The New Generation’s Epidemic: Is vaping safer than smoking?

Recent deaths caused by vaping are showing that vaping may be dangerous, but isn’t it better than smoking cigarettes?

By Maia Irvin

The debate over the health risks of smoking e-cigarettes (“vaping”), long thought to be safer than smoking cigarettes, started when e-cigarettes were introduced to mainstream markets in 2007. Recently, there were seven deaths due to vaping-related illnesses. The debate is now centered around the fact that we don’t know the long-term effects of e-cigarettes, and some have proposed that smoking cigarettes is better for your health than vaping. 

Because vaping products haven’t been on the market for long, it’s hard for health experts to know the long-term effects that these products have on users. Concern with the uncertainty of these products has always been present, but the possibility of a health crisis caused by vaping has become more pressing in recent weeks.

A number of cases show healthy people being hospitalized due to lung diseases related to vaping. These patients experience symptoms of coughing, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, fever, weight loss, and shortness of breath before their health swiftly deteriorates and results in more serious diseases, such as Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome. As of September 11 of this year, the CDC has reported 380 cases of vaping-related illnesses in 36 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Along with cases of illnesses, there have been 7 deaths related to e-cigarette usage. The first of these deaths was on August 23 of this year in Illinois, followed by six more deaths in Oregon, Indiana, Minnesota, California, and Kansas, the most recent on September 17.   

In parallel with the increase in vaping-related illnesses and deaths, the popularity of vaping has risen in recent years with 7 million users in 2011 increasing to 35 million a few years ago. A 2019 report which surveyed vaping use among high school seniors in the U.S. also found that 37% of high school seniors have vaped over the past year, which is a 10% increase from 2017. 

More people are now advocating for users to exercise more caution when obtaining and using these products. Meanwhile, researchers are attempting to figure out what is causing these illnesses and deaths. There has also been an outcry by the public to get rid of these products altogether, and as a result has led some to suggest that cigarettes are healthier than vaping. 

These suggestions may sound valid, but the idea that cigarettes are healthier than vaping is a dangerous (and absurd) statement to make. While vaping may have many unknown health risks, it’s known that smoking isn’t healthy in any way, shape, or form. According to the World Health Organization, smoking kills an average of 8 million people every year. Smoking makes people more likely to develop cardiovascular diseases, strokes, and cancers. It has the potential to harm almost every organ in the body. For example, it deteriorates bone, teeth, and gum health, and has drastic consequences on the health of the eyes, resulting in diseases such as cataracts and AMD. 

So while vaping isn’t healthy or good for you, don’t be misled by the misconception that smoking is any healthier than vaping. We may not yet know much about the safety and long-term effects on the health of e-cigarette users, but we do know that smoking is not healthy in any way.

Wake Mag