April 01, 2020

Vaping vs. smoking

Inhaling health risks either way

You see people around town puffing clouds of smoke with small devices pressed to their lips. You also may have seen news reports about vaping but were a bit confused.

Vaping refers to a method — using a specially designed, battery-operated electronic cigarette or other device — to deliver an inhaled, vaporized form of tobacco to the body. The mixture of chemicals — including nicotine, an addictive ingredient of tobacco — often includes flavors such as menthol to improve the taste. It's different from regular smoking because the main ingredients are heated to a vapor and not burned to produce smoke. Certain forms of cannabis also can be used in vaping devices.

Vaping has grown massively in popularity among Americans of all ages, but particularly in children and young adults. It's been the most commonly used tobacco product among middle and high school students since 2014, according to the U.S. surgeon general. Between 2017 and 2018, the number of kids under 18 who tried vaping jumped by 1.5 million.

The inhaled vapor has fewer harmful ingredients than does cigarette smoke, but potentially harmful chemicals can still be found in the vapor. The contents of most vaping fluids are unknown, and the risks of many of these chemicals aren't understood. However, previous researchindicates that at least some vaping products contain harmful chemicals, including substances known to increase the risk of cancer and other diseases.

Starting in summer 2019, news reports started to emerge about people throughout the U.S. having serious respiratory problems after vaping. About...