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Ask A Geek: What’s up with vaping?

Prior to 2020, the Lung Health Foundation operated as the Ontario Lung Association. Enjoy this content from our archives.

Dear BreathingGeek,
It seems like suddenly everyone has made the switch to vaping and now there are more vape shops than Starbucks. Vapor SOUNDS healthier to me, but are e-cigarettes actually better than “normal” smoking?
– Behind the Times

Dear BtT,

We’ve digitized everything else, is it any wonder we’ve finally turned something as old school as cigarettes into robots? And if we’ve come this far, WHERE is my flying car?

A gif from Back to the Future - Doc Brown in the DeLorean time machine 

“Your future hasn’t been written yet! No one’s has!”

In seriousness, getting fewer people to light up has been a big focus for health groups for 40+ years. And boy did we deliver! Smoking rates have plummeted and we’re breathing better than ever. So is vaping friend or foe in our quest to protect lungs?

It’s… complicated. The concern we BreathingGeeks have is that the public perception of e-cigarettes as tooootally harmless COULD lead to “re-normalizing” the smoking behavior we’ve worked hard to disrupt, especially among youth who are already more likely to pick up smoking of any kind (almost 1 in 4 young people aged 15-19 have tried e-cigarettes!) Some studies even show that the number of young people smoking is no longer declining thanks to the vaping craze.

On the other hand, if you already smoke, switching completely from the smoke from cigarettes to the vapor produced by electronic cigarettes may significantly reduce your exposure to toxic chemicals and carcinogens.

But “may” isn’t good enough for us to recommend vaping without way more research into its long term effects. We’re all about the evidence-based medicine, baby – and anything you’re inhaling that isn’t fresh air can be harmful to your lungs. Until research from the scientific community gives these so-not-harmless little devices the green light, we’re gonna promote other ways to quit smoking first. But as always, talk to your health care provider and see what they recommend!

Live long and prosper,


Have a question for our resident BreathingGeek? Email, or click here to access our Lung Health Info Line (phone or live chat), where you can speak directly to a Certified Respiratory Educator. It’s free and confidential.

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