Ask the health expert: Smoking versus vaping: which one is more harmful?

Ask the health expert: Smoking versus vaping: which one is more harmful?
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Ask the health expert is AsiaOne's new series. Have a burning health-related question for the doctor? Submit your query to a1admin@sph.com.sg and we'll get you the answers.

Q: My husband is a smoker for 20 years. He has been exploring ways to cut down on nicotine dependency. The recent move by the UK to prescribe vaping as a cessation technique has been rolled out nationwide, however, Singapore and some parts of the USA are still bedevilling vaping although comprehensive studies exist online that prove that vaping is less harmful than cigarette smoking. Kindly comment.

A: When it comes to the debate of smoking versus vaping, the one that wins is often just the lesser of two evils.

Vaping involves the inhalation of vapourized e-cigarette liquid which consists of water, nicotine, a base of propylene glycol or vegetable glycerin and sometimes, flavouring.

The absence of smoke inhalation is what leads many people to believe vaping is a safer alternative to smoking.

Although vaping does not involve toxic smoke, its vapourised e-cigarette liquid has raised doubt over claims that vaping is safer than smoking tobacco.

Another troubling chemical in e-cigarettes is diacetyl, a flavouring agent that has been linked to lung disease.
Photo: Berita Harian

The liquid from e-cigarettes often includes a chemical called propylene glycol, a chemical highly irritating to the eyes, respiratory tract, and skin.

Another troubling chemical in the product is diacetyl, a flavouring agent that has been linked to lung disease. This chemical was found in more than 75 per cent of flavoured e-cigarettes and refill liquids tested by researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Understandably, there will still be concerns about the long-term health impact of e-cigarettes.

Currently, there is no evidence that shows vaping to be as harmful as smoking, however, it is not known whether vaping increases or reduces nicotine dependence.

There is also concern that vaping is a gateway to cigarette smoking among adolescents.

Graphic: ST

E-cigarettes are still very much in their infancy, and much more research is needed to explore the true effect they have on a vaper's health.

We do advise that anyone using e-cigarettes to quit smoking with a goal to eventually quitting them too.

Adj Asst Prof Augustine Tee, Chief and Senior Consultant Respiratory Physician, Changi General Hospital

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