Every week, it seems as though there’s another story surrounding vaping. It’s becoming a bit of a minefield for smokers who are considering moving over to electronic cigarettes.
With all of the misinformation out there, it’s no wonder smokers are reluctant to pick up a device and pack in smoking. And that’s despite knowing that smoking related illnesses literally kill almost 80,000 people a year in the UK alone.
So let's run through some facts about smoking compared to vaping to see if we can clear up a few common misconceptions.
What’s the difference between smoking and vaping?
Let’s start with stating the obvious.
Smoking involves burning rolled tobacco at one end of a cigarette and inhaling the smoke at the other end. This is how nicotine is delivered in to the body.
With vaping, the eliquid is heated to a certain temperature which turns it into a vapour. When this vapour is inhaled, nicotine is delivered in to the body.
Although the nicotine delivery method is quite similar, what is actually being inhaled is entirely different.
While the distinction between the act of smoking and vaping is now pretty clear, we need to look at the chemicals involved.
What's in cigarette tobacco smoke?
There are over 5000 chemicals contained within a single puff of a cigarette. 60 of those are known carcinogenic (cancer causing). Chemicals such as tar, benzene, hydrogen cyanide and carbon monoxide are all present in tobacco smoke.
Like most people, you might be scratching your head and wondering what these agents are. So let's take a closer look at some of them.
This is a gas which is released when tobacco is burned. The effect this has on the human body is that ultimately, less oxygen is carried to your vital organs including the heart, brain and lungs. This is obviously a bad thing.
This compound is synonymous with being used a chemical weapon during WW1 and WW2. In large concentrated doses it is absolutely lethal. The effects of it in smoking can be nausea, headaches, faster breathing and other unpleasant side-effects.
A known carcinogen which is found in crude oil. You might be exposed to this in in places such as oil refineries and chemical works. Or you could just have a puff of a cigarette, if you fancy. It can cause all of the usual things like headaches, nausea and dizziness, but when exposed to it over a longer period, it can result in anaemia and cancer.
We’ve all seen the road workers with those massive cauldrons on the back of lorries? Well, this stuff is very similar. When tobacco is burnt, it produces a black sticky resin which clings to the lungs and throat. This carries a very high risk of causing cancer. It also causes the yellow colour you see on the fingers and teeth of some smokers.
These all sound pretty scary, don't they?
For smokers, these are just a tiny proportion of the harmful chemicals and cancer causing agents which are put in to the body with every drag of a cigarette.
What’s in an e-liquid?
A quality manufactured e-liquid contains 4 ingredients (just 3 if you vape nicotine-free liquids).
- PG (Propylene Glycol)
- VG (Vegetable Glycerin)
- Food-grade flavourings
- Nicotine (optional)
The only ingredient here which could do you any lasting damage is the Propylene Glycol, but even then you’d need to drink about a litre of the stuff. And nobody in their right mind would do that.
Excluding nicotine, all of these ingredients are present in a range of products that are consumed daily or used in medicinal products. Even baby food.
But let’s a look at these a little bit further to see exactly what they are.
PG is a chemical which is made to food-grade standard, meaning it is safe for human consumption when used as directed. It’s been used in the food industry for many many years and is also found in medicines among other products we consume.
Vegetable Glycerin (VG)
As the name suggests, this ingredient usually comes from plant oils. It’s a thick substance which has a sweetness to it and is used as a food sweetener. Like it’s PG counterpart, it is generally recognised as safe and fit for human consumption.
This one is fairly self-explanatory. Across the UK, we consume this daily. Think cakes, cupcakes, yoghurts, ice-cream, drinks...
Nicotine is a highly addictive substance and is poisonous in large doses. However, when it comes to smoking and vaping, the real danger of nicotine is the addiction.
So if you don’t smoke or vape already, don’t even think about starting.
There’s no evidence to suggest that there are more than just a few traces of carcinogens in e-liquid, which at these levels are pretty negligible.
Based on the comparison of these ingredients, I think it’s fair to say that the ingredients in cigarette tobacco smoke look far more worrying. On the otherhand, the ingredients within an e-liquid all look pretty normal, despite some of weird sounding names.
Is Vaping Safe?
Electronic cigarettes are not necessarily free of risk. After all, they do contain extremely low-level traces of carcinogens, but these are almost insignificant when compared to what you inhale from cigarette smoke.
Vaping is still in it’s relative infancy, so there is no conclusive evidence of it’s long-term impact available yet. But what is certain, is that leading health organisations like the NHS are happy to promote the use of e-cigs as a smoking cessation aid.
Electronic cigarettes themselves are about as safe as any other electrical device when used as directed.
Vaping is big business now, so manufacturers know that they have to produce devices which will pass all sorts of safety tests. One of the biggest dangers of electronic cigarettes are the risk of of the battery exploding. And although you will see stories about this happening in the news, it's often caused by misuse or a DIY set up.
As with any product, you need to exercise due diligence when it comes to making a purchase and using it as it was intended. Our blog post about how to vape safely goes in to more detail about this.
Is Vaping Safer Than Smoking?
Before we get in to the nitty gritty, let’s get one thing straight.
Putting anything in to your body comes with risk.
We know that smoking is incredibly bad for your health and we also wouldn’t recommend non-smokers take up vaping as a new hobby.
But let’s put that aside and look to answer the question of whether vaping actually is safer than smoking.
Electronic cigarettes contain nicotine, as do cigarettes. But they do not contain the same harmful chemicals which are present within cigarette smoke.
So when you vape, you get the nicotine minus the tar, the carbon dioxide and the higher levels of carcinogens and other toxins.
On face value, it certainly looks like vaping is safer than smoking cigarettes.
But is it? Let's see what the experts say.
The Evidence: Vaping is Healthier Than Smoking
Over the past fifty years, there have been numerous anti-smoking campaigns highlighting the dangers of smoking. In the UK, a ban on smoking in public places was finally introduced in 2007, and it's around that time that electronic cigarettes began to gain momentum as a genuine alternative to smoking.
Fast forward ten years and the popularity of e-cigs has never been higher. It's now a multi-billion pound industry which is being supported by numerous health organisations across the World, helping to promote it's use as a smoking cessation aid.
Following a series of studies, leading UK health organisations and charities now state that vaping is healthier and safe than smoking. Let’s see what some of them have to say on the matter:
“Vaping is a fraction of the risk of smoking, at least 95% less harmful”
“[Electronic Cigarettes] carry a fraction of the risk of cigarettes and can be particularly effective when combined with extra quitting support.”
How Vaping and Smoking Impact Your Lungs
For more of an illustration of the damage that smoking can do to the human body, Public Health England carried out an experiment that you can watch here.
The long and short of this experiment is that the smoke from tobacco left a horrid coating of tar on the “lungs”, whereas vaping left barely anything. It really is worth a watch just to see how much healthier vaping can be compared to traditional cigarettes.
Based on all of the evidence and backing from leading public bodies, one would have to say that vaping is substantially safer than smoking cigarettes.
So how does it stack up as a financial comparison?
The Cost of Vaping Compared to Smoking
Even before the recent rise in the cost of a packet of cigarettes, there was no comparison.
Vaping is just cheaper. Pure and simple.
How much cheaper all depends on what kind of smoker you are.
How Much Does Smoking Cost?
Let’s say that you go through 100 cigarettes a week. That’s 5 packs of cigarettes at an average cost of £10.40 each in the UK.
A week’s worth of cigarettes costs: 5 x £10.40 = £52
Over the course of a month it costs: 4 x £52 = £208
A year's worth of cigarettes will set you back: 12 x £208 = £2,496
How Much Does Vaping Cost?
The cost of vaping does vary depending on what kind of smoker you were (or still are) and what kind of vape device and e-liquids you use.
There can be a lot of intricacies when buying an e-cig, so we’ll just keep things simple in this example.
For the purpose of this illustration, we'll base it on the same kind of smoker we used in the example above - the 5 packs a week smoker. We’ll base this over a month too, obviously.
This is the bit of kit which you will use to vape your eliquid. There are many different types available depending on what kind of vaping experience you have or want.
When starting out, you’ll definitely want a good quality vape with minimal maintenance required. So the Aspire PockeX will be a good starting point.
Every month it’s advisable to stock up on replacement coils. You might only need to replace your coils twice a month, but it’s always good to have more than you think you need. The coils for our Aspire PockeX come in packs of 5, so we’ll pop those in our basket.
This is the fun part. You get to choose from a wide range of different flavours and nicotine strengths. You can play it safe with a familiar tobacco flavoured e liquid or you can try something a bit more exotic - it's entirely up to you. But ultimately you will want to satisfy all of the nicotine cravings and get a decent throat hit. So in this instance we’ll choose a PG based liquid.
Because there is no exact science to this equation, let’s base the cost on replacing a packet of cigarettes per day. This will mean we’re over-estimating, but the costs in the real World could be slightly lower.
A standard bottle of eliquid (with nicotine) is 10ml. A packet of cigarettes works out to be around 2.5ml of eliquid on average.
So for each bottle of eliquid you buy, you’ll have the equivalent of 4 packets of cigarettes.
Therefore, the amount you’ll need to buy and spend will look something like this:
2 x £2.49 = £4.98 per week
8 x £2.49 = £19.92 per month
12 x £19.92 = £239.04 per year
Based on this example, your first month of vaping will cost you £52.90 (including the kit, replacement coils and the liquids).
Vaping is Much Cheaper Smoking
You can clearly see that vaping is 10% of the cost of cigarettes in this example. And we’re over-estimating our eliquid purchases remember!
But it gets better.
You’ll only be buying the liquids each month and coils maybe every other month.
But for a direct comparison after you’ve spent the £22.99 on the kit and also a years worth of coils at £59.94 (equals £82.93).
Weekly Cost of Vaping v Smoking
Cigarette Packs: 5 x £10.40 = £52
E-Liquid Bottles: 2 x £2.49 = £4.98
Saving per week: £47
Monthly Cost of Vaping v Smoking
Cigarette Packs: 20 x £10.40 = £208
E-Liquid Bottles: 8 x £2.49 = £19.92
Saving per month: £188
Annual Cost of Vaping v Smoking
Cigarette Packs: 240 x £10.40 = £2496
E-Liquid Bottles: 96 x £2.49 = £239.04
Saving per year: £2257
So as you can see, if you’re spending around £50 worth of fags every week, you could save almost £200 a month if you were to switch to vaping.
If you buy a pack a day, then the money you save will be even more impressive. Just think what you could be doing with that extra few hundred quid in your pocket each month?
You could use it to make payments on that new car you’ve been eyeing up. Or even saving it all up for that dream holiday you’ve always wanted to go on.
Giving up smoking is hard, and if you can do it by going ‘cold turkey’, more power to you!
But it’s just not always that simple.
As we’ve seen through various studies and advice given from health experts, using an electronic cigarette is healthier and cheaper than smoking. And out of all of the nicotine replacement products out there, it is arguably the most effective one which will help you give up the habit for good.