Smoking cigarettes vs. vaping: UK health campaign shows how much worse cigarettes are

A U.K. health campaign shows the effects of both after a month of exposure.

LONDON -- An agency from the Department of Health and Social Care in the United Kingdom released a video comparing the effects of smoking and vaping, and claiming that the latter is 95 percent less harmful.

As part of a new campaign to encourage smokers to quit, Public Health England (PHE) released a video showing the effects of one month of smoking and vaping on two separate groups of cotton balls. The group exposed to traditional cigarette smoke for a month showed considerably more damage and tar buildup when compared to the vaping group.

“It would be tragic if thousands of smokers who could quit with the help of an e-cigarette are being put off due to false fears about safety,” Professor John Newton, director of health improvement at PHE, said in a statement.

“This demonstration highlights the devastating harms caused by every cigarette, and helps people see that vaping is likely to pose only a fraction of the risk,” Newton said.

The rising popularity of vaping among teens has sparked a debate about whether they are as damaging to health as smoking cigarettes. In 2018, more than 3.6 million U.S. middle and high schools students used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days prior to being surveyed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

When asked about what's in their e-cigarettes, however, only 13 percent of teens were aware that the liquid contained nicotine, according to a survey from the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Sixty-six percent believed their e-cigarettes only contained flavoring. The survey also found that 30.7 percent of teenagers who used e-cigarettes started smoking within six months.

PHE's experiment acknowledged that e-cigarettes are not harmless to people’s health, but the agency said that smokers who quit with the help of an e-cigarette are less likely to start smoking again.

A study by the CDC found that many adults are using e-cigarettes in an attempt to quit smoking, but that they do not stop smoking cigarettes and instead continue to use both. Due to the relatively new technology of e-cigarettes, scientists are still learning about the long-term health effects of e-cigarettes.