The vape debate: is it safer than smoking?

The vape debate: is it safer than smoking?

Tania Moffat

 The United Kingdom released the results of their extensive study on vaping, claiming ecigarettes to be 95 per cent safer than cigarettes. While 95 per cent may be a little high, the results seem to suggest it is a better alternative than smoking cigarettes.

While several countries have completed studies on the effects of vaping, public health associations, including the U.K.’s are still recommending further research, and both the U.K. and U.S. have implemented safety standards regarding the use of e-cigarettes. The impression is that Canada will soon follow with their own regulations. With possible new legislation coming down the pipeline, vendors may be required to go through Canada Food Inspection Agency approval in order to enter or stay on the market, along with following rules similar to those for cigarettes that would prohibit sales to minors, have warnings written on products, limit advertising and have them cover the windows of their shops.

Unfortunately, big tobacco is getting in on the game, since it seems there is money to be made in the industry. If vaping seems destined to threaten their $35 billion annual tobacco profits you can bet the world’s big six will get involved. Unfortunately, this only further muddies the waters for vaping and its legitimacy.

Nicotine, why the varying regulations?

If the studies point to vaping as being a safer alternative to smoking, which kills more than 230,000 Canadians per year, why is the government trying to prohibit sales and implement rules similar to those for tobacco?

“In some ways, I think of nicotine as the perfect psychotropic drug,” says Paul Newhouse, a scientist at Vanderbilt University. He has spent his career studying the effects of nicotine in improving cognitive functioning in those suffering from a variety of conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and for relieving the mental fog created by chemotherapy and HIV medications.

“The nicotinic receptors in the brain act as modulators rather than classic transmitters, scanning the system and stimulating what needs to be stimulated and relaxing what needs to be relaxed, “Newhouse says, explaining both nicotine’s therapeutic potential and its appeal for recreational use. “That’s why you have a smoker who uses a cigarette to wake up and to go to sleep.”

Nicotine is a drug that can be ingested in a number of generally harmless ways. Nicotine patches and gums are sold over-the-counter and have no labels warning of harmful health effects or addiction, but when it’s inhaled nicotine reaches the brain within seconds, causing the hit smokers are looking for.

If it is the method of ingestion, not nicotine, that is dangerous then it follows that vaping should be regulated. However, vaping heats the nicotine The vape debate: is it safer than smoking? with a battery, not fire, and does not contain the thousands of chemicals that are burned in a cigarette. Whether or not vaping should be treated the same way as smoking is the question being asked and a decision legislators will have to make.

Perhaps the controversy is that vaping is enjoyed, unlike patches and gum. And what if it comes up short, like many of the other options used by smokers who want to quit? Heck even if a smoker gives up one cigarette a day and replaces it with vaping, it would seem to be a good start.

What is the public to do? Decide. Should you decide to start vaping if you’re not a smoker? Probably not, but ultimately, if you have a smoking problem and you want to try vaping to help you quit, why on earth wouldn’t you?

While public health associations would not likely approve, at least vapes don’t contain the carcinogenic toxins found in cigarettes. In addition, you can choose the level of nicotine you purchase in your juice to fit with how much you currently smoke, allowing you to get started and decrease nicotine levels to suit your own progress. While non smokers should not take up the habit of vaping, it seems clear that it is much safer than the alternative for those who do smoke. Will some smokers use vaping as a means of getting their nicotine fix when smoking is not an option and alternate between the two? Probably, but at least the number of cigarettes smoked would be cut back.

The debate on vaping continues; at this point studies suggest vaping is less harmful than smoking cigarettes, and like anything it can help you quit if you want it to.

The U.K.  study has been comprehensive investigation to date; here are some of its findings:

  • Vaping emits minute of nicotine, the quantity of which is negligible from a health perspective.
  • There two chemicals emitted in the vapour and there is no evidence that they are anywhere near as concerning as tobacco smoke.
  • Vapes are viable option for kicking the habit, and especially worthwhile if other methods have failed.
  • For those who have no intention of quitting, vaping is far more preferable vice with significantly lower risk to your health.
  • Evidence suggests that smokers switch to vaping experience reduce intake of nicotine or give up on the drug entirely.


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