• Caroline O'Hagan

Is Vaping really better than smoking? Here's what you need to know.

Updated: Mar 29, 2019

Yesterday I inadvertently got myself caught up in a Facebook war about vaping. The original poster was merely asking if it is legal to vape in public places or do the normal no smoking rules apply. For some reason the responses to that query became a slanging match between smokers and vapers and people who abstained from both. I found myself putting forth arguments as to why vaping is almost as dangerous as smoking. I was staggered at the amount of people who are under the impression that vaping is actually good for you. The argument seems to be that no one has died from it yet and there are no recorded cases of people who are sick from vaping (which is not true) therefore it must be safe. Let's not forget that in the 1940s and 50s smoking was considered good for you and actually promoted as a healthy activity.

At this point no one in the scientific community is pretending that vaping is actually good for you other than the manufacturers of vaping products (much like the cigarette brands, way back then!), however it is being promoted as a healthier option than smoking and even the British Heart Foundation are encouraging Doctors to promote vaping over cigarettes, as a way to improve smokers health. If you were a heavy smoker, then this would be an improvement for sure.

I did a pretty basic search online and immediately found hundreds of articles, including many that show almost everyone of authority, including the WHO, American Heart Association, British Medical Journal and others, conclude that at this stage there has not been enough time passed since this vaping craze began to really establish what the risks of vaping are long term, and while it is true that no one has died as a direct cause of vaping yet, we should not assume this means it is safe. Ironically there have been over 200 recorded cases of e-cigarettes overheating and exploding causing injury, but even that doesn't appear to be enough of a deterrent.

Vaping was developed as a way to help people wean themselves off regular cigarettes, delivering a controllable amount of nicotine with less chemicals. I say controllable, because you can choose to use a low dose, but you can also choose to take a high dose, or a higher strength. While it is true that there are less chemicals in the liquids that are used in e-cigarettes, at the moment there are no laws that seem to be forcing manufacturers to name all of the chemicals in each product, they simply get away with calling the ingredients "flavouring" or "flavours" but these are the very substances that appear to have toxic ingredients. There are many chemicals known to be in e-cigarettes but at the same time there are many unknowns and scientists are stating they have been unable to identify exactly what goes into these e-cigarettes which is quite a scary prospect - if the scientists can't figure this out, who can? The variety of flavours is huge, luring non-smokers to take up the habit, which appears to be a growing trend especially among teenagers. My daughter is 10 and she told me a girl in her year at school said her parents had let her try their vape. That is incredibly worrisome.

So what are some of the possible health concerns caused by Vaping?

There have been reports of bleeding throats and mouths, damage to mouth tissue cells leading to gum disease and even tooth loss, excessive coughing due to a build up of residue from the vapour in the lungs leading to bronchitis, impaired wound healing, damage to the heart and blood vessels, the list goes on.

Toxic amounts of heavy metals have been identified within the liquids, such as cadmium, chromium, manganese, lead and nickel, which are known to be carcinogenic neurotoxins at high levels, and there are other carcinogens present such as formaldehyde, acetyl-aldehyde and nitrosamines. While this list is considerably shorter than the list of toxic substances present in cigarettes, the e-cigarette should not be considered a healthy choice - only a healthier way to get the nicotine fix, than traditional cigarettes. There is of course no better choice than to cease altogether.

The effects of passive vaping or second-hand vaping - inhaling the exhaled vapour from a person nearby - are now being recognised too, especially in confined spaces. One study identified that vaping in a confined space lowered the quality of the air in the space, significantly. In summary, it's not great and should not be done around children or pregnant women as the vapours could lead to brain developmental issues in the young and unborn. From what I could see, it won't be too long before smoking inside public spaces will be outlawed in most places, as smoking has been - if it hasn't been already.

There are tricks and hacks that some people use, which actually make the vape liquid even more toxic as it is exposed to even higher temperatures - one trick known as "dripping", is where the user will drip liquid from the bottle, directly onto the coil of the e-cigarette, making it burn at a higher heat, delivering a higher toxic load in one hit. There are youtube videos detailing how to do these "hacks", glamourising it as if it was something really cool to try.

All of this got me thinking about addiction and belief. There are people who genuinely believe that they have improved their health by switching from cigarettes to vaping, and while this may be true in a literal sense in that e-cigarettes appear to have less toxic substances in them, it is still not beneficial for ones health as many people seem to believe it is.

So is there a connection between being so addicted to the nicotine, that you will believe that it is a healthy choice to vape instead, is it denial, or has there been so much information put out there that this is the right choice over smoking traditional cigarettes, that the message has warped into this is a "healthy choice"? It's hard to be sure, but with the rise of vape bars, cafes and shops all over the western world, it certainly seems like a trendy and even glamourous habit to take up.

Inhaling anything into the lungs intentionally is not a smart move - and even over-use of essential oils can have a detrimental effect on the delicate tissues of the lungs. Some of the people I was discussing this with on facebook, actually used the argument that we are inhaling toxic substances in the air all day every day from cars, pollution, bushfire smoke, aerosol deodorant and other things, so therefore what difference does it make if they choose to vape? It seems to me that they almost have resigned themselves to the fact that we are being exposed to dangerous substances all the time so they may as well add to the pile and not worry about the consequence. I find this really troubling because there are ways to improve your health and deal with the toxic substances we come into contact with every day (to a point), and to use these things as an excuse and a reason to keep doing something that is known to be detrimental to ones health says a lot about belief, denial, and clever marketing.

I was a smoker a long time ago, so I fully understand what goes on inside the head of someone who is a smoker, and I know how hard it can be to give that up. I deeply regret that I was a smoker for many years, and whether or not it has done long-term damage to me remains to be seen, so all I can do at this stage is to live well and do everything I can to detoxify my body of the substances I put into it in my younger years.

I am not trained in smoking cessation and would not claim to be able to help you to quit, but what I (and other Naturopaths) can do is help you to detoxify your body, nourish your tissues and help the process of healing which is necessary once you have stopped a substance abuse such as smoking, recreational drug use, or alcoholism. These things are one and the same in many ways as they are addictive behaviours which cost a lot of money, add to the toxic load we are constantly in contact with, and can only make you feel worse.

Natural therapies that can benefit you if you are trying to quit smoking or vaping include Hypnotherapy, Accupuncture and Counselling. My role as a Naturopath is to support you with herbs, supplements and flower essences, to replenish your body and help you calm cravings. If you would like to discuss quitting with me, please call Caroline on 0433 280 621. Namaste and Good Luck!

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