If you’ve been thinking of trying to kick the habit of smoking, you’re not alone. One of the best things you can do for your wellbeing is to stop smoking. Smoking harms almost every organ, including your heart, in your body.
As a way to ease the transition from regular cigarettes to not smoking at all, you may be tempted to turn to electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes, vape pens, and other vaping devices). But is e-cigarette smoking (also referred to as vaping) safer for you than using tobacco products?
Let’s go back a step and clarify more. E-cigarettes, also known as vaporisers, pods and sticks, convert inhalable vapor into nicotine- and other chemical-filled liquids. Some tobacco firms market them as an alternative to tobacco cigarettes.
E-cigarettes contain a combination of water, food grade flavoring, a choice of nicotine levels, including zero nicotine, and propylene glycol or vegetable glycerine, e-liquid (aka ‘e-juice’ or ‘vape juice’). Within, a small battery drives a heating device that converts the e-liquid into fine particles in order to inhale aerosol vapor instead of smoke when puffed. The ‘smoking-like’ feeling offers the same routines of smoking as tobacco cigarettes, such as the movement of handto-mouth, throat hit, inhalation and exhalation.
It is recommended that smokers who turn to vaping to try and kick the habit begin with the same amount of nicotine and slowly reduce it until they finally quit vaping. The first thing is to figure out and match the quantity you smoke. General advice is to start with 1.8 percent or 18 mg/ml (18 mg of nicotine per millilitre of fluid) e-liquid if you’re a pack-a-day smoker. At 2.4 per cent, heavier smokers could start.
Nearly 200 e-cigarette users have developed serious lung disease in 22 states, according to the CDC (and the numbers continue to rise-a Washington Post report placed the figure at 354). The majority of cases have been among teenagers and young adults. Experts aren’t sure whether these lung disorders were directly caused by vaping, but agree that the most probable culprit is a contaminant, not an infectious agent.
Possibilities involve chemical irritation, or allergic or immune responses in the inhaled vapors to different chemicals or other substances. Symptoms usually began progressively, with shortness of breath and/or chest pain until more serious difficulties in breathing led to hospital admission. These cases are being investigated by the FDA, CDC, and state health officials to determine the precise cause(s) and how to prevent and handle them. In addition, consistency, protection and effectiveness remain uncertain, and e-cigarettes loaded with nicotine are still illegal.
The taxes on tobacco are one thing that fuels the presumption of vaping. The disparity in the cost of a pack of cigarettes vs. e-liquid is attributed to the heavy cigarette taxes, which are among the world’s highest. But here’s the thing, young people don’t buy e-cigarettes to wean off smoking tobacco themselves. Instead, they buy bright, pre-loaded disposable vapes that look like USB sticks, come in a variety of fruity flavors and contain up to five percent (50 mg/ml) of nicotine power, twice the level recommended for a heavy smoker.
According to the McKell Institute, the Australian public policy think-tank, the vaping industry is expected to have an annual turnover of $US18 billion by 2021, with an estimated 40 million vapers worldwide.
Although older vapers are usually attracted to e-cigarettes as a way to help them quit tobacco, because of their comfort, fruity flavors, and claims that vaping is safer than cigarettes, millions of young people around the world are drawn to the disposable sticks or pods. What is not clear is whether this age group is conscious that the nicotine equivalent to a cigarette can be found in a ‘stick.’
It’s illegal for individuals under 18 to purchase e-cigarettes in most countries, but they’re notoriously easy to buy online. In the UK, between 2014 and 2018, the proportion of under 18s who had experimented with e-cigarettes nearly doubled to 15.9 per cent. Five million young Americans, or one in four high school students, are now predicted to vaporize in the United States. One study showed that children with a flavored e-first cigarette’s exposure to nicotine were more likely to get hooked than those with a cigarette’s first exposure.
Although the jury is still out on the health effect, some say that helping people quit tobacco is the use of e-cigarettes. They might not, however be particularly effective in helping people quit cigarettes, either. A 2017 EU Commission Study found that only 14 percent of smokers or former smokers effectively quit after using e-cigarettes out of the nearly 28,000 people surveyed. And there is a belief that vaping may deter individuals from finding ways to quit cigarettes that are more successful and safer.
There is growing evidence that young people who vape because it is ‘harmless’ start to crave nicotine and move on to cigarettes which may contain more. The use of flavours in e-cigarettes appears to be designed to appeal to young palates, too. A trawl of online retailers and vape shops reveals e-cigarettes and vapes with names such as ‘Watermelon’, ‘Cheese Cake’ and ‘Lychee’. Some of these flavours contain nicotine.
And notwithstanding all the warning signs, governments are playing catch up. Certain nations and businesses have already acted. Both commercials for e-cigarettes have been outlawed by Greece and Norway. The WHO Tobacco Control Framework Convention recommends charging e-cigarettes to make it harder for minors to buy them. At the same amount as cigarettes, South Korea and Belgium already tax them. The Apple Company revealed late last year that it was banning from its app store all applications related to e-cigarettes and vaping.
The most powerful thing governments can do, perhaps is to significantly limit their accessibility. Globally, in many nations, outright bans on e-cigarettes have been imposed. They have all been barred by Singapore, Argentina, India, Brazil, Thailand, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Cambodia. Belgium has recently banned online purchases and cross-border sales in Europe, but such prohibitions are notoriously difficult to enforce. Australia is likely to close the remaining loophole early next year, banning private imports by online transactions or bringing them in luggage into the country.
E-cigarettes’ long-term health consequences are not yet well understood. Yet evidence clearly shows that vaping is not an alternative to smoking that is safe or healthy. The best way to ensure that you are not at risk is to consider refraining from using all e-cigarette or vaping products while the investigation continues.
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