Humans have been smoking tobacco and marijuana for centuries, but over the past couple of years, people have increasingly started vaporising their drug of choice instead, in an attempt to avoid some of the harmful effects of smoke. But is vaping actually any better for you than smoking? AsapSCIENCE explores the evidence in the latest episode.
But first of all, what’s the difference between vaping and smoking, chemically speaking? When you smoke something normally, be it marijuana or tobacco, the heat from fire causes the substance to change from a solid to a vapour. In cigarettes, the vapour that’s released is nicotine, and it’s absorbed through the lungs into the blood stream, where it can stimulate your central nervous system within just 6 seconds - hence the addictive hit that smokers get. A similar process happens with marijuana, except that it’s a THC vapour being absorbed by your lungs.
The problem is that although smoking delivers your desired active ingredient super-fast, the smoke also contains partially burnt particles than can create tar in your body, trigger cancer, blacken teeth, and destroy your taste buds. You know, all those terrible things about smoking that the ads warn you about.
So in order to remove some of those negative side effects, people started vaping.This generally requires a glass or metal chamber with an electrical current running through it, which allows you to heat your desired substance to a controlled temperature to create vapour with minimal combustion. Voila, you get the cigarette high without all the smoke.
In theory, that means that vaping should be better for you because it minimises the burnt particles you're inhaling. But instead of dried tobacco, e-cigarettes use a liquid substance, which contains a base substance and occasionally flavouring in addition to nicotine. And this is where things get a little complicated, as the guys from AsapSCIENCE explain.
Research has shown that the ingredients in e-cigarettes vary widely between manufacturers and often contain chemicals that are associated with negative health effects, such as eye irritation, respiratory infections, and even irreversible lung damage. Not exactly the stuff you want to be inhaling.
So knowing that, does science find one alternative better than the other? Well... sort of. Watch the episode of AsapSCIENCE above to find out more. And remember, just because something is 'not as bad' as something else, doesn't necessarily make it safe.