Vaping Health Concerns and the Problem with Evidence

I was a 20 a day smoker for 15 years. I wheezed when I had to do any exercise. I coughed up half a lung every morning when I woke up. Unbeknown to me I had no sense of taste or smell, which I suppose was a good thing considering cigarettes taste and smell disgusting.

7 years ago, I found vaping and all that went away within the space of 6 months. No more wheezing. No more coughing. In fact, luckily for me, no health concerns of any kind (that I know of). I feel better than ever.

Now I’m not trying to say that vaping is good for you, although it’s possible, it seems extremely unlikely. The truth is that long term, we really don’t know how good or bad it is for you so If you didn’t smoke before, it’s probably not a good idea to take up vaping now.

All of that is obviously just anecdotal in terms of evidence of e-cigarettes effect on health, but there’s a clear problem with evidence at the moment. A lot of the studies conducted so far have been funded by either:

  1. Companies trying to prove e-cigarettes are bad for you (Tobacco companies for example)
  2. Vapers looking to prove e-cigarettes aren’t bad for you

It’s easy to spin test results in whichever way you want to. Unbiased, peer reviewed research using up to date equipment in conditions that are similar to the real world seems hard to come by but more to the point, it can be difficult for your average Joe to tell the difference between the two. The average person will see the research via media headlines and unfortunately the media simply doesn’t care if the research is peer reviewed, how big the control group was or who funded it. They just want to sell papers.

Public Health England’s stance on vaping is that it is at least 95% safer than smoking and that’s good enough for me. I can’t imagine a reason for them to be biased in any way as it is funded by the taxpayer and has a direct interest in the nation’s health. The 5% shortfall is there purely because nothing is 100% risk free. 450 people a year die from falling out of bed in the USA so even sleeping isn’t risk free. We won’t know the full picture regarding the health concerns from vaping for another 30 years or more so all we can do is rely on the latest “best” research.

So why are Public Health England still saying it’s at least 95% safer than smoking when there are people dying from it in the USA?

There’s a simple answer to this.

There have been 39 deaths linked to vaping in the USA to the best of my knowledge so far. When the word vaping is used here, it’s simply the verb, like driving or running. Actually, what has caused these tragic deaths has very little to do with vaping as we know it. The CDC in America have proved that most of the deaths were caused by using illicit THC cartridges (a substance extracted from the cannabis plant) which were adulterated with vitamin E acetate, a substance that is not suitable to be inhaled. Normal e-liquid does not contain this ingredient.

Unfortunately, we see very little talk of this explanation in the media. It’s far easier to vilify vaping and far more likely to sell papers, but what about all the smokers that haven’t switched and won’t now switch because of the perceived health implications? Shouldn’t the media have a duty of care? After all, their continued smoking and probable eventual death from smoking related diseases is directly affected by what the media has done here.

If you’re a smoker and have thought about quitting but have been put off by the recent media coverage of vaping I would say this to you:

We know smoking kills. It causes lung cancer, heart disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, strokes… Tobacco use is the single greatest cause of preventable death globally. 1300 deaths a day are attributed to smoking related diseases in the USA.

Sometimes it’s not better the devil you know. Current research says vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking cigarettes. It’s absolutely possible that somewhere down the line we will find out there are also health implications with using e-cigarettes, but those risks will be on a much smaller scale due to the fact that there is no combustion. The burning and inhaling of the tobacco with all its added chemicals, is the reason smoking is so unhealthy.

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