Demystify Vaping to Save Lives

Conversations about the supposed negative impact of vaping should be based on scientific evidence as opposed to personal feelings. The mistake that many anti-vaping advocates make is to lambast vaping while failing to acknowledge that there is still, hitherto, no scientific evidence that suggests that vaping poses a substantial risk to people’s health, let alone a risk equivalent to cigarette smoking. Anti-vaping lobbyists claim that e-cigarettes are just as harmful as combustible cigarettes as they contain harmful toxins and chemicals that may lead to diseases such as lung cancer.  

However, studies done by Public Health England (PHE), Royal College of Physicians (RCP) and the American Lung Association, indicate that risks associated with vaping are much lower than smoking combustible cigarettes. An evidence update from the PHE findings, support the use of e-cigarettes as an effective way to help people give up smoking saying it is 95% less harmful to health than smoking. It further says that e-cigarettes release negligible levels of nicotine into ambient air with no identified health risks to bystanders. The Cancer Research UK says: “while nicotine is addictive, and entirely harmless, e-cigarettes do not cause the extensive cocktail of cancer-causing chemicals found in tobacco. While the long term health consequences of e-cigarettes are uncertain they are almost certain for safer than tobacco cigarettes”.

Whilst it is not disputed that there is some harm from vaping, evidence points to vaping being a less harmful alternative to smoking. People smoke cigarettes for the nicotine but die from the tar caused by burning tobacco. While electronic vaping products deliver nicotine through a heated aerosol consisting of a diluent, nicotine, and flavourings; it is inhaled much like smoking but without the damaging by-products of burnt tobacco.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has provided options for companies to offer safer alternatives to cigarette so that people can still enjoy “satisfying levels of nicotine” without the risks of tobacco smoke. Furthermore, the World Health Organisation describes the tobacco epidemic as one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced, killing over 8 million people a year globally. Under a United Nations (UN) mandate to address four noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), the World Health Assembly established in 2013 a global voluntary tobacco target to help reduce prevent premature avoidable mortality from NCDs. The agreed global tobacco target is a 30% relative reduction in prevalence of current tobacco use in persons aged 15+ years. Despite the already existing mandates of the WHO, alternatives for smoking tobacco have to be introduced.

Studies prove that few people understand the specific health risks of tobacco use. For example, the 2015 Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) in China revealed that only 26.6% of Chinese adults believe smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease and stroke. Among smokers who are aware of the dangers of tobacco, most want to quit. Other benefits of vape products include the ability to control your nicotine intake or choose a vape product with no nicotine, the absence of toxic odours and second-hand smoke, and, because there’s no tobacco being burnt, carbon monoxide and tar are absent too. 

The Truth Initiative published a report that indicate that: globally, 68% of smokers said they would be more likely to move away from combustible cigarettes if they had reliable information about the differences between various nicotine methods and products. 

More education and awareness on the benefits of switching from smoking to vaping needs to be done to save more lives because perceived risks play an important role in whether people switch to vaping or not, which is a less harmful alternative.

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Vapour Products Association of South Africa (VPASA) represents manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers of smoke-free vapour products in South Africa.

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