Will vaping harm you?
Let’s look at the facts about the long-term and short-term harm that vaping could cause
You might be surprised to hear from us that the honest answer is yes, it could harm you. But let’s not get carried away… this is not an anti-vaping tabloid newspaper article! In this week’s blog, let’s stick to the facts about vaping and e-cigarettes and try to understand what we know, and what we don't know, about the risks and harm vaping could cause.
The best thing for our lungs is simply fresh, clean air… but…
Let’s not kid ourselves. As biological human beings the very best thing for us to breathe into our lungs is fresh, clean, mountain air. But for the vast majority of us, that isn't possible and is a totally unrealistic goal in our modern world. Just standing at the side of a road, we are breathing in all manner of fumes and particles that can harm us. Standing around a bonfire on firework night we are doing the same.
In reality, we do many things during our day that could harm us and most things we do have some level of risk, however small. So, when we think about the risks of using an e-cigarette, it should always be compared, in context, to the risks of smoking.
Let’s look at the long-term health risks of smoking cigarettes
The health risks associated with smoking cigarettes are well known and very clear. Every year in the UK 100,000 people die from smoking and many more people are living with debilitating smoking-related conditions. Smoking is the cause of 90% of all lung cancers, it also damages your heart and blood circulation. Cancer Research UK states that according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, tobacco smoke contains thousands of dangerous chemicals. This includes at least 70 chemicals known to cause cancer and many others that have a lot of potential to harm you. It's a grim reality, but if you smoke, chances are it's going to kill you eventually. Sadly, many of us will have experienced losing a family member or a close friend due to tobacco smoking.
So how do the long-term health risks of e-cigarettes compare?
The truth is, the long-term health risks of using e-cigarettes are not as clear. This is because e-cigarette use only became widespread a few years ago and so we don't have decades of detailed research.
There have been, however, some very important and detailed studies conducted. And all the evidence from these studies points towards the fact that e-cigarettes are far less harmful than smoking tobacco. According to the Royal College of Physicians'* report from 2016, the available data suggests that the risks of using an e-cigarette “are unlikely to exceed 5% of those associated with smoking and may well be substantially lower than this figure.”
*The Royal College of Physicians is an independent organisation based in the UK, which represents over 35,000 doctors and aims to drive improvements in the UK’s health.
Can vaping hurt you in the long-term?
Put the above facts in even simpler terms; if smoking a cigarette is 100% harmful to your health, then vaping is only 5% harmful to your health. 95% less harmful! And we may well find out in time it's 99% less harmful, we just don't know exactly, at the moment.
So can vaping harm you? The honest answer is yes, it could. As vapers we should be under no illusion that vaping is a 'safe' or 'harmless' activity and it should always be seen as harm reduction. This is why we never encourage non-smokers to take up vaping. Vaping is not a cure for cancer or a magic wand but it's undeniable, with the research and scientific information we have now, that if you switch to vaping you will be doing much less damage to your body than you were as a smoker. This is a fact recognised by Cancer Research UK, NHS UK and many health experts.
But what about the short-term effects of e-cigarettes?
Some people may find vaping for the first time will give them a sore or dry throat and it may make you cough, very much like the first few cigarettes you had. (If you can remember that far back!) This is perfectly normal and isn't anything to be too concerned about. Your body has had years of getting used to breathing in cigarette smoke every day and absorbing all the toxic chemicals that are contained in the smoke.
When you switch to an e-cigarette, suddenly you are stopping that and asking your body to get used to breathing in something else. Your body doesn't know it's something far less harmful it just knows it's something different that it's not used to. This is what can cause you to cough and have a dry throat. Drink plenty of fluids, find an e-liquid flavour you really enjoy and relax, if you are struggling at first, things should soon get better.
Like anything we are putting into our bodies, there will be a small number of people that it will affect adversely. Just as some people have allergies and sensitivities to dairy products, cosmetics or man-made fibres, there are people that find some of the ingredients in e-liquid affect them in a negative way.
It could be a particular flavouring or one of the base ingredients. These reactions are very rarely severe but if you are worried this might be the case for you then you should stop vaping and consult your doctor for advice.
Are symptoms caused by e-cigarettes or by stopping smoking?
It's worth considering at this point that any symptoms you might experience when you start vaping may not be caused by the e-cigarette at all but be common to stopping smoking and a direct result of that.
The side effects of quitting smoking can include, but are not limited to:
- Headaches and nausea
- Coughing and sore throat
- Difficulty concentrating
- Dry mouth
- Sleeping difficulties and sleep disturbances
These are all very common symptoms when people stop smoking, so try not to panic if you experience any of them when you make the switch to e-cigarettes. They may start as quickly as a few hours after your last cigarette and may last for 2-4 weeks. But they will pass and when they do, you’ll feel so much better for it!
Also, because an e-cigarette contains nicotine it should reduce or get rid of any associated side effects of quitting nicotine. Many people find making the switch much easier than they had imagined with very little side effects.
So in summary…
Most vapers are extremely proud of what they have achieved using e-cigarettes, because we have tried and failed many times to stop smoking using other methods. There are almost 3 million people using e-cigarettes in the UK right now and the vast majority of them are more than happy to talk to you about their experiences. You will find it very difficult to find anyone who does not feel healthier and happier after stopping smoking and switching to an e-cigarette.
How is your vaping experience? Have you noticed any changes since switching from cigarettes to vaping, good or bad? Do you believe vaping is harmful or not? We’d love for you to share your experiences and thoughts with us – just add your thoughts in the comment box below!
We hope this blog has help provide you with some of the facts about vaping and that you’ve found it useful.
Bye for now!
My Vape Box Team