Vaping gets a lot of bad press. Although we hear occasional positive reports about the health benefits of electronic cigarettes, they’re generally overwhelmed by coverage of hypothetical risks and exaggerated dangers. It’s not easy to find the facts about vaping.
Recently, 15 past presidents of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco (SRNT) co-authored a paper in the American Journal of Public Health arguing that vaping’s potential positive effect on public health is being ignored or twisted by powerful interests and lobbying groups.
Even top scientists and researchers in relevant fields are ignored when their research doesn’t align with the popular message (that vaping is just as bad smoking, if not worse). That makes things really confusing!
This article can bring some clarity and simplicity to the topic with a healthy dose of real-world advantages. So what are the actual pros and cons of vaping? Let’s get to it.
1. It’s safer than smoking: The British Royal College of Physicians and Public Health England, and American National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, all agree that vaping is safer than smoking cigarettes. PHE says vaping is “at least 95% less harmful.” Because there is no combustion in vaping, there is no smoke, and smoke is what creates the tar and carbon monoxide that lead to most of the long-term health damage from smoking. The health benefits of being smoke-free include improved lung and heart function, and even better senses of smell and taste.
2. No noxious odors: One of the biggest advantages of vaping is that you and your clothes, house and car won’t smell of smoke anymore. Vaping has an aroma, but it’s a long way from the smell of stale smoke and cigarette butts. In fact, even tobacco-flavored vapes don’t smell anything like burning tobacco. To a lot of people, the smell of vapor is barely noticeable. You might even get compliments!
3. Control over nicotine intake: Vaping gives you full control over your nicotine dosage. E-juice is available in a variety of strengths, ranging from nicotine-free to high-strength nicotine. You can choose exactly how much nicotine is in your vape—or use no nicotine at all. Most vapers tend to start off with high nicotine levels and gradually work their way down to lower strengths, or even eliminate nicotine completely.
4. Control over vapor output: Vaping gives you control over the amount of vapor you exhale, which is a major part of the experience. Some vapers prefer smaller devices like pod vapes for convenience and low vapor volume, and others like high-powered mods for cloud chasing. Adjusting the power output, airflow, and coil type lets you further fine tune your vapor volume, which affects the flavor too. You can be subtle and stealthy, or as showy as you like, depending on how you choose to vape.
5. Flavors for every palate: There are virtually endless flavor options to choose from in e-juice. Some of the most popular flavor categories are fruit, desserts, beverages, mint and menthol, and tobacco. And if you don’t like what’s available commercially, you can make your own vape juice!
6. Instant satisfaction: Although advanced vapes may require initial tinkering, there are lots of simpler products that come prefilled and ready to use. Either way, once the vape is ready, taking a hit is as simple as pushing a button or drawing on the device (some have an automatic draw). While all vaping devices need a charged battery and e-juice to continue working, the average vape can sustain you throughout the day with no maintenance or upkeep.
7. Price points for every wallet: The vaping market is large and competitive. There are lots of products in every price range—from 10 dollars to hundreds—that can suit almost any user. Whether you want a simple disposable e-cig, or a sophisticated vape mod and premium e-liquid, there’s a vape out there that you can start using today.
8. No experience needed: Sure, you can make a hobby of collecting vaping gear or learning how to build your own coils, but you can also have a great vaping experience immediately as a beginner. Between beginner starter kits and simple pod vapes, there are lots of quality vaping products that require no previous experience.
9. Access and availability: These days, you can find good vapor products in vape shops, convenience stores, gas stations, and even smoke shops. There are also online vape shops that will ship vaping products right to your front door.
1. Too many choices: To a new vaper, or a smoker considering a change, the endless options presented by the vaping market can be overwhelming. With cigarettes, you choose a brand and light up, but with vaping there are literally millions of possible choices. That’s why it’s best to point the vape-curious toward easy-to-use products with simple instructions to get started, and then to good sources of further information (vape shops, forums, experienced vapers) as new vapers learn the finer points.
2. The vape learning curve: Maybe the biggest danger for a new vaper is buying a product that requires specialized knowledge. Often they wind up confused and frustrated, and regret trying to switch to vaping. Again, there is no need for a long learning curve! Simple starter products are almost always the best first choice.
3. Potential health risks: It’s true that vaping is too new for us to understand every potential risk it could pose. But if you’re using vaping to stay off cigarettes, you can rest easier knowing that you’ve distanced yourself from the well-documented dangers of smoking. The substances in cigarette smoke that make it uniquely harmful are either entirely absent from e-cig vapor or only present in tiny amounts. That makes it much safer for vapers, and also for bystanders subject to “secondhand vapor.”
4. Vapers face smoking stigma: For almost 60 years, tobacco control has focused on smoking “denormalization,” which is just a fancy word for stigmatizing smoking and smokers. Now the same drug war-style campaign to dehumanize people who smoke is being turned against vapers too. Because vaping looks like smoking to people who do neither, smokers who switch to safer vaping products are often disheartened to discover they face the same stigmatization, rooted in ignorance, fear and intolerance.
5. Vaping is perceived as a youth problem: Because of the endless news stories about a “teen vaping epidemic,” older smokers may shy away from vaping as a way to quit smoking. The fact is that adults of every age vape—and the legal age to buy vapes is 21—but for those coming to e-cigarettes now, soon after the “JUUL panic” era, it may not be easy to separate the harm reduction benefits of vaping from the adolescent fad perception.
6. Nicotine misinformation: Nicotine is probably as misunderstood as any drug in the world. It’s really just a mild stimulant that has effects similar to caffeine. But because its history is inevitably tied to smoking—a highly dangerous delivery mechanism—nicotine has a terrible reputation. Nicotine doesn’t cause cancer or heart disease, but many people mix up the effects of nicotine and smoking, including doctors that regularly treat lifelong smokers. Nicotine actually can offer health benefits for many users.
7. Restrictive laws and rules: Based mostly on the vaping “epidemic” promoted by anti-vaping organizations, vaping has become a ripe target for laws and regulations that reduce vaping choices, availability and cost. More than half of American states have taxes on vaping products, and Congress recently passed a law banning U.S. Postal Service delivery of vaping products. Some states have banned vape products in flavors other than tobacco.
8. FDA regulations may eliminate vaping choices: The biggest government threat to vaping may be the Food and Drug Administration’s Premarket Tobacco Application (PMTA) process. Manufacturers wishing to keep their products on the market were forced last fall to submit complex applications to prove the products are “appropriate for the protection of public health.” Experts believe the FDA will use the PMTA process to wipe many of the best vaping products off the market. (Cigarettes were grandfathered onto the market without having to submit PMTAs, by the way.)
9. Finding the truth about vaping isn’t easy: Vaping is a disruptive technology that threatens the tobacco industry, but it also threatens the powerful anti-smoking industry. It can be very hard for a smoker or new vaper to separate the lies from the truth about vaping, since these powerful foes advance their narratives in every kind of news outlet and even through allied federal agencies. Because there are lots of frightening stories about vaping. It’s easy to get scared away.
By now you should have a better understanding about the pros and cons of vaping. There are a number of points on both sides. But if you consider that vaping is an alternative to smoking, it should be obvious that it’s the best choice of the two. Although vaping is not the only way to combat cigarette addiction, all the other choices have pros and cons as well.
Vaping is successful because it offers nicotine and a smoking-like experience, but without the combustion products that make smoking deadly. But vaping isn’t perfect, and it’s not the answer for everyone. Whatever you decide, at least do it with a clear sense of the benefits and the downsides of vaping.