Is Vaping as Bad for Your Health as Smoking?

Is Vaping as Bad for Your Health as Smoking?

One of the worst things you can do for your lungs and your overall health is to smoke. But many still don’t know that vaping is also dangerous. While experts expressed concern from the start, not everyone got the message.

What Is Vaping?

Vaping devices, or electronic-cigarettes (e-cigarettes), are battery-operated devices that people use to inhale an aerosol (vapor) that usually contains nicotine, flavorings and other chemicals. They can resemble traditional tobacco cigarettes, cigars or pipes. But many look like everyday things like pens or USB memory sticks.

Whether they look like cigarettes, pipes or pens, they all use a vapor to deliver nicotine without tobacco. This vapor sparked the use of the term “vape” and “vaping” instead of smoking. Some may think vaping is better than smoking.

Many people, especially teens and young adults, still think e-cigs are cool and a healthier choice than tobacco. In fact, e-cigarette use among young people has reached epidemic levels, says the American Lung Association’s advice to parentsleaving site icon E-cigarettes are the most commonly used tobacco products among young people and have been for years now.

Many teens and adults don't realize how much they’re harming their lungs and their brains by using them.

Is Vaping Healthier Than Smoking?

E-cigarettes generally contain fewer toxic chemicals than the mix of 7,000 chemicals in smoke from regular cigarettes. But vaping is not healthy. leaving site icon Most e-cigarettes also contain many toxic chemicals and metals, including lead and formaldehyde. They can be very harmful, especially for young people and pregnant women.

And most vape devices, as many as 99 percent of those sold in the U.S., leaving site icon contain nicotine. Nicotine is as addictive as cocaine and heroin. In fact, one vaping dose can have as much nicotine as 20 regular cigarettes.

The evidence is building about just how many ways vaping can damage your body. Even in a short time, vaping can damage your heart and lungs. It puts you at risk for:

  • Cancer
  • Lung disease
  • Pneumonia
  • Heart failure
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

And research continues to show health risks from e-cigarette use. One recent study found a significant tie between former or current e-cigarette use and the development of respiratory diseases, including COPD, chronic bronchitis, emphysema and asthma, within two years of use.

Vaping has also been linked to serious lung injuries, like bronchiolitis obliterans, often called popcorn lungleaving site icon This condition happens when the smallest airways in your lungs are damaged by breathing in harmful chemicals, making it harder to breathe.

Research has also found that exposure to secondhand vapor can be dangerous for others.

Can Vaping Help You Stop Smoking?

Researchers have gotten mixed results on whether vaping actually helps people stop smoking, compared to other methods for quitting. But what is clear is that most e-cigarettes are more harmful than the other methods for quitting. And most adults who use vaping to try to stop smoking do not stop smokingleaving site icon 

Vaping can actually make it harder to stop. Studies show that vaping is just as addictive as smoking regular cigarettes. And about 28 percent of smokers who use vaping are less likely to quit, says the American Heart Association. Many end up smoking and vaping.

Remember, no tobacco or vaping products are safe, says the Food and Drug Administration. leaving site icon So those who don’t use them should not start. And those who do should stop.

Talk to your doctor about proven, safe ways to quit. There are many proven aids and resources available to help you stop smoking. There are FDA-approved medications available to help people quit.

Your health plan may cover the cost of medicine and counseling to support you. Check your benefits information to find out what your plan covers.

For more information about how to successfully quit smoking or vaping, visit leaving site icon or contact the Lung HelpLine and Tobacco Quitline. This free service from the American Lung Association offers help from RNs, respiratory therapists, pharmacists and certified stop smoking experts. Call 800-LUNG-USA (800-586-4872) or go to site icon 

Protect Your Lungs

Your lungs help you breathe. They help you fight infections. They help your other organs work. But they are easily harmed. Anything you breathe in can hurt them. Here’s how to protect your lungs:

  • Get routine health exams and preventive care
  • Exercise to improve lung capacity
  • Avoid exposure to pollutants
  • Protect yourself from respiratory and other infections
  • Don’t use tobacco products or vape
Sources: Can vaping damage your lungs? What we do (and don't) know, leaving site icon Harvard Medical School, 2023; Current evidence identifies health risks of e-cigarette use; long-term research needed, leaving site icon American Heart Association, 2023; E-cigarettes & Vaping: What Parents Should Know, leaving site icon American Lung Association, 2023; Facts about E-Cigarettes, leaving site icon Food and Drug Administration, 2023; About Electronic Cigarettes (E-Cigarettes), leaving site icon Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2023; Learn About Bronchiolitis Obliterans, leaving site icon American Lung Association, 2021