Your guide for reliable & relevant wellness information, written by top experts in the field

Vaping 101

Nov. 2, 2020
Vaping Smoke

What is vaping?

Vaping is a method where a liquid is heated through a coil system which produces vapor.  The user then inhales the heated chemicals into their mouth and lungs. E-cigarettes and vaping are the same thing. Unlike tobacco cigarettes, there is no burning or flame involved in vaping. Both smoking and vaping are delivery systems for nicotine, cannabis, and/or other chemicals.  

How is vaping different from smoking regular cigarettes?

Tobacco cigarettes contain over 600 chemicals, including nicotine, tar, lead, arsenic, formaldehyde, and acetone. Vaping liquids have chemicals, but fewer than tobacco cigarettes. People thought vaping might be safer than smoking traditional cigarettes.  Additionally, because there is less nicotine in the e-liquid, people assume it could be easier to quit vaping, if desired.  

Smoking tobacco can lead to lung and heart diseases, cancer, and premature death. Traditionally, smoking tobacco is done through combustion- burning and setting a flame to the tobacco. Some people believe that vaping is safer than smoking traditional cigarettes. Unfortunately, vaping is not risk-free.

What makes vaping unsafe?

Since their debut in 2003, E-cigarettes have generated controversy and they are clearly not as safe as once thought. After more than 15 years on the market, medical studies show that vaping can lead to many illnesses, compromised brain and lung development, addiction, and even death.  In addition to highly addictive nicotine, e-cigarettes contain other harmful particulates and ingredients. Some flavorings such as diacetyl as well as vitamin E acetate, are chemicals that can harm the lungs.

Many people switched from tobacco cigarettes to vaping in an effort to break their tobacco addiction.  The result?  Addiction to vaping. Some people end up addicted to both.  Nicotine is the most addictive chemical stimulant in both tobacco and e-cigarettes, making it very hard to stop a smoking or vaping habit. 

Does vaping increase the risk of COVID-19 illness?

Since smoking and vaping harm the lungs, and COVID-19 is a respiratory illness, the combination can be extremely bad. Those who vape are five times more likely to receive a coronavirus diagnosis. Medical studies show that the risks of COVID-19 are much higher in those who vape. 

How many college students vape or smoke?

According to the Campus Health Service 2020 Health and Wellness Survey of 4,808 students, 23% of University of Arizona students vaped “regular” tobacco in the past 30 days. And 12% smoked tobacco cigarettes.  The survey revealed that 21% of UArizona students vaped cannabis in the past 30 days.

In a 2019 nationwide survey, adults between 19–22 years old, who vaped either nicotine or marijuana, represented the largest increase of any substance use over 45 years. According to the researchers, 22% of college students reported vaping tobacco in the past 30 days. Only 18% of non-college adults vaped.  

The take-away message is that while vaping eliminates some of the risks of smoking, it is not free from significant harmful effects.  We support individuals to identify and navigate the pros and cons of vaping behaviors and self-regulate in the direction of wellness.  For information on nicotine and tobacco click here.