregnant women should avoid both due to risks to the developing baby. For smokers looking to quit, proven cessation aids like nicotine patches, counseling, and medications are the safest approach.


Based on current evidence, vaping appears less harmful than cigarette smoking but still carries health risks. Vaping likely exposes users to lower levels of carcinogens and toxic chemicals than cigarettes. But vaping is not harmless. E-cigarettes contain addictive nicotine, metals, VOCs, and flavoring chemicals with unknown long-term inhalation effects.

While more research is needed, vaping appears less damaging to lung and cardiovascular health compared to smoking combustible cigarettes. But vaping still negatively impacts lung function and cardiovascular health. And vaping carries other risks like seizures and addiction.

In conclusion, vaping seems to be a less unhealthy alternative for smokers unable or unwilling to quit. But non-smokers and youth should avoid vaping or smoking entirely. Pregnant women should also avoid both due to potential harms to the developing fetus. For smokers seeking to quit, counseling and approved nicotine replacement therapies are the safest evidence-based options. More research is still needed to better understand the long-term health impacts of vaping.