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Simple Lab Experiment Shows Shocking Effects of Smoking Compared to Vaping

Public Health England (PHE) recently released footage from a simple lab experiment that shows the devastating effects smoking can have on our lungs and how they can be avoided by switching to vaping or quitting completely.

As part of PHE’s Health Harms campaign, which encourages smokers to quit this January, health experts Dr Lion Shahab and Dr Rosemary Leonard carried out a very basic but revealing lab experiment that shows just how much tar and other dangerous chemicals the average smoker inhales in a month, compared to an e-cigarette user and a non-smoker. They used three large bell jars filled with cotton wool to replicate human lungs and attached each one to a diaphragm pump providing a continual and equal draw of cigarette smoke, e-cigarette vapor and plain air through each bell jar. By the end of the experiment, the visual impact of each type of air on the “lungs” was shocking.

As you can see in the video, the inside of the bell jar pumped full of cigarette smoke is brown, the cotton wool has darkened, and there’s tar on the tube leading to the air pump. On the other hand, the e-cigarette vapor bell jar is as clear as it was at the start of the experiment, and the wool appears almost unchanged, with the only differences being the moisture from the condensation and a slight discoloration of the cotton wool due to the food coloring in the e-liquid. The control jar filled with simple air remains completely unchanged.

The experiment could rightly be described as basic, but it does a good job of illustrating the stark contrast between the impact of smoking vs. vaping.

“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,” Professor John Newton, director of health improvement at Public Health England, told The Mirror. “We need to reassure smokers that switching to an e-cigarette would be much less harmful than smoking.”

Research shows that almost half of adult smokers (44%) in the UK wrongly believe that vaping is as bad as smoking, if not worse, or simply have no idea that it poses a much lower health risk, and Public Health England hopes that this kind of visual experiment can clear all the misconceptions.


“The results of this experiment clearly show that every cigarette you smoke causes tar to enter your body and spreads poison throughout your bloodstream,” Dr Rosemary Leonard said. “Vaping is much less harmful than smoking and I really hope this experiment will encourage smokers to make a quit attempt. No matter how old you are, it’s never too late to stop.”

“Research we and others have conducted shows that vaping is much less harmful than smoking and that using e-cigarettes on a long-term basis is relatively safe, similar to using licensed nicotine products, like nicotine patches or gum,” Dr. Shabab added. “I hope this illustrative experiment helps people see the huge damage caused by smoking that could be avoided by switching to an e-cigarette.”

We’ve this kind of experiments before, but they did little to stop e-cigarette opponents from spreading misinformation, and sadly I don’t think this latest one will be any different. Still, it’s important to remember that while not completely risk-free, current scientific research shows that vaping is up to 95% safer than smoking tobacco.

Photo: YouTube/Public Health England

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