Vaping vs. Smoking: Are vaporizers killing the cigarette industry?

Vaping vs. Smoking: Are vaporizers killing the cigarette industry?

CultureFebruary 17, 2017

With around 36.5 million Americans addicted to nicotine cigarettes, and half of them suffering from diseases caused by smoking, the world’s been waiting for a way to enjoy nicotine in a healthier manner--or quit smoking altogether.

The vaporizer, a handheld, battery-powered device for vaporizing cannabis, tobacco, and their extracts, has been marketed as a safer form of nicotine consumption, a message that has resonated with consumers as vaping prepares to become a $10 billion industry.

But the Vaping vs. Smoking debate is hardly over. Half of the British population alone doesn’t believe vaping is safer than smoking. In fact many think vaporizers are worse than cigarettes. While only time will tell what the long term effects of using a vaporizer are, here’s what we know about vaping vs smoking so far.


Is Vaping Safer Than Smoking Cigarettes?

The majority of research looking at the health effects of smoking and vaping concludes that vaporizers are relatively healthier than cigarettes. What does “relatively” entail exactly? While vaporization still produces the irritants that cause smoking-related diseases, the amount is very small compared to that which smoke contains. This is a matter of temperature.

Vaporizers feature advanced heating systems that can pinpoint precise temperatures under the point at which matter combusts. The resulting vapor contains less of the harmful by-products of incineration. A vaporizer heats the contents of its chamber enough to extract the essential flavors, aromas, and effects, but not hot enough to create noxious smoke fumes.

On the other hand, lighting a cigarette or joint exposes tobacco or cannabis to temperatures as high as 2,000F, producing toxic fumes related to respiratory diseases.

Does this mean vaping is safer than smoking? Public Health England released a study, which the British government went on to endorse, arguing that yes, vaping is 95% safer than smoking.

The University of California San Francisco conducted their own Vaping vs Smoking study looking at carbon monoxide (CO) levels in vapor and smoke. They found, “virtually no exposure to harmful combustion products when using the vaporizing product,” while cigarettes increased the amount of exhaled CO.

On paper, vaping is better than smoking. But since vaporizers for eliquid, dry herb and wax have only recently become popular, the longer term effects of vaping have yet to reveal themselves.

Can Vaping Help Me Quit Smoking?

Every smoker’s road to quitting is different, whether it involves nicotine gum, patches, or just plain perseverance. Some studies say vaporizers are fairly effective in helping certain people at least attempt to quit smoking. Others beg to differ.

Nicotine and Tobacco Research published a vaping vs. smoking study showing that the likelihood of smokers quitting is higher when switching to a vaporizer with refillable tanks. Nearly 600 vaporizer users were surveyed. Around a quarter of them used vaporizers with refillable tanks, and within a year, more than a quarter of this group had quit smoking. Just 13% of smokers who opted out of trying a vaporizer were able to quit within 12 months.

Eliquid varies in potencies, so smokers can start vaping at the nicotine strength to which they’re accustomed--let’s say 18 mg for a smoker who prefers strong cigarettes--then slowly wean themselves off the powerfully addictive drug by tapering down.


So there appears to be a connection between vaping and making an effort to quit smoking, but vaporizers aren’t a guarantee that you’ll quit for good. A study published in Addiction shows that over half of vaporizer users attempted to quit smoking cigarettes within a year. Only 44% of those who didn’t use a vaporizer tried to stop smoking. 14% of the smokers who turned to vaping ended up using half the amount of tobacco they did before.

On the other hand, the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine--back at it again--recently analyzed 38 vaporizer studies to conclude that those who vape and smoke are 28% less likely to quit smoking.

So does vaping help people quit smoking? Yes and no. It helps a significant percentage of those who turn to vaporizers quit cigarettes--or at least try--and it’s most effective with an eliquid vaporizer with a refillable tank. But those who vape and smoke cigarettes simultaneously have less of chance of kicking their habit.

Vaping vs. Smoking Weed

Consuming cannabis through combustion can have unwanted health effects, too. The same method of combustion that makes tobacco smoking lethal can cause respiratory problems for pot smokers, albeit not as severe since cannabis lacks the toxic chemicals found in cigarettes.

A vaping vs smoking study published in the Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences concluded that vaporizers deliver about as much of the flavors, aromas, and effects of cannabis as a bong or joint does, “while avoiding the respiratory disadvantages of smoking.” Another vaping vs smoking study concurred with this assertion. Looking at bongs, filtered cigarettes, and vaporizers, researchers found that, “only the vaporizers achieved an improvement in the ratio of tars to cannabinoids,” with tar reduction reaching as far as 97% for vaporizers.

In 2014, the U.S. National Institutes paid a research team to compare the findings of over eighty different vaping vs smoking studies. The main objective was to decide whether vaporizers should be regulated as strictly as cigarettes (which is the case in many states). Researchers concluded that there’s no reason to sell vaporizers under the same regulations as cigarettes after finding that a vaporizer poses fewer health risks.

Again, vaporizer health risks are fewer than cigarettes, water pipes, or joints because they heat cannabis at precise temperatures beneath the point of combustion. This enables vaporizers to produce fewer carcinogens and extract just as much if not more cannabinoids.

Will Vaporizers Put an End to Smoking?

If vaporizers are safer than cigarettes, and even help people quit smoking, do they have the power to extinguish the cigarette industry for good? Some signs point toward “yes.”

The e-cigarette vaporizer industry has grown from ground zero to an estimated $3.7 billion in yearly sales in just a decade, a trend that’s expected to continue.

Vaporizers are also growing exceedingly popular with America’s youth, so much so that the Surgeon General of the United States recently issued a plea to think about the children after research showed a big increase in vaporizer use among young adults.

The silver lining of growing vaporizer use among teens is that cigarette smoking has in turn steadily dropped among Americans aged 12 and 17, which would, if current vaporizer research stands the test of time, lower the instances of smoking-related diseases in America.

The Surgeon General’s report concedes that there’s still much to learn about the actual health risks of vaping, but claims there’s enough evidence to rule vaporizers out as safe for teens.

If younger generations continue to embrace the vaporizer and drop the cigarette, which at the moment dominates the market share with $92 billion in annual revenue, a true winner of the vaping vs smoking debate will rise from the ashes.