Smoking has long been a habit that we’re all aware can cause many diseases and life threatening-conditions.
So, when vaping came on the scene as an apparent healthier alternative and a way of weaning people off cigarettes, thousands flocked.
But recent events have thrown up just how little we know about the effects it can have on your short-term and long-term health.
8 people from the United States have now died as a result of vaping or smoking e-cigarettes and hundreds have become ill.
So, what are the risks, if any?
One independent review has concluded that vaping is about 95% less harmful than smoking. It’s a statistic the NHS still roll out today.
They do admit that vaping “is not completely without risk” and stress that vapers should use “UK-regulated e-liquids and never risk vaping home-made or illicit e-liquids or adding substances, any of which could be harmful.”
The liquid and vapour in e-cigarettes can contain potentially harmful chemicals, which are also found in cigarette smoke.
Sven-Eric Jordt, one of the authors of the 2018 flavours study, said that their work on vaping had confirmed that “the liquids vaporised by e-cigarettes are chemically unstable and form new chemicals that irritate the airways and may have other toxic effects.”
We observed that these chemicals, when mixed during manufacturing, quickly undergo chemical reactions producing many more chemicals. For example, we observed that flavour chemicals and the vapour carrier chemicals react to produce chemicals named acetals.
“This occurs at normal room temperature already, and these compounds are enriched in the vapour and inhaled by users. This was unexpected and raised concerns since nothing is known about the inhalational safety of these compounds. In toxicological tests, we found that these compounds are strong irritants and we are currently researching whether they may harm cells in the lung.”
Many vapers in the US affected by lung illness have reported using e-liquids that contain cannabinoid products, such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Current research however has not found a cause for vaping-related lung disease. No consistent e-cigarette or vaping product has been identified in all cases, however the outbreak in the US seems to be associated with illicit and sometimes counterfeit THC vaping cartridges.
What are the differences between the UK and US’s approach on vaping?
In the UK, there are much stricter rules around vaping compared to the US. Products sold in the UK are regulated for quality and safety.
Nicotine content is capped in the UK and there are much stricter regulations on how they are advertised, where they are sold and who to. There is a total ban on selling to under-18s.
The UK’s focus is on helping smokers give up their habit and are encouraging its use as a replacement to cigarettes, but it’s been different in the US. Their focus has been a focus on preventing young people from taking up vaping as opposed to reducing the number of people who smoke.
Several states have now banned vape flavours and 20 countries, including India, Brazil and Thailand have now banned e-cigarettes.
For more information on e-cigarettes and using them to stop smoking, visit the NHS’s advice page.
BBC News. (2019). E-cigarettes: How safe are they? Accessible: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-48770808. Last Accessed: 20 September 2019.
Christensen, J & Gumbrecht, J – CNN. (2019). Eight death linked to vaping as illnesses surge around the United States. Accessible: https://edition.cnn.com/2019/09/19/health/vaping-lung-injury-new-cases-530-bn/index.html?. Last Accessed: 20 September 2019.
NHS. (2019). E-cigs ‘twice as effective’ than nicotine patches, gum or sprays for quitting. Accessible: https://www.nhs.uk/news/heart-and-lungs/e-cigs-twice-effective-nicotine-patches-gum-or-sprays-quitting/. Last Accessed: 20 September 2019.
NHS. (2019). Using e-cigarettes to stop smoking. Accessible: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/quit-smoking/using-e-cigarettes-to-stop-smoking/. Last Accessed: 20 September 2019.