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Is Vaping Safer Than Smoking?

There’s an important question that gets asked quite often about vaping, and it’s one that you see discussed and debated everywhere: “Is vaping safer than smoking?”

With the ever-growing popularity of e-cigarettes and vaping, it’s no wonder that more and more people are wondering if vaping could be a safer alternative than smoking. Now, while they aren’t completely risk-free, the benefits of e-cigarettes far outweigh the negatives when compared to smoking tobacco.

When a cigarette is burned it releases over 5,000 different chemicals, and more than 70 may cause cancer according to the American Cancer Society [1]Among these chemicals are: benzene, arsenic, formaldehyde, cadmium, chromium, and many more. These chemicals are obviously not safe for your health. How does vaping compare?

According to an expert independent evidence review, Public Health England has concluded that e-cigarettes and vaping are around 95% safer than smoked tobacco and can help smokers quit.[2] This is great news for anyone who is looking for a smoking alternative that is similar in action and feel, but less harmful than analog cigarettes. But just how does an e-cigarette work?

Holding Vape Pen and exhaling vapor

The Basics of an E-Cigarette

An e-cigarette or vape is a small, battery powered, portable device. Some vapes have a built-in tank, while others have tanks that are external. These tanks are then filled with e-liquid or e-juice, which consists of propylene glycol and/or vegetable glycerin, food grade flavoring, and optionally nicotine.The e-cigarette then heats the e-juice, which turns into water vapor, and is then inhaled by the vaper.

E-juice Ingredients

Compared with traditional analog cigarettes that contain thousands of harmful chemicals[3], e-juice (the juice that is vaporized in e-cigarettes) purchased from a reputable supplier has only a handful of main ingredients. These are:

  1. Propylene Glycol (PG) and/or Vegetable Glycerin (VG)
  2. Food Grade Flavorings
  3. Nicotine (optional)

Propylene Glycol (PG) and Vegetable Glycerin (VG) are the main ingredients in any vape juice, and an e-juice may contain one or both of these ingredients depending on the desired qualities of the juice. Both propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin are U.S Food and Drug Administration approved ingredients, and common in many foods and medicines that we use today.

Propylene Glycol

Propylene glycol is a viscous colorless liquid with a faint, sweet taste and is what produces the “throat hit” that many smokers crave. Higher ratios of PG generally mean a more heavy vapor/draw, and PG carries flavor more effectively than VG does. PG is “generally recognized as safe” by the United States Food and Drug Administration[4], and sees wide use in food processing, pharmaceuticals, and even in asthma inhalers. Additionally, according to the Health Canada website, “…there are no endpoints of concern for oral, dermal or inhalation exposure to propylene glycol”.

Vegetable Glycerin

Similar to propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin is “generally recognized as safe” by the U.S FDA, and is also colorless and viscous. It is commonly produced from plant oils such as palm, soy, or coconut oil. VG is sweet, but with a slightly different taste than PG and is effective at carrying flavorings and nicotine. However, compared to PG, VG is much denser and considerably thicker. VG is therefore used in higher ratios when cloud production is an important factor. Vegetable glycerin sees use in beauty products such as shampoos and soaps, in toothpaste, as well as in foods.

Box Mod style Vape

Food Grade Flavorings

Now, the food grade flavorings used in e juices are just that: food grade. This means that they are suitable for ingestion, but there isn’t enough research to definitively say that they are safe to be inhaled. With that being said, there also isn’t any evidence showing that inhaling these flavorings is harmful, and more research will need to be done in the future in order to provide a concrete answer. But when compared with the chemicals in a cigarette that are known to cause cancer, it’s probably still safe to say that vaping food grade flavorings is still safer than smoking.


Nicotine gets a bad reputation from being associated with cigarettes, and while it is a poisonous substance in high concentrations, it isn’t all that bad. Nicotine is a highly addictive substance though, and should only be enjoyed by responsible, legal adults. The nicotine used in some e-liquids is the same nicotine that is used in other smoking cessation products such as nicotine patches and gums. Nicotine is similar in effect to caffeine, in that it is a mild stimulant that increases heart rate and elevates your blood pressure.

While many think that nicotine is what causes cancer, this is not the case. It is not the nicotine in cigarettes that causes cancer, but rather the tar that is produced from the combustion of chemicals and material[5]For responsible adults who are craving that nicotine fix, it seems to be that vaping is still the safer choice versus smoking cigarettes. The common nicotine content of juices are: 3mg/ml, 6mg/ml, 9mg/ml, and 12mg/ml. Alternatively, those looking to lower their nicotine consumption or quit altogether have the option of thousands of e-liquids that contain zero nicotine.

In a nutshell, those are the key components to vaping: an e-liquid that contains naturally derived ingredients, and a device to heat the eliquid into vapor. Compared with the key components of smoking a cigarette: the combustion of materials producing thousands of chemicals, with dozens being known to cause cancer.

Cigarette Smoke

E-cigarettes, completely safe?

When you compare the ingredients between vaping and smoking, it’s clear that vaping is safer than smoking. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t potential hazards when using an e-cigarette. Mainly, a lack of long-term research leaves it unclear whether vaping and e-cigarette use are completely safe for your health. Although the ingredients are approved by the FDA, we aren’t completely sure of the long-term effects of vaping and inhaling these substances. So far however, there have been no reports of vaping causing cancer or lung disease.

More of a concern with e-cigarettes and vaping is the safe use of the device and batteries. You may have heard of e-cigarettes blowing up and mauling their owners. In all of these cases it was determined that user error was the cause, such as: improper use of damaged batteries, accidentally pressing the fire button, or DIY error with unregulated devices and direct battery contact. If you follow safe vaping precautions, use a regulated mod unless you know what you’re doing, and don’t use damaged batteries, you won’t have a problem.

Final Verdict – Is Vaping Safer than Smoking?

Clearly when you compare smoking cigarettes and vaping, vaping is safer than smoking. Cigarettes are known to cause cancer and lung disease, and are definitely bad for your health. Comparatively, e-liquid contains only a handful of FDA approved ingredients. While long-term research on the health-effects of vaping are still needed, e-cigarettes have been proven to be 95% safer than smoking, and can help smokers quit. If you were wondering if vaping is safer than smoking, we hope that you’ve found the answers you were looking for.

If you’re looking for a great device to begin vaping with, you can check out The Best Vape Starter Kits in 2018, and get on your way to a healthier, smoke-free living!

Adam Alhiraki Author Picture 1

Adam Alhiraki

I started vaping in 2013, determined to quit smoking because I knew it was a terrible habit. Many hard years later, I'm smoke-free and feeling better than ever! I love trying as many different tanks, mods, and ejuices as I can get my hands on, but I love sharing my experiences and honest opinions even more! When I'm not reviewing, researching, or writing, you can find me watching tennis, tinkering with coils, or playing with my two mischievous cats.

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