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Cigarettes are the cause of death for about 480,000 Americans each year. The nicotine in cigarettes isn’t the culprit, however. The danger comes from the tar from the tobacco and the other chemicals that are added when cigarettes are processed. Many people have quit smoking cigarettes by taking up vaping, which is heating a nicotine liquid to a vapor and inhaling it using a mechanical device. But is vaping safer than smoking cigarettes? That remains to be seen.


There are different-sized vaping devices that are essentially batteries attached to heating elements. The larger the battery, or the more powerful the heating element, the higher the temperatures the device can reach to heat the nicotine liquid.

Most vaping liquids, often called juices, are made in a base of propylene glycol or glycerol. Sometimes the liquid is a mixture of the two. When these chemicals are heated to high temperatures, they can generate unintended substances.

A study was conducted and published by The New England Journal of Medicine that found formaldehyde can form if a vaping liquid is heated to high-enough temperatures. When the propylene glycol and glycerol are heated to temperatures that commercially available e-cigarettes reach using high voltages, formaldehyde-releasing agents are inhaled into the respiratory tract. The effects of this are still being studied, but formaldehyde is a known carcinogen.

Skin Exposure

It’s important to handle vaping juice carefully, as the concentrated amount of nicotine is dangerous to children and pets. If a child or animal should swallow the liquid, immediate medical help is recommended. Also, if the liquid gets on your skin when you are handling it, you could unintentionally absorb a high amount of nicotine and experience nicotine poisoning. Handling nicotine liquids warrants caution.

Signs of nicotine overdose include:

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Agitation
  • Restlessness
  • Excitement
  • Burning sensation at point of contact
  • Coma
  • Confusion
  • Convulsions
  • Depression
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Drooling
  • Fainting
  • Headache
  • Muscle twitches
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Rapid breathing
  • Breathing stops
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness

Vaping: The Unknown

There remains much to learn about the effects and hazards of vaping and electronic cigarettes. The FDA is conducting studies to understand exactly what e-cigarettes can do to the body and brain. Before this data is available, vaping may be a riskier proposition than most people think. If you are going to vape, pick a reputable seller and get a list of ingredients. This way you will at least know what is in the liquids you are inhaling.

If you are trying to quit smoking, there are other, safer ways of replacing nicotine that regulate the amount of nicotine you receive, without the inclusion of possibly hazardous chemicals. Nicotine gum, patches and tablets, with measured and controlled doses of nicotine, are widely available and may be better lines of defense in the battle to stop smoking. While there are alternative forms of nicotine, you may want to visit a treatment center and participate in group therapy to understand the underlying reasons as to why you smoke. With professional help you can quit smoking today.

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Vaping vs. Cigarettes: Which is Worse?
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