Today, smokers who would otherwise continue smoking have a number of alternatives available. While they are better choices than continuing with cigarettes, many smokers have incomplete or inaccurate information about them. We cut through the smoke and look at some misconceptions that might come up.
E-cigarettes are perhaps more widely known because they have been around for longer. But there are also heated tobacco products, so we’ll start with them. To avoid doubt, when we say vaping, we mean both using an e-cigarette or a heated tobacco product.
Heat-not-burn products are very different from cigarettes. The user inhales a tobacco vapor, not cigarette smoke.
When lit, cigarettes burn tobacco at temperatures above 600 °C, flaring to more than 800 °C when a smoker takes a puff. In the process, they create smoke, ash, and high levels of harmful chemicals.
With heat-not-burn products, the temperature of the tobacco should be controlled and kept well below the levels required for combustion. Because there is no burning, they should not create smoke.
Nicotine is addictive, but it’s not the primary cause of smoking-related diseases. Smoking-related diseases, such as lung cancer, cardiovascular disease and emphysema, are caused primarily by inhaling harmful compounds formed when tobacco is burned, not by nicotine.
When you smoke a cigarette, the nicotine quickly enters the blood stream and reaches peak levels within minutes. It’s a stimulant that gets your heart pumping, it triggers dopamine release, and it plays a role in making cigarettes addictive.
All heat-not-burn products that have been commercialized contain nicotine. Nicotine is one of the reasons people smoke, along with taste and ritual. In order for smokers to switch from cigarettes to better alternatives than continued smoking, these products need to contain nicotine.
Nicotine in itself is not risk-free. Certain people – including pregnant or breastfeeding women and people with heart disease, severe high blood pressure, or diabetes – should not use tobacco or nicotine containing products. Minors should not use or have access to tobacco or nicotine-containing products.
Both smoking and vaping involve inhalation of nicotine, which is addictive.
Heated tobacco products and e-cigarettes are not risk-free. They are a better choice than continued smoking. Of course, this is a generalization and it’s important that products are backed by science. In any event, the best choice any smoker can make is to quit cigarettes and nicotine completely.