E-cigarettes seem to be a force for good. As the popularity of vaping rises, the number of traditional smokers has dropped, with many ex-smokers citing these electronic devices as their main tool for quitting. However, there is concern around an emerging sub-culture amongst young-people, particularly teenagers, that are taking up vaping despite never having smoked before. Roughly 1.3 million more U.S. teens vaped in 2018 compared to 2017 which supports activist’s claims e-cigarette companies are targeting kids. Do they have reason to be worried or are people being overly cautious, is vaping dangerous for us?
Vaping is undeniably safer than traditional smoking. Multiple scientific studies have confirmed this, and a 2015 Public Health England Study went as far as to say e-cigarettes were roughly 95% safer than regular cigarettes. That figure has been disputed. However, even if the improvements are not that exaggerated, vaping is still better for you. But safer does not necessarily mean safe. Smoking is really bad for your health – 2014 figures show smoking is responsible for 80% of lung cancer deaths, a smoker is 3 times more likely to have a stroke, and has a roughly 10-year shorter lifespan. Vaping can be “safer” but still carry its own health problems.
Roughly 1.3 million more U.S. teens vaped in 2018 compared to 2017 which supports activist’s claims e-cigarette companies are targeting kids. Do they have reason to be worried or are people being overly cautious, is vaping dangerous for us?
One source of concern is that many vape flavours contain nicotine, an addictive substance present in traditional cigarettes. As substances go, nicotine is not the most dangerous and has been found to be fairly harmless to adults unless you already have heart problems or are on certain medication. However, nicotine could impact developing brains. Studies have found exposing adolescent brains to nicotine could cause long-term developmental issues and increase their risk of addiction to other substances in the future. It can also be incredibly toxic if consumed in high doses. Indeed, pupils at Dingwall Academy in the Highlands recently had to be rushed to hospital after drinking vaping fluid.
Other areas for concern with vaping are little less supported. ‘Popcorn lung’, which can cause breathing difficulties, has been cited as a potential side effect of using e-cigarettes. Some vape flavours did use diacetyl, a ‘popcorn lung’ causing chemical, but it is now a banned substance in the UK and, when it was being used, the detected levels were less than those of cigarette smoke. Similarly, there are concerns that vape fluid contains carcinogens, cancer-causing chemicals. Currently, there is not a whole lot of evidence to support these claims, but it can be good to have a healthy scepticism of new substances as the long-term effects of vaping are still unknown.
Similarly, there are concerns that vape fluid contains carcinogens, cancer causing chemicals. Currently, there is not a whole lot of evidence to support these claims, but it can be good to have a healthy scepticism
But whilst vaping might not be the perfect solution it is certainly far better than the alternative.
Measures have already been put in place to protect youths, and lawmakers are hoping to enact even more. In both the UK and US it is illegal to sell vape pens to people under 18 and EU laws prevent the showing of vaping adverts on TV and some websites. America’s Food & Drug administration have recently put further restrictions on the selling of certain flavours, like mango and berry, which have been shown to preferentially target younger people. Juul, the market leader, introduced self-imposed measures to prevent further child consumption including shutting down some social media accounts. Despite all of the potential harm to young people, vaping is a force for good in helping those who suffer with a cigarette addiction, helping them drastically improve their health. Furthermore, the number of young people vaping might be rising but the number that smoke cigarettes has dropped, implying they are turning toward these safer alternatives instead. We should always be searching for a perfect solution, but we should not villainise vaping for being sub-par, particularly when it is far better than the alternative we currently have.