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Is vaping a safer choice?

  • Published at 01:55 pm September 14th, 2019
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Photo: BIGSTOCK

Vaping sees increasing popularity across the world, as smokers embrace it as a safer alternative


“You press this button here,” said Navin, “and then you take a drag.”    

The small black device was about 3.5 inches long in size and looked like a flash drive. Navin Iqbal (not his real name), an occasional smoker who switched to vaping this year, made the transition to vaping because it has much less carcinogenic compared to cigarettes. 

“Cigarettes have 53 carcinogenic. Vape has merely 4 or 5,” said Navin, a university lecturer in Dhaka. “And I love the flavours,” the 35 year-old added.  

Navin’s reason for taking up vaping is representative of the general population of vapers across the world. 

According to a survey of 3,000 vapers by Kantar, Ernst & Young, the most common reason for using an e-cigarette was that they are "less harmful than regular cigarettes". Users also mentioned availability of flavours among the main reasons for favouring vaping. 

Navin is part of a whopping 35 million people worldwide that took up vaping in the past 7 years. The adult smoking population of vapor products went from 7 million in 2011 to 42 million in 2018. 

Accordingly, the market for vapour products went from $4.2 billion to $22.6 billion globally. 

Market research group Euromonitor estimates that the number of adults who vape will reach almost 55 million by 2021.

The electronic cigarette or e-cigarette was designed to provide a similar sensation to inhaling traditional tobacco smoke. They do so using vapor or mist instead of smoke. While the mist does contain nicotine, the components inhaled do not include most of the harmful chemicals found in cigarettes. 

‘95% less harmful than smoking’

Navin and his 42 million co-vapers will release an assuring sigh of relief knowing that their decisions have been supported by studies, which confirmed vaping to be significantly safer compared to cigarette smoke in it potential to cause cancer. 

One assessment on emissions from cigarettes and e-cigarettes by the Public Health England, an executive agency of the Department of Health and Social Care in the United Kingdom, concluded that the cancer potencies of e-cigarettes were largely under 0.5% of the risk of smoking from lifetime smoking. 

Researchers of a new study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health have also found that e-cigarettes significantly reduce cravings and many smokers, even the ones with no intention of quitting, successfully reduce tobacco habit.

This is increasingly making e-cigarette a part of de-addiction programs for quitting cigarette smoking.

Public Health England's 2015 review of independent evidence found that, based on the available evidence, e-cigarettes are 95% less harmful than smoking. 

Concerns regarding vaping being a gateway to cigarette smoking was also examined, but the review found no evidence thus far to suggest that e-cigarettes might encourage young people to take up smoking.

The Royal College of Physicians also came to a similar conclusion in its 2016 report 'Nicotine without smoke: tobacco harm reduction'.

For the general public in the United Kingdom, NHS’s approval of e-cigarette perhaps ascribed more legitimacy to vaping than any scientific studies could have done. 

The National Healthcare Service (NHS) of the UK recommend e-cigarettes as a quitting aid. In the year up to April 2015, 2 out of 3 people who used e-cigarettes in combination with the NHS’s ‘stop smoking service’ quit smoking successfully.

A recent Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) study in the US has also proved that e-cigarettes are less addictive than regular cigarettes.  

Companies scale up R&D as more consumers feel safe to take up vaping

“Here is the ‘atomizer’,” said Navin, showing a transparent compartment on the top part of his vape. “It is a combination of a tank that contains the juice and a coil that takes energy from the battery and vaporize the juice.”

Navin said the mechanism ensured that there was no more heat generated than necessary, making the device even safer. 

Manufacturers and satisfied customers like Navin say the e-cigarette is a safer alternative to combustible cigarettes. 

Tobacco companies have spent copiously to develop reliable, consistent consumer products that meet quality and safety standards. 

Since 2008, Philip Morris International (PMI) has spent $4.5 billion in research and development of reduced risk products, reports Financial Times. British American Tobacco (BAT) has spent over $1 billion in similar researches since 2012, according to Business Insider.

The products go through toxicological risk assessment and use high quality ingredients like pharmaceutical grade nicotine produced in the European Union. 

“I know it’s too early to be absolutely certain, because research on vaping haven’t had the time to truly measure long-time impact, compared to cigarettes. But it’s better than smoking. Even NHS recommends it now,” said Navin, who spent a long time in the UK for higher studies. 

“Overall, I would say it’s reasonably safe and certainly much safer than actual cigarettes.”

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