Ever since vaping came onto the scene back in the mid to late 2000s, there has always been an air of uncertainty about how safe it is. Despite multiple studies suggesting that vaping is safer than smoking, a lot of the public is still not sure. There is a fear of the unknown, particularly regarding the long-term health effects. Fear of the unknown is often irrational and regularly blown out of proportion and this is only made worse when the media exploits stories and events with misleading and sensationalist headlines.
To answer the question, according to what we know in 2018, we can say that vaping is safe, for the most part. It's the whole reason why e-cigarettes were made in the first place. They were designed to be a safe alternative to smoking and this has already benefited millions of people in the UK. One and a half million vapers have now made the switch and stopped smoking altogether, which should be celebrated not criticised.
Safer Than Smoking
Back in 2015, Public Health England (PHE) publicly backed the use of e-cigarettes and claimed that vaping was around “95% safer than smoking". PHE stood by that claim in February this year when they published an independent expert e-cigarettes evidence review and even suggested that e-cigarettes should be on sale in hospital shops.
Public Health England exists to protect and improve the nation's health and wellbeing. The fact that they have repeatedly endorsed the use of e-cigarettes should be enough to prove that vaping is safe and should be widely adopted. This view is shared by other huge organisations like Cancer Research UK and the British Medical Association. If vaping was harmful, short or long term, then these organisations would be the first to say so and they certainly wouldn’t be advising smokers to switch to it.
NHS Recent Findings
The good news is that more people are slowly starting to see that vaping is safe according to the most recent statistics from the NHS that were published this month.
The main reasons for using e-cigarettes are:
- an aid to stop smoking (48%)
- perceived to be less harmful than cigarettes (30%)
These were the primary factors behind smokers making the switch to vaping. Other reasons are they can be used indoors, they are cheaper than tobacco products and there is the advantage of having a range of different flavours.
However, despite all of the evidence, a fair amount of people still believe vaping is more or just as dangerous as smoking, which as we know is simply not true. Public health organisations have repeatedly spoken up and have defended and championed vaping's cause, but there is still this false perception. Why is this the case? A lot of the responsibility lies with the media.
Misleading & Sensationalist Headlines
Although the message from the public health community in the UK has been made clear and new evidence is constantly being published that backs the use of e-cigarettes, the media likes to focus on the negative.
The UK Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA) has made great strides to cut through the misinformation and be a voice for the industry. The screenshot is the most recent example of misleading negative press towards vaping that they had to speak up about.
The news story focused on a study carried out by Boston University. It found that flavoured vapes slowed blood flow and increase inflammation, which would increase the risk of strokes and heart attacks.
So there's the headline and the findings of the study, but here's the context that the media often disregards:
Critically, this experiment was carried out on human cells in Petri dishes. It was not a test involving someone actually vaping. It wasn’t a true to life scenario in any way. Even the head of the study admitted that further tests were needed before they could make claims about vapers themselves.
But the negative impact on vaping's reputation has already been done. And it's a culmination of these types of news stories that over the years have heavily influenced public perception to the point where some people think that vaping is just as or even more dangerous than smoking.
The knock on effect of this fear factor has led to very restrictive EU regulations that have put the vaping industry in the same bracket as conventional cigarettes. There are lots of rules to follow and it means that vape manufacturers and resellers cannot make any claims about the health benefits of vaping in their advertising, which is ridiculous.
Setting The Record Straight
The constant misinformation has also created a lot of common misconceptions about vaping. Let's address some of the most popular of these right now.
E-cigarette vapour is harmful
E-liquid is typically made up of nicotine, propylene glycol, glycerine and flavourings. There are no toxic or harmful substances and there have been no identified health risks of passive vaping.
Nicotine is harmful
People smoke for the nicotine. It is the addictive substance that smokers need to get their fix. But nicotine is not the cause of smoking-related illness and death. In fact, nicotine actually carries minimal risk to people's health. Despite this, less than 10% of adults understand that most of the harms to health from smoking are not caused by nicotine.
Vapes contain unknown and potentially dangerous chemicals
E-cigarettes are heavily regulated. When the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations were introduced in 2016, the whole vaping industry had to adhere to very strict guidelines when manufacturing and selling their products. Vapes are subject to minimum standards of quality and safety with detailed information of the ingredients used.
Vaping causes popcorn lung
One of the most common misplaced fears about vaping is that is causes something called 'popcorn lung', which occurs when inhaled chemicals scar the smallest airways within the lungs (bronchioles) and reduce their capacity and efficiency. This is caused by a chemical called diacetyl, which is a banned ingredient in e-cigarettes and e-liquids in the UK.
Vape pens will probably explode
The cases of vape pens exploding are extremely rare but are picked up on by the media and reported as if it is a common occurrence. The truth is, there have been very few fires or explosions caused by vaping products.
The VApril campaign was designed to educate people about vaping, raise awareness on the different types of vape products and explain the public health benefits compared to smoking.
With the backing of various health bodies, the vaping industry held its first national awareness month in April. It was fronted by TV doctor Christian Jessen: “It’s very simple: put down cigarettes for a month, take the VApril Challenge and give yourself the best chance of quitting smoking for good.”
The aim was to begin to convert the estimated 7.6 million smokers in the UK with its 3 step challenge.
Today in 2018, due to the backing of major health bodies, we can be confident that vaping is safe and the continued steps toward switching smokers to vapers can only be a positive thing.
Whether vaping is completely safe now and in the long-term, only time will tell, but we already have reason to be hopeful that it is. Results of a recent 24-month study involving 209 volunteers, showed that there were no adverse health effects from long-term vaping.
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