More and more people my age seem to be “vaping.” Vaping doesn’t appeal to me personally, but I am a little curious about what exactly the big deal is. I understand that it’s not like smoking cigarettes, because it’s not really “smoking” at all. But I’m not sure I really understand what’s going on here. How does vaping work? What does a vape pen or e-cigarette actually do, and what’s with the liquid stuff you put in them? And what’s the appeal of vaping – is it just, like, a smoke-free version of smoking, or is there something more to it?
You’re not wrong: people your age are vaping more and more. Vaping has surpassed cigarette smoking in popularity among teens, and it’s popular with people in their 20s as well. Vaping is a familiar sight to college-aged kids and those around them.
But what is vaping? You’re absolutely right to note that it’s different from smoking cigarettes, but how is it different?
The essential difference between vaping and smoking is that vaping involves breathing in a “vapor.” The term “vapor” is used pretty generally to refer to everything from gases to mixtures of gases and particles, but it’s the latter – technically called an “aerosol” – that we’re talking about here.
E-cigarettes create their aerosols from e-liquids. Here’s what’s happening inside of an e-cigarette or vape pen: the e-liquid is in a chamber that is heated by an electronic heating coil. Heating the e-liquid creates the aerosol “vapor,” which the user can then breath in through the mouthpiece. A lithium battery powers the whole operation.
The wide range of E liquids helps to explain the appeal of vaping. E-liquids can come in all sorts of flavors and types, giving vaping a flexibility that cigarette smoking just doesn’t have. With that said, many e-liquids contain nicotine, the same addictive substance found in cigarettes.
That raises an obvious question: is vaping safe? The jury is out on that, though it’s worth noting that most researchers agree that vaping is safer than smoking – a view that has led many vaping companies to advertise their product as a safer alternative for those who have trouble quitting cigarettes outright.
Vaping is popular and growing more so. You can expect to see more research on it in the future. For now, we know that vaping is safer than cigarette smoking, but it may still have consequences, and we know that it is quickly becoming a popular hobby among young people all over the country and the world.
“We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future.” – George Bernard Shaw