Nicotine Absorption: Comparison between Vaping and Smoking


Is this you? You’ve been thinking about switching from traditional cigarettes to electronic cigarettes but you’re not really sure if e-cigs are any safer than tobacco cigs. Is there really any difference between the two? Well, there are differences between cigarette smoking and vaping, but your decision to switch may rest on the method which does you the least harm.

What is the Difference between Vaping and Smoking?

Vaping mimics the experience of smoking without exposing you to the same risks. Since the “smoke” produced by vaping is essentially water vapor, vaping does not present a threat your lungs like tobacco smoke. In contrast to smoking, vaping does utilize inhalation of vaporized e-cigarette liquid comprising nicotine, water, a base of vegetable glycerin or propylene glycol, and sometimes, flavor. It is the absence of smoke inhalation that leads many e-cig users to believe vaping is a less hazardous option than smoking tobacco cigarettes.

Smoking, on the other hand, is the act of actually lighting up a tobacco cigarette, letting it burn and then inhaling or tasting the smoke. In fact, smoking uses combustion as the vehicle for introducing nicotine into your system. Even though there are contradictory opinions on this subject, it is the general consensus that vaping is a much less harmful for most people than cigarette smoking.  Now, the capability of e-cigs to convey nicotine to the user has not been satisfactorily evaluated, but early studies do show nicotine absorption in negligible amounts.

Nicotine Absorption Rates Differ between Smokers and Vapers

According to a recent study by Konstantinos E. Farsalinos et al., (Scientific Reports 5, Article number: 11269 (2015)) enlisting experienced vapers, it was revealed that considerable amounts of nicotine can be absorbed. The study also showed that there is a considerable difference in the puffing patterns between cigarette smokers and vapers.

Smokers are used to inhaling from a cigarette that is already burning, while vapers only begin inhaling at the time of device activation. This can create a considerable lag between the time of the e-cig is activated and generating a significant amount of vapor. E-cig users compensate for this by activating e-cigs for a longer time, taking longer puffs. Furthermore, smokers can draw “harder puffs” which can increase puff volume thereby making the cigarette burn more intensely to produce more smoke. Puffing an e-cig in the same way, however, does not produce more vapor so there is no effect on aerosol production from e-cigs.

It was also noted that nicotine consumption also may be influenced by the type of electronic cigarette used. In fact, new-generation e-cigs can deliver nicotine more quickly and effectively than the first-generation (cigarette-like) devices.

So, if you are thinking about making the switch to e-cigs, faster nicotine delivery may make the idea more appealing to you. It might also increase your chances of success in your effort to quit smoking, but possibly at the cost of increasing your dependence on nicotine.

In the end, the new-generation e-cigs on the market today are very effective at delivering nicotine. However, you should be aware that as you transition from cigarette smoking to e-cig use your nicotine intake may increase as your body begins adjusting to the change.

Nicotine Absorption: Comparison between Vaping and Smoking

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