Is vaping better than smoking?

Youth member Adwitaa

Smoking is still a burning issue

The World Health Organisation calls tobacco addiction an epidemic, as it is one of the largest public health threats to people. It is estimated that smoking will eventually kill 1 in 2 people who regularly practice smoking. There are many factors that make smoking addictive (apart from just nicotine). These include behavioural cues, such as the feeling of smoking, or even the seeing the smoke itself. 

 

Why do people vape?

Adults turn to vaping as a means to try to quit smoking, however an increasing number of teenagers who have never smoked before are turning to vaping; it has become a trend in recent years. This is due to many reasons, but especially because vapes come in fun flavours, have sleek and attractive packaging, and can even be charged with a USB port. In addition, vaping has behavioural cues which are similar to smoking; people find vaping helps them because the hand-to-mouth action is like smoking, and you get similar sensations, like “throat hit” (the feelings in the back of your throat when you inhale). In addition, those who are trying to quit their smoking addiction turn to vaping as vapes include nicotine like a cigarette, and no tobacco.

 

This is one reason why Public Health England insists vaping is 95% less harmful than cigarettes however there may be many unknown, long term side effects. E-cigarettes (vapes) work by using a battery to heat up a liquid including flavourings and nicotine which becomes a vapour with a perfume-like smell. When a cigarette is burned many chemical reactions take place, which release harmful gases, such as arsenic, cyanide and carcinogens. It is important to bear in mind that E-cigarettes release vapour, and cigarettes release smoke, which are not the same thing.

The downside to vaping

Evidence from clinical trials shows that you’re roughly twice as likely to quit smoking if you use a vape compared with other nicotine replacement products, like patches and gum. It is in fact illegal to sell nicotine vaping products to anyone under 18 or for adults to buy them on behalf of under-18s. However, some companies are giving away free samples as a loophole to market their vapes, which has led to 34% of 16-17 year olds who have already tried vaping. Moreover, recent studies have uncovered that illegal vapes confiscated from school pupils contained far higher levels of lead, nickel and chromium than the acceptable limit. Though the prospect of being affected by long term side effects seem negligible at first, many people notice that when vaping is tried, immediate side effects will be noticed, such as mouth and throat irritation, headache, cough, sickness. 

 

Vaping could potentially have many serious long term side effects when used for prolonged periods of time. Dr Nick Hopkinson, Respiratory specialist from Imperial College London explains there is evidence that vaping can cause inflammation in the lungs, which reduces lung growth, therefore the user is more susceptible to lung disease in later life due to a cumulative effect.  Some vapes contain nicotine, which is an addictive substance and there is evidence to prove that nicotine may be more risky for young people than for adults, as the brain in adolescence is more sensitive to its effects. 

 

You know that smoke cloud that fills the stage during a performance? Some ingredients in it include propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin,  which are also in e-cigarettes in much higher strengths and have been found to increase lung and airway irritation after concentrated exposure.

Taking action to quit smoking (and eventually vaping)

There are many ways to reduce and stop smoking, vaping is just one way. Nicotine replacement therapy (using patches or gum), medication to stop smoking (such as varenicline), non-nicotine e-cigarettes and behavioural support are just a few ways to eventually end smoking addiction. In order to quit vaping too, the best steps to follow is to reduce your frequency of vaping over time and gradually reduce the strength of nicotine in your e-liquid. Can the government help teens to quit vaping?  Perhaps disposable e-cigarettes (which are very inexpensive) could have an increased VAT to reduce teens from being able to buy them.