General | June 7, 2017 | Author: Naturopath
With the dangers of smoking now very well known, vaping has become the next big thing. The vaping industry has seen exponential growth over the past few years in Australia and overseas, particularly among smokers. If you’re still wondering what vaping is… here’s what it’s all about.
Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling the water vapour produced by an electric device called a vaporizer or e-cigarette.
These devices resemble a cigarette but also look like pens. They are battery operated devices designed to deliver nicotine and/or other substances as an aerosol after the liquid has been heated.
This liquid, referred to as vapor or e-liquid, is usually made from humectants such as propylene glycol and/or vegetable glycerol mixed with flavours. E-liquid can contain nicotine or be nicotine free.
Each Australian state and territory classes electronic cigarettes and nicotine differently. It is important to stay up to date with these laws to see how they affect you as a vapor.
Generally speaking e-cigarette devices are legal in Australia for persons over 18 but the sale and possession of the nicotine used in them is illegal. Nicotine is classed as a schedule 7 poison in Australia which means it’s illegal to sell it except as a licensed medication. Importing nicotine for personal use is commonly done and this is where the laws can get a bit more ambiguous.
E-cigarettes are tobacco free. Tobacco cigarettes are filled with numerous toxicants and carcinogens. E-cigarettes are tobacco free and are therefore considered much safer than smoking cigarettes long-term.
A study published in the Nicotine Tobacco Research journal found that substituting tobacco cigarettes with an e-cigarette significantly reduces the user’s exposure to selected carcinogens and toxicants. This information is also confirmed in a 2015 expert review from Public Health England who estimated e-cigarettes as being 95% less harmful than the real thing.
Other sources have suggested this figure to be too high and a more accurate representation to be 80-85% less dangerous.
Increases the likelihood of quitting smoking. One other major claim is that e-cigarettes increase the chances of a person quitting smoking. While some emerging research has shown that this is the case, more research is needed to determine the efficacy of e-cigarettes as a cessation aid.
Toxic compounds. Analyses of e-cigarette aerosols have found toxic compounds are present but they are at much lower levels compared to cigarette smoke. This still poses a health risk to users. Some brands contain formaldehyde, ingredients used in antifreeze and flavours such as diacetyl—a well-known harmful chemical which can cause lung disease. A recent 2017 study conducted by The Public Library of Science found that exposure to electronic cigarette aerosol extracts supressed the cellular antioxidant defences – leading to significant DNA damage. The authors concluded the need to investigate the potential long-term cancer risk of exposure to vapers and the general public.
Nicotine exposure. If nicotine is being used in the e-liquid, studies have found that vaper users are still obtaining the same levels of nicotine compared to cigarette smoking. Although nicotine has not been included as a carcinogen according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, there are numerous studies which show otherwise. Nicotine increases your risk of cardiovascular, respiratory and gastrointestinal disorders. It decreases the immune response and has detrimental effects on reproductive health. Nicotine promotes oxidative stress, cell death and DNA mutation which can lead to cancer. Nicotine is an addictive substance—when you stop using it you will go into withdrawal and feel depressed and moody. It’s important to be aware of nicotine free e-liquids as independent Australian analysis of these products has found that many of them still contain nicotine.
There is no doubt that cigarette smoke exposes others to dangerous chemicals through second hand smoke. With vaping being a relatively new thing a variety of study designs have been used to investigate the potential health risks from passive exposure to e-cigarette vapour.
The majority of these studies determined that it may have the potential to lead to adverse health effects but this is likely to be less than the risk from passive exposure to conventional cigarette smoke. Another concern is that nicotine can leak from the devise which may pose as a poisoning hazard for the user of the electronic cigarette and to others around them.
According to the Therapeutic Goods Administration, there’s no evidence that any e-cigarette is safe and effective at helping smokers quit. If you’re considering quitting smoking the safest option for now is using nicotine replacement therapy products which have been rigorously tested for efficacy and safety. It’s suggested that you speak to your doctor or pharmacist to see what withdrawal aid will be best for you.
Goniewicz ML, et al. Exposure to nicotine and selected toxicants in cigarette smokers who switched to electronic cigarettes: a longitudinal within-subjects observational study. Nicotine Tob Res. 2017 Feb;19(2):160-167
Ganapathy V, et al. Electronic cigarette aerosols supress cellular antioxidant defences and induce significant oxidative DNA damage. PLoS One. 2017 May 18;12(5):e0177780
Mishra A, et al. Harmful effects of nicotine. Indian J Med Paediatr Oncol. 2015 Jan-Mar;36(1):24-31
Hess IM, et al. A systematic review of the health risks from passive exposure to electronic cigarette vapour. Public Health Res Pract. 2016 Apr 15;26(2)