Vaping Studies in 2022
What's the latest evidence on the most popular alternative to smoking?
Over the past decade, we've witnessed a significant increase in people switching from smoking to vaping. Why? Because it's a safer alternative to cigarette smoking and gives users a nicotine hit without exposing themselves to tar and carbon monoxide.
As vaping is relatively new, there aren't many long-term studies focusing on the potential risks. However, short-term research shows positive results - especially when comparing the dangers of smoking and vaping.
So what exactly do these studies show? Let's dive in.
How many vapers are there in the UK - and worldwide?
When compared to smoking and nicotine replacement therapy, vaping products are relatively new. However, in the past decade, we've seen a worldwide surge in the number of people who vape.
A report by The Guardian in August 2022 revealed there were just 800,000 vapers in 2012, but that number skyrocketed to 4.3 million in 2022. These numbers show just how popular vaping is in the UK - but what about worldwide?
An in-depth study of vaping in other countries also shows the incredible growth of vaping. Although it occurred in 2021, it's the first worldwide study by the Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction.
In 2020, there were an estimated 68 million vapers globally, which increased to 82 million in 2021.
Who vapes most?
Research from Ash also shows that vaping products are more popular among men than women. People who vape are usually aged between 35-44, with 45-54-year-olds being the second most common age group.
Only 5% of young people aged between 18-24 vape regularly, which suggests that vaping is more popular for ex-smokers too.
In fact, the report also highlights that most vapers are ex-smokers:
2.4 million vapers are ex-smokers
1.1 million combine vaping with smoking tobacco
One hundred thousand people who vape have never smoked
Research about vaping health risks
One of the primary concerns for new vapers is whether they're harming their bodies. There are numerous conflicting reports, some stating that vaping is just as dangerous as smoking, while studies suggest otherwise.
Let's separate out the fact from the fiction, when it comes to the safety of vaping products:
Fact: Vaping is less harmful than smoking
Let's start with the obvious; vaping is definitely less harmful than smoking cigarettes. Numerous studies have highlighted the true risks of smoking over the years, and the results show us that lighting a cigarette causes cancer and various breathing difficulties.
Vaping reduces exposure to dangerous chemicals
The largest study on vaping took place in the UK at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (King's College London). It was the most comprehensive review of its kind and was commissioned by the Office For Health Improvement.
The UK is making a conscious effort to be smoke-free by 2030, and with vaping being so popular, the study aimed to offer conclusive evidence about how dangerous it really is.
Here are the key findings of the report.
Vaping is less dangerous than tobacco smoking
The study used biomarkers to test whether smoking is more dangerous than vaping. According to the results, people who vape are exposed to fewer toxins and chemicals, dramatically reducing the risk of various cancers.
Also, there's no tar or carbon monoxide in vape kits, but tobacco smoke does contain both toxins, which results in an increased risk of breathing disorders.
Many smokers don't consider vaping to be the safer alternative
Quite shockingly, smokers are particularly wary of vaping products. The report highlighted that 66% of smokers don't view vaping as a safer alternative to smoking cigarettes.
These numbers are worrying because smokers are the group that would benefit most from making the switch.
Vaping continues to grow in popularity
The UK has seen a massive increase in adult vapers in the past few years. In fact, the numbers when up from 6.3% to 8.1% between 2020 and 2022. While some countries deal with young people who vape, the UK's figures are relatively low.
Vaping in young people who've never smoked stands at 1.7%, and while some do vape, the health risks are lower compared to smoking at a young age.
Myth: Vaping will cause popcorn lung
In 2022, The Guardian published an article stating that 95% of people with severe popcorn lung will die within five years of developing the condition. However, while the article was worrying, it failed to sufficiently explain how people get popcorn lung.
Popcorn lung is a serious condition that can result in severe respiratory problems. Also known as bronchiolitis obliterans, popcorn lung damages the smallest airways of the lungs, making a person feel out of breath and cough frequently.
As the tiny airways continue to get smaller, a person with the condition will find it difficult to breathe in air, which can result in death.
Many anti-vaping campaigns state that vaping can cause the condition - but this isn't the case. So, if you've read that buying a vape kit could lead to popcorn lung, you can relax.
Popcorn lung and diacetyl
Diacetyl is a chemical often used to make popcorn (hence the name). However, many factory workers began developing severe respiratory problems from being around the chemical so often.
Brands began to change their ingredients, avoiding the chemical - but some e-liquid manufacturers use it.
When people vape e-liquids containing diacetyl, they expose their lungs to harm, and that's what causes the condition.
Luckily, the ingredient is banned in the UK, and many reputable manufacturers in the USA avoid it too. So, be sure to avoid any e-liquids that list diacetyl as an ingredient.
Some electronic cigarettes might contain acetaldehyde, which is also found in the smoke from marijuana. However, many vapers aren't exposed to the chemical, as it only occurs in high levels during dry puffs.
According to Research Gate, dry puffs create a potential danger for a user, but as long as you ensure your e-cigarette always has enough vape juice, you won't have to worry.
2021 caused plenty of worries for vapers - but how much of the information was accurate?
There have been so many studies about vaping in the last few years, many of which have causes numerous health worries. Luckily, some publications look at just how accurate the research is.
Here are some of the debunked studies:
Myth: Vaping causes erectile dysfunction
Well, this was one study that worried men everywhere - but the researchers' far-reaching claims soon proved unreliable. The study, published by CNN, stated that male vapers have double the risk of developing erectile dysfunction disorder.
However, the main issue with the study is that just 2% of the participants vaped daily, which isn't a large enough sample size to gather conclusive results.
Also, the study was self-reported, meaning some men would perhaps have a one-off issue with erectile dysfunction or suffer from mild symptoms.
Many men get erectile dysfunction, and the condition isn't just limited to vapers.
Myth: Vapers have a high risk of strokes
Another study stated that people using e-cigarettes have a higher risk of strokes. Again, this research isn't conclusive and doesn't factor in the much higher risk of smoking.
The study also pointed out that vapers could have a stroke as young as 48, but it depends on their history.
For example, if someone is a dual user of cigarettes and vaping products, they'll have a more significant risk of strokes than someone who quit smoking a few years ago and only vapes.
Even if vapers have a slightly increased risk of having strokes young, it's nothing compared to the risks that smokers already have (World Stroke).
Myth: The teen vaping epidemic
Studies have noted the prevalence of teenagers using disposable vaping products, and numerous publications highlight how dangerous it is. However, compared to the youth population, the number of vapers is much lower.
Many anti-vaping groups get around the low numbers by focusing on how many teenagers have tried vaping before.
However, research from Ash states that 83% of 11-17-year-olds in the UK have never tried vaping. The report also says that frequent usage is very low and not as common as some people would have us believe.
Fact: Nicotine doesn't cause significant harm in adults
Nicotine has always been controversial because it's an addictive substance that keeps people smoking. However, nicotine vaping products don't contain all harmful toxins such as tar, carbon monoxide and dangerous chemicals.
For adults, nicotine is relatively harmless but can cause problems for young people.
Nicotine and brain development
According to research, vaping might impact the brain receptors in young people, causing a more intense addiction than for adults. Also, it can affect ADHD symptoms and lead to depression and anxiety as young people deal with cravings.
The government supports anti-youth vaping initiatives
The UK government is concerned that vaping companies are actively creating and positioning products to attract young people. Disposable vaping products are particularly popular, but there are laws in place to discourage young people from buying e-cigarettes.
In the UK, people cannot purchase vape kits and e-liquids unless they're 18 and over, which will keep the number of vapers down.
Any reputable e-liquid provider will ensure that young people can't buy products unless they have ID.
Nicotine vaping to quit cigarette smoking studies
Smoking can cause cardiovascular disease, certain cancers and irreparable damage to lung tissue, which is why the NHS offers nicotine replacement therapy at their smoking cessation clinics.
However, many forms of nicotine replacement therapy fail to cure people of their tobacco addiction, as they don't replicate the experience of cigarette smoking.
Gum, lozenges, patches and inhalers offer some long-term success rates, but most would agree it's an uphill struggle to stay away from tobacco.
Nicotine vaping isn't currently available on the NHS, but with so many positive studies, it's only a matter of time before it will be a prescription treatment to help people quit smoking.
The Cochrane Review
The Cochrane Review contains a wealth of information regarding the most recent studies on stop-smoking therapies and results. Adult smokers can use e-cigarettes to reduce their reliance on tobacco products and quit successfully.
Key findings from the studies include:
E-cigarettes with nicotine help smokers quit more successfully than other NRT products.
People who vape nicotine stay away from tobacco more successfully than those who use e-liquids that don't have nicotine.
Will vaping continue to be the best way to avoid smoking?
There's no long-term evidence to suggest any adverse health effects of e-cigarette use - and the short to medium-term conclusions are positive. While some people worry about the addictive properties, nicotine products without tar and carbon monoxide are generally safe.
As the years go on, more research will solidify the current evidence that vaping poses a minimal threat to people - especially when they do so responsibly.
If you take any tips away from this guide, they should be the following:
Check your e-liquids properly and stay away from diacetyl
Maintain your device and always fill up your tank adequately
Whether you choose starter pens, tanks or disposable products, buying from a reputable manufacturer will ensure you avoid the long-term health effects of popcorn lung and have a safe experience.
At 88Vape, we offer a wide range of cost-effective vape kits and e-liquids in weird and wonderful flavours. With our firm commitment to excellent service, you can rest assured that all our products are of the highest quality.
Shop today and appreciate getting your nicotine hit without all the bad stuff associated with smoking.