Whether it’s flavored like strawberries or not, the sensation of vaping fills your lungs so smoothly it feels there could be nothing wrong with it. Heck, the plumes almost feel therapeutic as you exhale them through your mouth. Like Vicks VapoRub in a pen.
But vaping is still going to take a lot of lives, according to researchers—not just because unregulated vape cartridges are sending people to the hospital for unknown reasons, but because researchers can project how many vapers will eventually become smokers (and the story of your health after you start smoking is very well documented).
It’s data illustrated poignantly in a new graphic from the Los Angeles Times, which charts out the fates of 494,667 people who are projected to start smoking because they vape—more specifically, it charts out the 168,537 who will die prematurely as a result.
The Times marks each lost human life with its own red dot. And those dots pile up quickly into an abstract tower of bodies that you cannot ignore. The 6,674 deaths due to stroke are like a low-rise building. But the stories grow into skyscrapers. By the time you reach the 35,000+ people who will die of heart disease or the 44,000+ people who will die from lung cancer, your fingers are scrolling past what feels like an endless obelisk of red.
It’s not the most complex of ideas, no. But it’s damn effective at making smoking look bad and vaping almost healthy by comparison . . . as long as you never make the jump to cigarettes.