Vaping - force for good, or some hidden evils?


British lawmakers are pushing to moderate the strict vaping laws to encourage people to quit smoking.

Vaping, or using e-cigarettes, is estimated to be about 95% less toxic than smoking conventional cigarettes, and according to the British parliament, the science behind vaping shows great health benefits if regular smokers can be encouraged to switch.    

But this is happening in the backdrop of a fierce debate as to whether e-cigarettes present any long-term health risks. There have been several studies that suggest that e-cigarettes deliver some toxic chemicals on their own, though the toxicity levels are much lower than in cigarette smoke.      

For the most part, e-cigarette enthusiasts believe that the ban on smoking in public places should only apply to conventional cigarettes. And some people are acting on that belief - it's not unusual to see people lighting up their e-cigarette devices at train stations, restaurants, and other public places.      

And why not?

The argument that e-cigarettes are harmless is based on the fact that there is no combustion, and therefore no smoke. If there's no smoke, it means there's no second-hand smoke. Without the second-hand smoke, the non-smoking public who are in the vicinity can't be affected; right?    

For the longest time regular smokers have been relegated to standing outside in the cold or blistering heat to get their fix; but now as e-cigarettes continue to permeate conventional society, many more smokers will consider making the switch.     

But is there really no risk?    

There are a lot of conflicting studies about vaping and its long-term effects but real data is limited because the entire e-cig business is relatively new and a lot of studies are still ongoing. With that said, there are still genuine concerns about vaping and how increasing nicotine concentration in the air might generate compounds that have been linked to lung cancer and cardiovascular disease.      

One study published in the International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health found that vaping pouted air quality and released harmful compounds like formaldehyde, nitrosamines, and lead. Further studies in Singapore have led them to ban vaping so there are obviously issues.       

But even with this kind of data, there's still a general argument that vaping is much safer than smoking actual cigarettes, and most health experts seem to agree. Much of what causes health damage in cigarettes occurs through combustion and since vaping eliminates smoke, then most of those carcinogens are avoided.    

At a time when smoking kills more people than any other preventable cause of death, it makes sense why lawmakers in Britain are in favour of amending legislation to make it easier for smokers to use e-cigarettes. Even though the long-term effects are still being investigated, most people agree that eliminating conventional cigarettes is better for everyone.    

Legislators have called for incentives to promote vaping; in the form of reduced taxation and a possible review of the approval system to prescribe them as valid quit-smoking products.

So, as the UK government finds ways to reduce smoking related deaths, for the moment non-smokers seem not to be the priority in this discussion. Also, we simply don't know enough about how vaping affects the non-smokers (who are the majority).  

For smokers who soon may be allowed to vape at public places, restaurants, and train stations, the effect on non-smokers is a lot like finding feet on seats. It’s just not pleasant for other people.      

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Sources:  2012-050859.abstract