With so many scary vaping "facts" circulating, it's hardly surprising that people have the wrong idea about vaping. According to the 2023 ASH report, 43% of adults in the UK incorrectly think that vaping is as harmful, or even more harmful than smoking. Well, I'm here with actual facts to set the record straight. Let's take a look at the truth behind popcorn lung, second hand vaping, and other vaping concerns, as we explore and dispel scary vaping myths.
1. Vaping is Worse than Smoking
Vaping is not worse than smoking. Cigarettes contain so many potentially toxic ingredients. Vapes on the other hand contain just four main components:
- Propylene (PG) - a diluent
- Vegetabel Glycerine (VG)
Cigarettes release over 5000 assorted chemicals when they burn and many of these are poisonous.[i]
According to the NHS[ii]:
It's very important to remember that cigarettes release thousands, yes thousands, of chemicals when they burn. Many of these chemicals are poisonous and around 70 of these chemicals cause cancer. Vapes don't contain harmful substances like tar and carbon monoxide. You may be very surprised by what cigarettes actually contain. If you're feeling brave, it's worth checking out our article on vegan vapes which details what's in cigarettes.
Not only does the NHS support the use of vaping to stop smoking, but they say:
"People who switch completely from smoking to vaping have significantly reduced exposure to toxins associated with risks of cancer, lung disease, heart disease and stroke."
2. Nicotine is the Most Harmful Part of Cigarettes
As already discussed, there are many potentially dangerous components in a cigarette and nicotine is by no stretch of the imagination the most harmful. Although addictive, nicotine doesn't cause cancer, lung disease, heart disease or stroke. In fact, it appears that many people like to highlight the presence of nicotine in vapes, and conveniently forget that previously popular smoking cessation tools, such as patches, also contain nicotine.
3. Second-hand Vape Aerosol is Harmful
We’re all aware of how harmful second-hand smoking is, and there have been many campaigns to highlight this fact. However, it would be wrong to believe that vape aerosol is in fact dangerous for the people around you. This is because there is no evidence to suggest this. Of course, you should always be considerate of others when vaping. You should also be mindful to avoid vaping around anyone who may be sensitive to any kinds of aerosols such as young children or people with asthma.
4. Popcorn Lung is Caused by Vaping
This term is perhaps one of the most commonly known negative terms associated with vaping. I wouldn't be surprised if the mere mention of popcorn lung conjures images of misshapen lungs that "pop" into hideous shapes. However, it may surprise you to learn that the name has absolutely nothing to do with the physical results of the disease it describes.
What is Popcorn lung?
The correct name for popcorn lung is bronchiolitis obliterans[iii]. This is a rare type of lung disease caused by accumulated scar tissue that blocks airflow. It's thought that there is a connection between a chemical called diacetyl and bronchiolitis obliterans. Diacetyl is a naturally occurring buttery flavour that appears in a lot of dairy products. It is safe to eat, and is sometimes added to popcorn. However it is potentially not so safe to inhale in very high concentrations. The nickname for the disease derived from an incident at a popcorn factory which saw eight employees develop severe lung damage. Investigations determined that diacetyl was the likely culprit and that extreme levels of vapour from the flavouring had caused the disabling lung disease.[iv]
Why is Vaping Associated with Popcorn Lung?
There was a time when some e-liquid flavours in e-cigarettes contained diacetyl. In 2016 diacetyl was banned in the UK for use in e-liquids under the Tobacco Products Directive (TPD)[v]. Notably, there's not been a single confirmed case of popcorn lung attributed to vaping. Knowing the facts can certainly put things in a very different light.
5. Vaping Companies are Targeting Children
Many people claim that the flavours and design of vapes are aimed at children. These assertions are often made with no knowledge of how the flavours and convenient designs of vapes help adult smokers give up cigarettes for good.
Sweet vape flavours
If you haven't experienced the struggle that can be quitting cigarettes, you may find it hard to understand why sweet vape flavours can help a smoker quit. After all, these sweet flavours couldn't be any further removed from the distinctive taste of tobacco. However, that is exactly the point. Many ex-smokers don't want to be reminded of the taste of traditional tobacco products. This is why they often prefer to choose sweet and fruity flavoured e-liquids and vapes.
6. Vaping leads to Smoking
It has been claimed by some that vaping leads to young people smoking. However, there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest this is the case. In fact, research[vi] shows despite an increase in vaping popularity, there hasn't been an increase in smoking rates as you would expect. After all, if vaping leads to smoking, then with the increase in vaping there should be an increase in uptake of smoking, surely?
7. Vapes Don't Help You Stop Smoking
Research reveals that vaping helps smokers stop their habit. In fact, it's one of the most effective tools for quitting smoking. There are many suggested reasons that vaping is so effective in helping smokers quit:
Prevents nicotine withdrawal
When you've become addicted to nicotine via tobacco products, it can be incredibly difficult to simply quit without the help of any tool such as vaping. Vapes are available in a variety of nicotine strengths. So, you can vape an e-liquid strength that prevents these nicotine cravings. Nicotine itself isn't very harmful[vii] and is used in all kinds of smoking cessation tools.
Hand to Mouth Movement
Initially when you quit smoking, you may miss the routine action of bringing a cigarette to your mouth. Vapes emulate this action but with the use of a substantially less harmful alternative to cigarettes.
Why is it Important to Correct Misinformation?
You may be shocked to learn that almost 1 million people in the UK have died from smoking since 2010.
According to the NHS, studies show that vapes are even more effective that nicotine replacement therapies in helping adults stop smoking. Misinformation, such as the scary vaping "facts" highlighted here, can deter people who would have otherwise used vaping to step away from cigarettes. If adult smokers are exposed only to incorrect information about vapes, then they won't recognise the potential health benefits that come from quitting smoking and switching to vaping. This is why it's essential to provide the correct information about vaping and its potential to help people quit smoking.