Is vaping safe, what are the dangers and what are the laws on e-cigarettes?

IN recent years, many people have ditched traditional cigarettes in favour of vaping.

The purpose of e-cigarettes is to help smokers quit, but are they a healthier alternative? Here's what you need to know…

Is vaping better than smoking?

E-cigarettes contain nicotine but not many of the harmful substances produced by smoking tobacco, such as tar or carbon monoxide.

However, there has been debate about exactly how safe their use is.

In the UK, e-cigarettes are tightly regulated for safety and quality.

They're not completely risk free, but they carry a small fraction of the risk of cigarettes.

E-cigarettes do not produce tar or carbon monoxide, two of the most harmful elements in tobacco smoke.

The liquid and vapour contain some potentially harmful chemicals also found in cigarette smoke, but at much lower levels.

While nicotine is the addictive substance in cigarettes, it's relatively harmless.

Almost all of the harm from smoking comes from the thousands of other chemicals in tobacco smoke, many of which are toxic.

Nicotine replacement therapy has been widely used for many years to help people stop smoking and is a safe treatment.

There's no evidence so far that vaping causes harm to other people around you.

This is in contrast to secondhand smoke from smoking, which is known to be very harmful to health.

What is vaping and what are e-cigarettes?

Vaping is the process of smoking e-cigarettes, allowing a person to inhale nicotine without other harmful substances in tobacco.

The term is used as e-cigarettes do not produce smoke – instead releasing a vapour.

The vapour is produced from a material such as an e-liquid.

Millions of Brits now get their nicotine hit via e-cigarettes, and they are continuing to grow in popularity.

E-cigarette is another name for electronic cigarette.

It is a handheld device that gives you the same feeling as smoking a normal tobacco cigarette.

The first modern e-cigs were developed by Chinese pharmacist Hon Lik who wanted to create a safer alternative to smoking.

E-liquid is the mixture used in vapour products.

In May 2018, top doctors called for flavoured e-cigs, such as strawberry, bubblegum and chocolate to be banned as they said they encouraged kids to try the devices.

E-cigs and vaping pens come with a tiny sensor and computer chip that activate a heater, which warms up the nicotine inside every time a person takes a draw.

When the liquid nicotine warms up it vapourises, creating a vapour that users can then suck through the mouthpiece.

Unlike normal cigarettes, the devices don't produce tar and carbon monoxide.

But, that does not mean the vapour produced is free of harmful chemicals.

Studies have found it contains some toxic chemicals, that are also found in cigarette smoke, at lower levels.

Health officials have claimed e-cigarettes were 95 per cent safer than tobacco.

What are the laws on the sale of e-cigarettes?

Vaping laws were created to restrict the sale of e-cigarettes and e-liquids.

The products cannot be sold to anyone under the age of 18.

The new guidelines include:

  • Refillable tanks must have a capacity of no more than 2ml
  • E-liquids can not be sold in quantities greater than 10ml
  • Unless registered as a medicine e-liquids can not have a nicotine strength of more than 20mg/ml
  • E-liquid packaging must be child-resistant and tamper evident
  • Additives including colouring, caffeine and taurine are banned
  • All e-cigarettes and e-liquids must be registered with the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency before they can be sold
  • Stricter labelling requirements

It comes after an undercover investigation found that almost nine tenths of British vape shops are willing to sell e-cigarettes to non-smokers – against the industry code of conduct.

What are the dangers?

Public Health England has previously said vaping poses only a small fraction of the risks of smoking tobacco and switching completely can have substantial health benefits.

And they said the evidence does not support the concern that e-cigarettes are a route into smoking among young people.

They claim e-cigs are 95 per cent safer than traditional cigarettes.

And they suggest smokers should consider switching to vaping in a bid to help them quit.

However, in 2019, there was an outbreak of severe lung illness among e-cigarette users almost exclusively in the US.

Initially, doctors were baffled by the surge in similar lung diseases before they were eventually linked to vape usage.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) named the illness EVALI – which stands for e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury.

As of January this year, a total of 2,711 people were in hospital with the disease, including 60 deaths, the CDC confirmed.

At least two Brits are feared to have died from vaping-related lung injuries in the past year, UK health officials revealed.

The medical regulator was understood to be investigating the deaths and has received 244 reports of adverse reactions to the devices.

San Francisco became the first US city to ban electronic cigarettes in a bid to curb underage use of tobacco products.

E-cig manufacturers, Juul labs whose headquarters are in the city say that the move will deprive adults of healthier smoking alternatives.

In June 2018, scientists warned that inhaling flavoured e-cigarettes can damage cells lining the heart and blood vessels, leading to cardiovascular disease, strokes and heart attacks.

Another study warns vapers may be at greater risk of a life-threatening stroke than smokers.

Mice exposed to e-cig vapour for 10 to 30 days suffered more severe strokes, and greater nerve damage than those exposed to tobacco smoke.

While results have yet to be confirmed in humans, the warning signs are there, the researchers said.

The team at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center said: "Vaping is not safer than tobacco smoking and may pose a  similar, if not higher, risk for stroke severity."

Another study said e-cigs could increase your risk of cancer even when there's no trace of nicotine.

The number of under 18s who have tried vaping has doubled in just four years, official data reveals.

Health bosses admit e-cigarette “experimentation” among young people is on the rise.

Officials admit the steep rise means they must remain “vigilant” on youth smoking.

What have MPs called for?

On August 17, 2018, MPs called for e-cigarettes to be made available for free on the NHS.

They have also said that vaping should be allowed in offices, arguing that they should not be treated as the same as cigarettes as vaping is less harmful.

A new report by the Science and Technology Committee (STC) has also called for an urgent review to make it easier for e-cigarettes to be available on prescription, and proposed a wider debate on vaping in public spaces.

MPs have also called for greater freedom for the industry to advertise the devices as a less harmful option for smokers.

According to the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Vaping (APPGV), employers should provide designated indoor vaping areas – including in the Houses of Parliament.

They want vaping to be more acceptable around the workplace with proper vaping policies for businesses and public places to be put in place in a bid to tackle "misunderstandings" about the practice.

The group believes that guidelines for "reasonable vaping etiquette" should be drawn up and that all outside areas should be available to vapers unless there's a legitimate safety or professional reason to stop it.

APPGV chairman Mark Pawsey said that Britain's current anti-vaping culture created a "false" impression among the public that passive vaping was as harmful as passive smoking.

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