Is vaping safer than normal smoking?

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Few weeks ago we had the 50th anniversary of the publication of the report of the United States surgeon general which formally, and for the very first time, emphasized the serious health consequences of smoking.

Remarking in the importance of Dr Luther Terry’s 1964 report, the chairman of Ash Ireland, Dr Ross Morgan, said:

“This ground breaking report not only provided new and irrefutable medical evidence of the harm caused by smoking, but also commenced an informed public debate on smoking . . .

“In 1958, only 44 per cent of Americans believed that smoking caused cancer, while in 1968, four years after the report was published, 78 per cent believed that smoking was a cause of cancer.”

Smoking Ban

There has been much water under the bridge since that time. Ireland played a leading part in the implementation of the smoking ban in public places. And also the struggle together with the tobacco industry continues as it fights a rearguard actions from the debut of standardised packaging across all smoke brands. However, the tobacco industry can be looking forward. It’s investing heavily in what it views as the long run of smoking: electronic cigarettes.

E cigarettes do not comprise tobacco. They hold a cartridge full of nicotine which has been dissolved in water instead. Add in a battery plus a heating element made to turn the liquid into nicotine-laced vapour as well as the “vaper” (as the consumer of ecigarettes is popularly known) gets a noticeable nicotine “hit” with each drag.
No dangerous pitch or carbon monoxide to be bothered about and, thus far, no actual regulatory problem.

Signs concerning the usage of electronic cigarettes is still being collected but no evidence has yet emerged of the transport to the consumer of pitch and a few of another dangerous substances in conventional smoke.
Another important selling point for producers is not having second-hand smoke to influence those around the “vaper”.

Long term health effects

Based on proponents, this implies ecigarettes can be had in pubs, concert halls and theatres, so no further skulking outside these sites in the pouring rain. Yet, the British Medical Association, amongst others, differs, and has called for ecigarettes to be within the prohibition on smoking in public places.

Little studies have been done in their long term health effects. There is absolutely no evidence to indicate that nicotine is carcinogenic but it’s an addictive substance. And in high doses it’s poisonous, generating quantifiable influences in the metabolic and cardiovascular systems.
An important promotion approach for ecigarettes is their possible use as a bridge for present smokers wanting to quit tobacco smokes. Yet, there’s real concern among public health promoters that those changing will simply swap one habit for a different. However a recent study published in The Lancet revealed that some six months after beginning to work with e cigarettes, a little over 7 per cent of conventional smokers had quit smoking tobacco. This compares favourably with individuals who use nicotine patches as an aid to quitting smoking.

With all the tobacco industry’s track record of obfuscation and concealing signs of the harmful impact of smoking over many decades, there is certainly widespread doubt of its own claims that it is not going to be promoting e cigarettes to kids and youths. The formation of vanilla along with other flavoursome ecigarettes doesn’t engender self-confidence. And if kids and teens see ecigarettes in prevalent use, will this motivate some to take up tobacco smoking?

The greatest destiny of e-cigarettes is far from clear. Could they end up being regulated as medical devices? Or will they eventually be adopted by physicians as a lesser evil compared to the tobacco products so efficiently popularised by the iconic Marlboro Guy cowboy ads ?

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