While the vapor produced by e-cigarettes tends to have much fewer toxins and harmful substances than cigars or cigarettes, it does still contain nicotine. This chemical has gotten an enormous amount of negative press ever since the discovery that cigarettes and cigars can cause cancer. While nicotine is addictive, it does not cause cancer on its own. This statement may be an obvious fact to some, but to many others, this is not the case. A survey taken by the Royal Society for Public Health discovered that 90% of people in the UK believe that nicotine causes cancer, and is the primary cancer-causing substance in cigarettes.

Even though tobacco is one of the most addictive substances on Earth, falling short only to heroin and cocaine, nicotine on its own may not be as addictive as once thought. Nicotine is the primary addictive substance in tobacco, but recent research indicates that on its own it may not be nearly as addictive when consumed in tobacco. A study published in Neuropharmacology stated, “Tobacco use has one of the highest rates of addiction of any abused drug. Paradoxically, in animal models, nicotine appears to be a weak reinforcer.” Could it be that nicotine, along with a combination of other substances, may be what cause tobacco to be so addictive rather than just nicotine alone?

A 2015 study by Harvard University analyzed some of the additives typical in “light” cigarettes that are known as pyrazines. These chemicals were first added to cigarettes after major tobacco companies noticed that their sales started to decline following the discovery that cigarettes could cause cancer. The companies then began searching for ways to create a lighter cigarette that produced less tar. Their initial attempts failed, and “light” cigarettes failed to sell.

Enter pyrazines. These chemicals produced a unique blend of enticing aroma reminiscent of full flavor cigarettes and also contributed to the overall dependence that cigarette smokers developed when using the product. The Harvard study discovered that these pyrazines optimize nicotine delivery to the brain and aid in developing cued and learned behavior. The study concluded that these additives promote addiction by assisting in nicotine delivery. Nicotine may not be the only thing about cigarettes that is addictive.

While studies such as these are promising and indicate that nicotine alone may not be the primary culprit in tobacco’s incredibly addictive properties, there is still some speculation about how addictive nicotine is on its own. Whenever using nicotine, be cautious and understand that it is addicting on some level, although that level may be much lower than previously believed.

So, is vaping harmful? Is vaping bad?

At the end of the day, you have to decide for yourself.