Vaping gets a lot of bad press, with the majority of sensationalist stories being ill-informed and inaccurate. VapersWAREHOUSE would like to set the story straight! Here are the most common misconceptions about vaping that often re-occur in mainstream media:
1) Passive vaping
There’s plenty of misinformation that says second-hand vapor is dangerous. With second-hand smoke being so dangerous, it’s understandable that people would be wary. The fact is, e-cigarettes have been designed so users can inhale nicotine without most of the harmful effects of smoking – they don’t produce tar or carbon monoxide. Public Health England have declared vaping at around 95% safer than smoking, making the risk of harm to bystanders extremely low.
2) Vapes explode
Scare stories of ‘vape explosions’ are well circulated but the truth is there have been very few fires from vapor products and most of these are caused by the mishandling of batteries. In reality, e-cigarettes are no more explosive than smartphones – when used properly and safely, they don’t explode in your pocket or hand. Vapers need to make ohms law and battery safety their top priority. Batteries explode for a reason – usually if they’re stored loose and in contact with metal object, or they’ve been damaged due to poor maintenance. Read more here on how to avoid exploding vapes.
3) Vaping is a gateway to smoking
The claim that vaping will tempt non-smokers into smoking has not been validated. In fact, data suggests that the vaping gateway is much more an ‘exit’ from smoking than an ‘entrance’ to it. E-cigarettes are a smoking cessation tool and are marketed to people who are looking to quit smoking. ‘Action on Smoking and Health’ produced a study on how many people who have never smoked now vape – the results were around 0.1%.
4) Sweet-flavoured e-liquids target children
Those opposed to the vaping industry often denounce it as trying to ‘addict a new generation’ with its sweet flavours such as bubblegum and jelly. This is nonsense – vaping companies cannot advertise to children because vaping is an age-restricted product and it is illegal to supply vapes to anyone under the age of 18. The sweet, fruity and dessert-flavoured e-liquids are aimed at adults wanting to wean themselves off combustible tobacco. If flavoured alcohol is seen to be catering to adults why not flavoured vapes?
5) Vapes gives you ‘popcorn lung’
‘Popcorn lung’ is a slang name used for a condition called bronchiolitis obliterans (BO), a serious and irreversible lung disease. It’s caused by the inhalation of a chemical called ‘diacetyl’, which has a buttery flavour and used to be common as a microwave popcorn additive. In the nineties, factory workers in a microwave popcorn plant contracted BO by inhaling powdered diacetyl in high concentration.
Now, while some e-liquids contain diacetyl (but not in the EU), there has never been a diagnosed case of BO in a vaper. Furthermore, there has never been any cases of BO in cigarette smokers either – even though cigarettes contain up to 750 times more diacetyl than vapes. Though e-liquids should be diacetyl free to err on the side of caution, the risks are negligible compared to smoking.
6) Vaping causes the same harm as smoking
This myth is the worst lie of all. Numerous studies have proven that vaping products have saved the lives of ex-smokers. To undermine the severity of the dangers of smoking by comparing real cigarettes to fake ones is doing the public a huge disservice. It is a sad fact that nearly half the population of Britain don’t realise that e-cigarettes are much less dangerous than smoking. There is no legitimate scientific dispute over the fact that vaping is much safer than smoking – around 95% less harmful to be precise. Read more on why vaping is better for your health than smoking here.
7) E-liquids contain dangerous chemicals
False rumours that say e-liquids contain scary chemicals including formaldehyde and anti-freeze are often quoted by non-vapers. Actually, there are only 3 or 4 non-harmful ingredients in e-liquids depending on what you vape, including: vegetable glycerine, propylene glycol, natural food grade flavouring and nicotine (optional). Each of these products can also be found in many everyday products we use such as food, drink and cosmetics.
8) Nicotine causes cancer
This myth points the finger at nicotine as the main cause of concern whereas in fact nicotine is about as harmful for your body as caffeine. Nicotine is not a carcinogen and there is no link between nicotine and cancer. It is, in fact, the thousands of chemicals in cigarettes that cause cancer. For more on the effects of nicotine read here.
9) Vaping products not regulated
Anti-vaping groups might try to peddle the idea that vaping manufacturers are brewing e-liquids in their bathtubs without any regard for what they’re producing. In reality, the majority of vape shops go out of their way to do extensive testing to ensure they’re putting out high-spec products that won’t harm the market or their customers. Recent regulations have also created a list of regulations for vape shops and manufacturers to follow, meaning everyone has had to step up their game to produce pure products. Read more on the new regulations here.
10) The tobacco industry owns vaping
One anti-vaping narrative that is particularly damaging is the idea that e-cigarettes are just the latest ploy from Big Tobacco to hook a new generation onto their products. In fact, this creates a misleading picture which overestimates Big Tobacco’s role in the e-cigarette industry.
Modern e-cigarettes were invented by a Chinese pharmacist in 2003 yet weren’t purchased by a tobacco company until 2012. The vaping industry had been growing for years and tobacco companies originally dismissed it as a fad but rising sales made them rethink that conclusion. In contrast to independent e-cigarette companies, Big Tobacco companies are almost laughably behind the times and hold a firm minority in the industry.
If you’re new to vaping, figuring out how to actually vape e-liquid can be quite daunting, especially if you find you cough when you first inhale.
Firstly, a few tips on what equipment you need:
Start out with a simple device, then work your way up. Cigalikes look and feel like cigarettes, vape pens are bigger and have a longer battery life, pod mods are lightweight vaporizers and all-in-one starter kits are perfect for beginners. You will also need some e-liquid if your device is not already pre-filled – you can get e-liquid in an endless variety of flavours and they also come in a variety of nicotine strengths.
Most refillable vaping devices will need a new coil head roughly every week, you simply screw them into your tank. These coil heads contain a heating element (coil) surrounded by wicking material (cotton), which atomize the e-juice and turn it into vapor.
When you first take your vape out of the box it will have a fresh coil installed and won’t have e-liquid in the tank – do not press the fire button as it will instantly destroy the coil head. You need to first fill the tank to its appropriate level and wait around 20 minutes to let the cotton soak up the juice – if you rush this, it will taste like burnt cotton!
How to inhale
Turn on your device to its lowest recommended setting then place your lips on the mouthpiece and take a drag whilst simultaneously pressing the fire button. Inhale then quickly let the vapor out.
If you’re not used to this feeling, you may cough or sneeze – this is very normal. Just take smaller puffs to start with. There are two ways to inhale; ‘mouth to lung’ and ‘direct lung’ inhalations.
Mouth to lung mimics smoking a traditional cigarette – it’s a two-step process in which you inhale vapor into the mouth first, as if sucking on a straw, and then draw down into the lungs. It is usually done with lower airflow settings. The vapor remains in the mouth for longer and there is a reduced throat hit.
Direct lung inhaling is a one-step process in which vapor is inhaled directly into the lung, much like sucking the air from a balloon, this is similar to the technique used for smoking a shisha pipe or bong. It is usually done with wider airflow settings. This draw method is usually used with sub-ohm vaping and the throat hit is more intense.
Coughing and vaping
The most common side effect experienced by first time vapers is a cough and sore throat. This could be because some people are sensitive to the propylene glycol in e-liquids but, for most, this is a temporary effect and the body soon gets used to this chemical.
In contrast, tobacco smoke contains ingredients which are specifically designed to stop smokers coughing – the absence of anaesthetics and antitussives in vapes could explain why you cough when you first try vaping.
Ex-smokers should also understand that when you stop smoking, the tiny hair-like cells on your respiratory tract called cilia start growing back and this can often mean you cough more.
Here are some suggestions on how to stop coughing when vaping:
- Experiment with different inhaling and exhaling techniques and speeds.
- Change the PG/VG ratio in your e-liquid – VG is smoother.
- Reduce nicotine levels to see if affects the throat hit.
- Drink water to stay hydrated.
- Add a drop of menthol to your e-liquid.
Vaping is a great way to combat tobacco withdrawals as it replicates the taste and hand-to-mouth action of cigarettes and can provide you with a nicotine hit. Read more on how vaping helps you quit smoking here.
It’s important to remember that, although the craving for tobacco may be intense, it will pass in about five to ten minutes. As well as vaping, here are some other techniques you can use to resist the urge to smoke:
1) Go to a smoke-free area
As the craving should last for 10 minutes max, you need to distract yourself for that period of time. Try going to a public place where smoking is not allowed such as a shopping mall or café, by the time you leave the craving should have passed.
2) Avoid personal triggers
Identify your own personal triggers to smoking – it may be that you smoked most when you felt stressed, or had a coffee or alcoholic drink. Make a plan to avoid these triggers entirely at least in the early stages of quitting, or give yourself an alternative activity.
3) Distract your mouth
Physical cravings are your body’s reaction to nicotine withdrawal, you may feel a tightness in your throat and feelings of mild tension. Manage these by keeping your mouth occupied:
- Drink a glass of water, good hydration will help your metabolism work more efficiently.
- Chew a stick of sugarless gum, the repetitive action will help distract the craving and fresh minty flavours will discourage your urge for smoking.
- Eat a healthy snack, munching on a stick of raw carrot or celery is satisfying and will allow you to manage your blood sugar levels.
4) There’s no such thing as ‘just one’
Fooling yourself that just one cigarette will squash your cravings won’t work, you’ll only be feeding your nicotine addiction and you may well end up using tobacco again.
5) Focus on your reasons for quitting
When you’re seized by a craving, try to focus on the reasons you stopped in the first place – this can be a powerful motivator to keep you smoke-free. You may reflect on what it will feel like to grow healthier and stronger. And take the time to calculate the savings you will make, cigarettes are expensive! Think of what you can buy with the money you save while you let the craving pass.
6) Find a portable hobby
Take up a hobby that is easy to pick up and put down at short notice. You could carry a pocket Suduko puzzle book, or a crossword to keep your brain busy. Or perhaps a knitting or crochet project you can keep in your bag.
Adopt some simple mindfulness techniques to help you ride out your cravings. Close your eyes and create a place in your mind that you can visualize when you need to slow down and relax. It could be a real location, like a beach or forest, or you can make it up. Go to this place every time you do this exercise so that it becomes familiar and comfortable. Inhale and exhale deeply for up to five minutes, ensuring your breathing gradually slows and you achieve a calm state.
8) Ask for support
It really helps to know that you are most definitely not alone in your struggle to quit smoking. Choose a friend or fellow quitter you know you can rely on and ask them to help you quit by checking in with them when you need support. You can meet up for a walk, a cup of tea or just have a phone call when the going gets tough. There are also plenty of online groups and support forums where other people will be going through the same withdrawals. Post a message and offer your own helpful suggestions to others.
Read on to find how exercise can also help you to kick smoking for good.
When we compare vaping to smoking, the relative risk to overall health is far less dangerous. In 2016, a 200-page report by the British Royal College of Physicians urged the uptake of vapor products by smokers as a harm reduction strategy and, this year, health experts fully endorsed vaping in the first long-term study of its effects on ex-smokers.
The difference between smoke and vapor
In order to understand why smoking has a more negative impact on your health, it’s worth looking at the differences in the production of smoke and vapor.
Smoke is created through an open flame; through burning or combustion – when tobacco is smoked, it is being destroyed by the extreme temperature of the fire. Burning is a change of state, where compound molecules are broken down and recombined (oxidised) to form new elements.
Smoking anything will produce a thick toxic by product called tar. Cigarette smoke is also full of carbon-monoxide, formaldehyde and other harmful toxins. There are, in fact, 7,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke. These chemicals are formed as the cigarette material breaks down as It burns, then recombines into new compounds. Every time the smoker takes a drag, the majority of these compounds remain in their body.
Vapor, on the other hand, isn’t produced through combustion, which greatly reduces the temperature the substance is exposed to. Instead, the carrier liquid (PG or VG) is heated until it enters a visible gaseous state which then naturally carries with it the nicotine, flavours and other ingredients.
Since nothing is burned, vaping is purer as it does not create toxic products. The liquid inside most electronic cigarettes is made up of just four main ingredients: propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, nicotine and added food grade flavouring.
The effect of smoking on your lungs
Smoke attacks your lungs in several ways; the thousands of chemicals contain 70 known carcinogens as well as particle matter which buries itself in the lung tissue. The inhaled smoke also causes structural and operational damage inside the lungs, with the toxic material reducing the function of the cilia and bronchioles. A smoker’s lungs begin to produce more mucus which doesn’t clear properly, causing emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
The effect of vaping on your lungs
As vapor doesn’t behave like smoke, there is no current evidence that inhaling the ingredients causes any long-term damage. There can, however, be risks to inhaling some flavouring agents, namely the chemicals diacetyl and acetyl propionyl, which have been linked to a condition known as ‘popcorn lung’ or bronchiolitis obliterans.
This condition has mainly been linked to workers at flavouring factories who have inhaled large quantities of the substances in powdered form. There has never actually been a diagnosed case in a vaper.
The effect of smoking on your heart
Smoke has a terrible impact on your heart and circulatory system. The carbon monoxide in it reduces the blood’s ability to absorb oxygen which means the heart has to beat harder to supply organs. Poor circulation can damage organs and blood is more likely to clot, increasing risk of cardiovascular problems.
Smoke also causes the artery linings to build up a waxy plaque which hardens to cause atherosclerosis – a permanent hardening of the arteries which causes heart attacks and strokes.
The effect of vaping on your heart
As vapor doesn’t contain any of the toxins in smoke, inhaling it is unlikely to cause any damage to the heart and circulatory system. The only ingredient that may cause minor damage is nicotine, which causes a temporary increase in heart rate and high blood pressure. People with a serious heart disease ought to choose zero-nicotine e-liquids to avoid this issue. Read more on vaping nicotine here.
E-cigarettes don’t cause cancer, smoking does
Cigarette smoke causes cell mutations in bacteria and damages our DNA, including key genes that protect us against cancer, as a result, smoking accounts for more than 1 in 4 UK cancer deaths.
Vapor, on the other hand, isn’t carcinogenic or toxic and there is no current evidence to suggest that vaping, with or without nicotine, causes cancer.