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

15 sneaky ways smoking ruins your life

  • Open gallery

    Lighting up is a guaranteed way to premature aging and accelerating your journey to the grave.

  • Open gallery

    The chemicals in tobacco smoke is said to trigger the destruction of collagen and elastin, which are fibers that give your skin its strength and elasticity.

  • Open gallery

    According to doctors, inhaling tobacco smoke weakens the building blocks of the skin, resulting in saggy skin and deeper wrinkles.

  • Open gallery

    On top of losing the elasticity of the skin that creates deep lines around the lips, smokers often get something called a "smoker's pucker".

  • Open gallery

    When smokers suck air through a cigarette, they repeatedly use a certain set of muscles around their lips. Combined with the loss of skin elasticity, this causes the smoker's pucker.

  • Open gallery

    Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss. But did you know that the link between smoking and ARMD is as strong as the link between smoking and lung cancer?

  • Open gallery

    Toxins associated with smoking can restrict blood flow to the tiny capillaries in the eyes, cutting off vital nutrients and oxygen. It can cause cataracts, glaucoma, Graves' ophthalmopathy and diabetic retinopathy, among many other serious eye conditions.

  • Open gallery

    Age spots are blotches of darker colour on your skin that betray your age.

  • Open gallery

    Research suggests that smokers may be more susceptible to developing these unsightly spots.

  • Open gallery

    Smoking can accelerate the process of thinning hair.

  • Open gallery

    Some studies have even suggested that people who smoke are more likely to go bald.

  • Open gallery

    Psoriasis is a chronic condition that causes thick, red skin with flaky, silver-white patches called scales. It usually occurs on the knees, elbows, scalp, hands, feet or back.

  • Open gallery

    Recent studies have shown that not only can cigarettes worsen psoriasis symptoms, but a number of researchers believe that they may actually cause psoriasis in some patients.

  • Open gallery

    Smoking can weaken your bones through osteoporosis - the thinning of bone tissue and loss of bone density over time.

  • Open gallery

    This increases the risk of bone fractures.

  • Open gallery

    More alarmingly, the bones in the spine can also be affected.

  • Open gallery

    Osteoporosis can cause the spine to curve and result in a hunched back.

  • Open gallery

    \Smoking causes the blood vessels that carry blood to the heart to become narrower over time, ups blood pressure and makes it easier for the blood to clot.

  • Open gallery

    All these increases your odds of getting a heart attack.

  • Open gallery

    The impact on the heart, lungs, blood circulation and bones all add up to a poorer performance on the track.

  • Open gallery

    Smokers tend to suffer from a more rapid heart rate and shortness of breath even after just a mild workout.

  • Open gallery

    In men who smoke, the reduced blood flow can also affect their manhood, leading to an increase in the likelihood of impotency.

  • Open gallery

    In women, it can lead to difficulty conceiving and giving birth to a healthy baby. Smoking during pregnancy increases the chances of miscarriage, premature birth or delivering a low-birth-weight baby.

  • Open gallery

    As mentioned, smoking causes the skin to lose its elasticity. This not only occurs on the face, but also on the body.

  • Open gallery

    Research has pointed out that smoking is one of the top causes of sagging breasts and flabby underarms.

  • Open gallery

    According to WebMD, compared to nonsmokers, smokers are more likely to develop oral cancer. Smokers who are also heavy drinkers are 15 times more likely to develop oral cancer.

  • Open gallery

    But all is not lost, doctors say quitting smoking lowers the risk of oral cancer substantially within a few years.

  • Open gallery

    While most women experience this in their twilight years, a study has found that on average, women who smoke reach menopause 1.5 years earlier than those who don't.

  • Open gallery

    The longer you have smoked and the more you smoke, the stronger this effect is likely to be, the study said.

  • Open gallery

    Smoking gives your fingernails and skin of your hands a yellowish tint. It doesn't stop there. Smokers are more likely to develop bad breath, gum disease and other oral hygiene issues.

  • Open gallery

    Still think smoking is sexy? Think how sexy you'll look with a gaping smile. Smokers are twice as likely to lose teeth than non-smokers.

Purchase this article for republication.
Your daily good stuff - AsiaOne stories delivered straight to your inbox
By signing up, you agree to our Privacy policy and Terms and Conditions.