If you Google “vaping,” you will run headfirst into a long list of misleading and even dishonest results. “Research suggests vaping is bad for your heart and lungs,” the first result from Johns Hopkins University declares. “Vaping is often thought of as safer than cigarette smoking, but vaping causes health problems, too,” the Cleveland Clinic likewise asserts. “Vaping hasn’t been around long enough to know what kind of long-term damage it might cause.”
As it turns out, these statements are as far from the truth as possible. There is, in fact, no evidence that nicotine vaping damages the heart or lungs. And one reason we know this, contrary to the Cleveland Clinic, is that we have two decades of research investigating the health effects of vaping.
With so many ostensibly reputable medical authorities spreading nonsense about nicotine vaping, I wanted to briefly discuss what we actually know about e-cigarettes based on the best available science. The contrast between the data and the conjecture widely available online is shocking.
Vaping is far safer than smoking
Johns Hopkins, Cleveland Clinic and other public health institutions will acknowledge in passing that vaping exposes users to fewer toxic chemicals. While that’s technically correct, it’s one of the most outrageous understatements in medicine.
Many smokers who quit by switching to e-cigarettes report that their physicians are shocked by the results. “My [doctor] looked down my throat in 2021 with a camera and said he could not tell I was ever a cigarette smoker,” one person reported on Twitter in June. “I smoked for 13 years.”
How is that possible? According to a recent study published in the prestigious journal Nature, it’s because many of the harmful chemicals in tobacco smoke are entirely absent from e-cigarette vapor. In some cases, e-cigarette users have chemical exposures similar to those of people who don’t use any nicotine product whatsoever.
Vaping is superior to nicotine replacement therapy (NRT)
Johns Hopkins also maintains that smokers should use FDA-approved NRTs if they want to give up cigarettes. Why? Because “A recent study found that most people who intended to use e-cigarettes to kick the nicotine habit ended up continuing to use traditional and e-cigarettes.” Anybody can find a single study that supports their desired conclusion. But when we look at all the available data, we find that vaping is probably twice as effective as NRT for smoking cessation.
Vaping is less addictive than smoking
Parroting others in the anti-smoking movement, Johns Hopkins claims that “Electronic cigarettes are just as addictive as traditional ones.” This, again, is at odds with latest evidence. Many vapes do indeed contain nicotine in doses similar to cigarettes, which is one of the reasons why they help smokers quit. Nevertheless, multiple studies have now shown that vaping is less likely to cause dependence than combustible tobacco. “This, in turn suggests that smokers who transition from cigarettes to e-cigarettes may find it easier to subsequently transition off e-cigarettes should they try to do so,” according to the authors of a March 2020 study.
We still have more to learn about the health effects of vaping. But what we know so far is this: it’s markedly safer than smoking and helps millions of people quit cigarettes and, if they so choose, maybe even nicotine. Those are the facts public health authorities should be promoting far and wide.