Smoking vs. vaping - Regulation, health and economical aspects

There are many aspects to consider when we discuss this subject because up until recently we did not have any official data about how healthy vaping kits really are. New research is available now and can shed a little light on those who are still biased on the matter.

What are e-cigarettes?

Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (the scientific name) are mostly known as e-cigarettes but others such as E-Cigs, vapes, vape pens, pod kits, mods and tanks are also common terms. They work by heating a coil element that is wrapped in organic cotton that vaporizes a Propylene Glycol and Vegetable Glycerin suspension that contains various dosages of nicotine and flavors. The aerosol generated by heating is then inhaled like the traditional cigarette smoking.

The flavors are food grade ingredients, meaning you have more than sure already consumed them in juices, cookies or other products.

There are a few types of e-cigarettes on the market:

  • Cig-a-likes – thin devices that resemble classic cigarettes
  • Vape Pens – slightly larger with automatic models of nicotine delivery 
  • Vape Kits – larger devices that allow users to customize most of their options (power, temperature and other settings)
  • Pod Kits – newer devices that were particularly designed to be used with Salt Nicotine with a high tech look and advanced features while being extremely easy to use. This is probably what made them very popular too.

Regulation and safety of vape devices and e-liquids

TPD landed in UK as well as in the other EU states in May 20, 2016 bringing a set of rules for manufacturers, resellers and importers that would safeguard this range of products that were pretty unregulated until then. The Tobacco Products Directive is a “directive of the European Union which places limits on the sale and merchandising of tobacco and tobacco related products in the EU.” The text is not new, since it was in discussion since 2001, yet it was revised in 2014 to apply to e-cigarettes as well.

E-liquids sold in the EU/UK market need to follow a set of rules in order for their products to be TPD compliant and, as consequence to be able to be sold:

  • Bottle capacity for nicotine containing e-liquids must not exceed 10mL
  • Nicotine strength must not exceed 20 mg/mL
  • Bottles must have childproof caps and nozzles that limit liquid flow
  • Bottles must have nicotine warning stickers
  • E-liquid boxes must include warning and informational leaflets

For hardware the regulation limits the tank capacity to maximum 2ml and addresses the packaging in the same way as with e-liquids. The regulation does not apply to batteries and mods sold separately.

For the consumer though, the TPD compliance means the product has been tested in a lab, its components are verified against known dangerous chemicals (like diacetyl, a chemical linked to lung affections) and the MHRA is aware of that reseller or producer as well as the type of product that is put on the market. Anyway no tank or e-liquid can be sold prior to being tested and listed on the MHRA website.

On top of this all chemicals that are sold for consumer use have to respect CLP regulations that deal with the hazard icons and cautions that are printed on the labels. These include the warning to keep it out of reach of children and pets. Nicotine is known as being extremely toxic for dogs for example.

Health considerations of vaping vs smoking

Tobacco smoke contains around 7,000 chemicals. Many of these are poisonous and over 70 are known to be cancer causing (carcinogenic). A combustible cigarette will release powerful chemicals like tar, carbon monoxide, arsenic, ammonia and other harmful substances. Vaping reduces exposure to chemicals with an equivalent of a 97% according to an NHA research study on 181 smokers and ex-smokers.

“E-cigarettes contain nicotine but not many of the harmful substances produced by smoking tobacco, such as tar or carbon monoxide. Significantly lower levels of cancer causing chemicals, TSNAs and VOCs were found in samples from former smokers using e-cigarettes only or NRT only, compared with current smokers. Former smokers using e-cigarettes only had significantly lower levels of the toxic chemical NNAL (a by-product of exposure to TSNAs) than all other groups. This was equivalent to a 97% reduction compared with the levels of cigarette-only users.”

NHA also issued a report in 2015 that states “E-cigarettes are 95% less harmful than smoking” with several benefits that include:

  • Less exposure to smoke and nicotine for bystanders (known as passive smokers)
  • It helps to quit smoking and they are at least 2 times more effective than other smoking cessation methods (nicotine gum, nicotine patches etc.)
  • On long term health conditions associated to smoking are avoided (an additional report claiming that 76.000 lives could be saved every year)

Smoking classic cigarettes is associated with a series of conditions that include heart disease and lung cancer. While continuing to smoke cigarettes on a regular basis will affect your body, is you stop smoking you will get a few benefits that can be grouped in 2 categories:

1. Short term benefits 

  • within 20 minutes - your heart rate will come back to normal 
  • 8 hours - carbon monoxide levels in blood are reduced by more than 50% and oxygen levels are close to normal
  • 48 hours - you will elliminate almost all carbon monoxide from your body and lungs will start to clear out the smoking chemicals. Also taste and smell will be better. 
  • 72 hours - breathing is a lot easier and you get an energy boost

2. Long term benefits

  • Over a period of 2-3 months your circulation will improve dramatically. 
  • Lung function will increase suring a period of 3-9 months by up to 10% while you will cough less and have less breathing issues. 
  • Within 1 year your heart disease risk is reduced by half, while within 15 years the risk of having a heart attack is the same as for a person who never smoked. 

Economical aspects

Vaping is a great solution to save money as well while preserving the same experience. Britons have been drawn to e-cigs for cost as well. Starter Kits with Salt Nic prices are very low starting for a good device at £29.95 and it already contains 4 pods. While a single pod is equivalent to a pack of cigarettes, just by buying the starter kit you would save on 4 packs of cigarettes that cost on average £8-£9 so you save directly from day 1.

If we are to discuss the nicotine delivery cost, a typical combustible cigarette would deliver 1.9 milligrams of nicotine. E-Liquids deliver around 1.8 milligrams of nicotine per 1 milliliter. That means the cost of milligram of nicotine would cost the average user 21p in the case of cigarettes and 27p in the case of e-liquids.

NHS has a simple calculator to help you identify how much you would spend on cigarettes per year. If you smoke a pack (20 cigarettes) a day at £9 / pack you would spend £3,285.00 per year. A pack of pods contains 4 pods that are equivalent to 4 packs of cigarettes and they cost £16.95. At the same consumption rate (1 pod / day) you would spend £1,546.7 per year, so the cost is less than half.

Vaping on a refillable kit would bring even more savings. At average users evaluate a pack of cigarettes as being equal to 2ml of e-liquid, so at £4.95 for 10ml e-liquid is almost 10 times cheaper than regular cigarettes as prices for a 20 cigarette pack is around £9 on average. If you buy short-fills or bulk packs discounts are applied automatically so the cost is even lower.