Vaping: safe alternative to tobacco?

Vaping, or using a liquid vaporizer, has quickly become one of the hottest trends in the smoking community, hooking young and old smokers alike.

Many believe vaping is a safer alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes, but nobody knows for sure. In fact, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is still unsure of the long-term effects vaping and e-cigarettes have on the body. Even amidst uncertainty, the vaporizer and e-cig retail space continues to pull in billions of dollars per year — at the expense of its users.

So what should you know about vaping? Here's some basic information, along with some potential risks. 

What is "vaping"?

Vaping is when you inhale vapors of a flavored (typically) liquid mixture through a personal vaporizer, vape pen or other device. The device has a heating element to boil a small amount of the liquid and create the vapor users inhale.

What's in vape liquid?

  • Varied levels of nicotine
  • Vegetable glycerin
  • Propylene glycol
  • Usually some sort of flavoring 

Where can people vape?

Pretty much anywhere. There are currently no Michigan laws against using vaporizers in public places such as restaurants or stores. The Michigan smoking ban put in place in 2010 only applies to cigarette smoke, not the vapor generated by personal vaporizers.

What makes vaping appealing to kids?

  • Most vape liquids contain some nicotine, so users still get the buzz like smoking a real cigarette. 
  • Vape liquids can be candy- or fruit-flavored to make them taste good. 
  • The vapor emitted from a vape device doesn't leave a tobacco smell, so it's harder for parents to know if their children are vaping.

It may not "feel" like smoking, but you still get some of the effects. That makes appealing to both smokers and non-smokers. 

But it's not really smoking — will it help me quit?

If you smoke and you’re trying to quit, you're better off with an FDA-approved method of quitting, like the nicotine patch or gum. We offer more information about tobacco cessation programs when you log in to MyHealth.

The bottom line is:  If you don't smoke, don't start vaping. And if you have kids, keep an eye on their habits. There are some risks and no known health benefits of vaping. It's best to avoid it altogether until more reliable information is available.