What Happens When You Quit Smoking and Start Vaping?

Published September 26th 2023
12 Benefits of Switching to Vaping

What Happens When You Quit Smoking and Start Vaping?

When you quit smoking and start vaping, your body benefits from detoxification of harmful chemicals associated with smoking, such as tar and carbon monoxide. By switching to vaping, you reduce the risk of cancer, heart attack and stroke from smoking, and you are likely to experience a better sense of taste and smell.

When you start vaping to quit smoking, vaping results in the following 12 benefits.

  1. Reduces Inhalation of Harmful Chemicals and Toxins
  2. Reduces Risk of Cancer
  3. Reduces Risk of Heart Attack
  4. Reduces Risk of Stroke
  5. Eradicates Exposure to Carbon Monoxide
  6. Improves Lung Function
  7. Reduces Coughing
  8. Lowers Your Heart Rate
  9. Improves Blood Pressure
  10. Improves Circulation
  11. Improves Sense of Taste and Smell
  12. Reduces Exposure to Secondhand Smoke for Others

According to the National Health Service (NHS), vaping to quit smoking is one of the most effective smoking cessation methods. The NHS estimates that you are twice as likely to quit smoking using a nicotine vape compared to other nicotine replacement therapies or products like nicotine patches and gum.

1. Reduces Inhalation of Harmful Chemicals and Toxins

When you quit smoking and start vaping, the number of harmful chemicals and toxins you inhale reduces by approximately 95%. You inhale more than 7,000 chemicals from smoking cigarettes, of which at least 70 are known to cause cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Vapour inhaled from e-cigarettes does not contain the dangerous toxins and chemicals associated with cigarette smoke inhalation, according to Professor John Newton, Director of Health Improvement at Public Health England. Professor Newton says that vaping is approximately 95% less harmful than smoking partly because e-cigarettes do not produce tar and carbon monoxide, two of the most harmful toxins in cigarette smoke.

Here is a list of harmful chemicals and toxins that you detoxify from your body when you quit smoking and avoid entirely when you start vaping instead.

  • Acetone
  • Acetic acid
  • Ammonia
  • Arsenic
  • Benzene
  • Butane
  • Cadmium
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Formaldehyde
  • Hexamine
  • Lead
  • Naphthalene
  • Methanol
  • Tar
  • Toluene

The list above includes a range of harmful substances found in tobacco smoke. Two of the most damaging toxins in tobacco smoke are tar and carbon monoxide, which you do not inhale from vaping.

Tar is a thick, sticky substance commonly used in road construction and roofing, and carbon monoxide is a dangerous gas released in car exhaust fumes. Tar and carbon monoxide are eliminated when you quit smoking and start vaping, according to the National Health Service (NHS).

Here is a short video released by Public Health England in which Dr Lion Shahab, a leading smoking cessation academic from University College London and Dr Rosemary Leonard MBE, an NHS GP and medical journalist, explain the harms that come from inhaling the toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke and how they can be avoided by switching to an e-cigarette.

2. Reduces Risk of Cancer

Quitting smoking and starting vaping reduces the risk of getting lung, mouth, throat, and pancreatic cancer. Cancer Research UK states that as of 27 March 2023, “There is no good evidence that vaping causes cancer”. According to the CDC, smoking makes you 15 to 30 times more likely to get lung cancer than those who do not smoke. According to the CDC, 9 out of 10 lung cancer deaths are caused by smoking cigarettes or secondhand smoke exposure.

Dr. Moon-Shong Tang, Professor of Pathology and Medicine at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, published a 2021 study in the Journal of Cancer Biology in which he said, “no human cancer associated with e-cig vaping has been reported so far”.

According to the British Heart Foundation, second-hand smoke increases the risk of lung cancer by up to 30%. By quitting smoking in favour of vaping, you not only reduce the likelihood of getting cancer yourself, but you also significantly reduce the risk of exposing others around you to harmful second-hand smoke.

3. Reduces Risk of Heart Attack

When you quit smoking and start vaping, you reduce the risk of having a heart attack by approximately 19%, according to a landmark study titled “VESUVIUS” published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

The study, conducted by Professor Jacob George, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine & Therapeutics at the University of Dundee Medical School, involved smokers aged 18 years and above who had smoked at least 15 cigarettes per day for a minimum of 2 years and were free from established cardiovascular disease. The participants were randomised to use e-cigarettes with or without nicotine for one month.

The study found that within one month of switching from tobacco cigarettes to e-cigarettes, there was a significant improvement in endothelial function and vascular stiffness, both of which are indicators of cardiovascular health. Specifically, there was a 1.49% improvement in flow-mediated dilation (FMD), a measure of endothelial function. According to the study's meta-analysis, every 1% improvement in FMD is associated with a 13% lower relative risk of cardiovascular events. This 1.49% improvement in FMD observed in the study corresponds to 19.37% lower risk of cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks.

The study concluded that smokers, particularly females, demonstrate significant improvement in vascular health within one month of switching from tobacco cigarettes to e-cigarettes.

4. Reduces Risk of Stroke

When you quit smoking and start vaping, you reduce the risk of stroke by approximately 84%, according to a study published by the Department of Public Health, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York.

The 2022 study, published in the Neurology International journal, analysed data from 266,058 respondents from the years 2015 to 2018. Among these respondents, 79,825 were identified as smokers of e-cigarettes (9.72%), traditional cigarettes (29.37%), or both (60.91%).

The study found that traditional cigarette smokers have a higher risk of stroke compared to e-cigarette smokers, as the prevalence of stroke among e-cigarette smokers is 1.57%, while the prevalence among traditional cigarette smokers is significantly higher at 6.75%, equating to an 83.85% reduction in the risk of stroke when you choose vaping instead of smoking.

5. Eradicates Exposure to Carbon Monoxide

Quitting smoking in favour of vaping eradicates exposure to carbon monoxide as e-cigarettes do not produce carbon monoxide, according to the UK Health Security Agency and National Health Service (NHS). Carbon monoxide is a harmful substance found in traditional cigarette smoke that binds to hemoglobin, the molecule in red blood cells that carries oxygen, forming carboxyhemoglobin.

High levels of carboxyhemoglobin can interfere with the body's ability to transport and utilise oxygen, leading to various health problems, according to Dr. Kent Olson, Medical Director of the University of California’s Poison Control System.

Dr. Olson says smokers are at risk of the following 12 symptoms after exposure to carbon monoxide from cigarette smoking.

  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Malaise
  • Trouble thinking
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Visual disturbances
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizures

Rapid health benefits are observed when switching from smoking to vaping, particularly in relation to the 12 symptoms listed above associated with carbon monoxide exposure from cigarette smoking. According to Dr. Yves Lacasse in a 2015 study published in the Canadian Respiratory Journal, carboxyhemoglobin levels rapidly decrease in individuals who exchange cigarettes for e-cigarettes, facilitating improved oxygen transportation.

According to a study published in the South African Medical Journal, after two weeks, participants who quit smoking and started vaping experienced a reduction of approximately 47.2% in arterial carboxyhemoglobin levels, greatly reducing the risk of carbon monoxide-related health issues from smoking cigarettes.

6. Improves Lung Function

Transitioning from traditional cigarette smoking to vaping significantly improves lung function. Traditional cigarette smoking has been shown to decrease key measures of lung function, including the Forced Expiratory Flow by 25-75%, according to a study by Dr. Albert Kuperman, Associate Dean and Professor Emeritus of Molecular Pharmacology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

While vaping has been found to increase airway resistance, a systematic review of the effects of e-cigarette use on lung function published by the Lady Davis Institute at the Jewish General Hospital in Canada found that unlike smoking, vaping does not impact other critical measures of lung function such as forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1), forced vital capacity (FVC), or the FEV1/FVC ratio.

When you quit smoking by switching to vaping, you increase the likelihood that your lung function will improve and experience less damage, given that vaping doesn't impact critical lung function measures as severely as traditional cigarette smoking does.

7. Reduces Coughing

When you quit smoking and start vaping, studies show that you are likely to experience a decrease in the incidence of persistent coughing over a 1-year period compared to the persistent cough (smokers cough) resulting from traditional cigarette smoking.

A 2019 study published in the Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases journal found that smokers who quit smoking using e-cigarettes report a 20% decrease in the incidence of coughing from baseline to 52 weeks, compared to smokers who quit smoking using traditional nicotine-replacement therapies such as a nicotine patch, gum, lozenge, nasal spray, inhalator, mouth spray, mouth strip, and microtabs.

Conversely, approximately 11% of adult smokers experience chronic cough, defined as daily coughing for at least 3 months during the preceding 2 years, according to Dr. Johnmary T Arinze, an expert in the epidemiology of refractory chronic cough at Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam.

According to the CDC, smokers develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), including chronic bronchitis and emphysema, when smoking damages the tiny, brush-like cilia that line the airways in the lungs, making it difficult for the lungs to clear out mucus, leading to the persistent 'smokers’ cough'.

8. Lowers Your Heart Rate

Switching from cigarette smoking to e-cigarette use has been shown to decrease heart rate by approximately 5.24% over 24 hours, according to a 2020 study published by Dr. Neal Benowitz, Professor of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), who is an expert in the pharmacology of nicotine and tobacco addiction.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, explored the effects of traditional cigarette smoking and e-cigarette use on heart rate and blood pressure. The study found that over a 24-hour period, the average heart rate of individuals who use e-cigarettes is approximately 5.24% lower than those who smoke traditional cigarettes. During daytime hours, the heart rate of e-cigarette users is approximately 5.37% lower than that of traditional cigarette smokers.

The study shows that both traditional cigarette smoking and e-cigarette use cause changes in heart rate throughout the day, reflecting ongoing activation of the sympathetic nervous system - the part of the nervous system that prepares the body for 'fight or flight' responses. However, this activation level is lower with e-cigarette use than with traditional cigarette smoking.

Dr. Benowitz concludes that smokers who quit smoking and start vaping are more likely to benefit from a lower average heart rate, reducing the risk of future cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks.

9. Improves Blood Pressure

Smoking two cigarettes per hour increases blood pressure by 5–6 mm Hg during the day, according to a 2020 study published in the Journal of Hypertension. Conversely, nicotine-free vaping does not result in an increase in blood pressure, as shown in a 2018 study published by the Department of Cardiology at Erasme University Hospital, Université Libre de Bruxelles.

According to Blood Pressure UK, smoking significantly impacts blood pressure and overall health. Each cigarette smoked causes a temporary rise in blood pressure and damages the walls of blood vessels, leading to atherosclerosis, a condition characterised by the narrowing of arteries. This forces the heart to work harder, increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Smoking accelerates adverse effects for individuals with high blood pressure, raising the risk of heart attack or stroke. Stopping smoking in favour of nicotine-free vaping brings immediate health benefits as nicotine-free vaping does not cause the temporary rise in blood pressure associated with smoking cigarettes, reducing the strain on the heart and the associated risks.

10. Improves Circulation

According to the "Vascular Effects of Regular Cigarettes Versus Electronic Cigarette Use" (VESUVIUS) study, led by Professor Jacob George and his colleagues at the University of Dundee, switching from smoking to vaping improves circulation by approximately 1.5% within just a month of making the switch.

The VESUVIUS study measured the improvement using flow-mediated dilation (FMD), a key indicator of vascular health. FMD is a range that measures how well your blood vessels dilate (open up), which is an indicator of blood flow and circulation. The researchers found that for every 1% improvement in FMD that is gained by quitting smoking via vaping, there is a 13% lower risk of cardiovascular events.

When you make the switch from traditional tobacco cigarettes to electronic cigarettes, the VESUVIUS study suggests that the endothelium, the inner lining of your blood vessels, experiences significant health improvements due to the reduction in exposure to harmful combustion chemicals. This leads to better dilation of your blood vessels, enhancing blood flow and circulation. In essence, by switching to vaping, you're giving your circulatory system a chance to recover and function more efficiently, thereby improving your overall vascular health.

11. Improves Sense of Taste and Smell

When you quit smoking and start vaping, your sense of taste and smell improve significantly. According to a 2019 research article published in the BMC Public Health journal, 86.1% of participants reported an improvement in their sense of smell and 83.6% reported an enhancement in their sense of taste after making the switch to e-cigarettes.

Sense of taste, also known as gustation, is one of the five traditional senses. It refers to the ability to detect and recognize different flavours in substances, such as sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami. This is achieved through taste receptors in the taste buds on the tongue.

Sense of smell, also known as olfaction, is another one of the five traditional senses. It refers to the ability to detect and identify different odours. This is achieved through olfactory receptors in the olfactory epithelium in the upper part of the nasal cavity.

Olfactory impairment in smokers is a well-documented adverse health effect of smoking. A 2019 study published by Dr Jesse Siegel, ENT-otolaryngologist in Maywood, Illinois, suggests that olfactory impairment persists 15 years after quitting smoking.

The earlier you quit smoking and start vaping, the better your chances of preserving or improving your olfactory function.

12. Reduces Exposure to Secondhand Smoke for Others

By quitting smoking and switching to vaping, you significantly reduce the exposure of others to secondhand smoke, according to Cancer Research UK and the National Health Service (NHS).

Traditional cigarettes release a large amount of harmful smoke into the environment, which can be inhaled by those around you as secondhand smoke via passive smoking, potentially leading to health issues such as heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer.

Vaping, on the other hand, does not produce the same harmful smoke. While there is still a risk of exposing others to nicotine through Passive Vaping (second-hand vaping), studies have shown that this risk is significantly smaller compared to traditional cigarettes. By making the switch to vaping, you are taking a step towards protecting the health of those around you.

What are the Side Effects of Vaping vs Smoking?

When considering vaping as a smoking cessation tool, smokers often weigh the side effects of vaping against the side effects of smoking.

The 5 main Vaping Side Effects are dry mouth, mouth and throat irritation, cough, sore throat and headaches. The side effects of vaping are usually temporary and non-fatal and tend to reduce over time with continued use, according to Cancer Research UK.

The 5 main smoking side effects are cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). According to the CDC, these side effects are life-threatening and contribute to smoking as one of the largest causes of preventable deaths.

How Much Nicotine in a Cigarette vs Vape?

To quit smoking and start vaping, start by understanding the difference in the absorption rate and the amount of Nicotine in a Cigarette vs Vape to ensure an effective smoking cessation journey.

The nicotine in cigarettes and vapes is the same, but the absorption rate and health implications differ. Studies show that after 5 minutes of vaping, you absorb one-third to one-fourth the amount of nicotine compared to smoking a cigarette for the same duration.

Written by IndeJuice Vape Specialist Department
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