What is Vaping, Really


I don’t personally smoke or vape, but I’d like to know a little bit more about both--and particularly about vaping, which I’m not sure I properly understand at all. I have a few friends who vape, and they claim it’s safer than cigarettes. Can this be true? Meanwhile, I have other friends who smoke and say that vaping just isn’t the same. What’s the deal with vaping? How does it work, and why does it exist? And what is the relationship between vaping and smoking?

Vaping and smoking are actually quite different, though it is easy to see why they’re associated in the minds of many people. Like smoking, vaping involves breathing something in and out while enjoying the sensation. But this, in many ways, is where the similarities end.

You likely already know how cigarettes work: when users smoke cigarettes, they light the end of one on fire and breath in the smoke. There are a great many reasons that this activity isn’t good for you, from the complexities of the additives and chemicals in cigarette smoke to the simple fact that it’s not a great idea to break in smoke. Cigarettes are proven to cause cancer, and they kill nearly half a million Americans per year.

Vaping also involves breathing something in, but that something is not tobacco smoke. The term “vaping” refers to vapor. The word “vapor” is often used as a general term for both gases and “aerosols.” The latter of these is a scientific term for the suspension of tiny particles of something solid or liquid within a gas.

It is aerosols that we’re talking about when we talk about vaping. Here’s how it works: a device like an e-cigarette or vape pen heats up an Eliquid. The e-liquid is vaporized, and the user inhales the vapor (again, technically an aerosol), then breathes it out again.

The use of e-liquid instead of tobacco makes vaping quite versatile. It is easy for manufacturers to offer different flavors by changing the ingredients in their e-liquids. This is part of the appeal of vaping, which is growing fast: it’s now more popular than cigarette smoking among teens.

And, as it turns out, that could be good news from a public health perspective. E-liquid generally contains nicotine, which is the chemical that is primarily behind the addictive properties of tobacco smoking. This means that vaping can be addictive, but it also means that vaping may present a way for cigarette smokers to replace their dangerous habit with a safer one--assuming, that is, that vaping is safe. So far, research suggests that it is safer than smoking tobacco. The jury is out on whether or not it is safe on the whole, with some research warning of danger while other studies find the practice to be perfectly safe.

“Good habits formed at youth make all the difference.” -- Aristotle

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