In the last few years, smoking has been in a notorious battle with vaping. Multiple surveys and experiments have shown that people choose electronic cigarettes over traditional tobacco cigarettes in an attempt to quit smoking for good. Companies such as British American Tobacco are constantly investing and producing ‘New Generation Products’ while its rival, Philip Morris, has a range of four smoke-free products. But how much safer are these e-cigarettes?
It was 1604 when King James I wrote ‘A Counterblaste to Tobacco’, in which he described smoking as a ‘custome loathsome to the eye, hateful to the nose, harmful to the brain [and] dangerous to the lungs.”
Since then smoking has become a popular habit and it has spread around Great Britain. Action on Smoking and Health shows that in the United Kingdom 9.1 million adults are smokers and 8.7 million in Great Britain. The Office for National Statistics shows that males are more likely to smoke than women, with 19% of men and 15% of women.It is not news that smoking is bad for the human body’s health. Over 40 out of 4,000 substances that are in the composition of a cigarette are known to cause cancer.
The myth of hand-rolled cigarettes being healthier because of the tobacco being more natural and not containing as many harmful substances has been debunked by professor Simon Chapman in an article posted on The Conversation. Hand rolled cigarettes are just as harmful as the ones that come in a pack.
Smoking increases your risk of developing more than 50 serious health problems, some being fatal and some harming your body irreversibly. Smoke affects your health from heart, lungs, stomach to causing cancer and decreasing fertility for both men and women. Cigarettes turn fingers and teeth yellow and affect senses such as smell and taste.
Inhaling secondhand smoke is as nocive as you being the one smoking. This is known as passive smoking. National Health Service brought to the public’s attention that “breathing in secondhand smoke increases a nonsmoker’s risk of developing lung cancer by about a quarter.” For babies and children, it is even riskier to be around smokers as they are more sensitive to secondhand smoke and can later develop meningitis, a persistent cough or even chest infections. Smoking during a pregnancy puts the unborn baby’s health at risk. It increases the risk of miscarriage, premature birth and stillbirth.
Sofia Afthinou, 49, charity shop sales assistant said: “I have been smoking for almost 30 years and I have never considered quitting smoking. I don’t like e-cigarettes, I am actually enjoying smoking.
“I have a condition, and I shouldn’t be smoking. It’s not a big deal if you don’t have a cigarette for some people, but for me, I do need it. Instead of having a person to lean on when you have troubles you just light a cigarette and there you have it – problem solved!” she said while putting out her cigarette.
Smoking is the main cause of preventable death and disease in the United Kingdom. Life-long smokers die prematurely and lose on average around 10 years of life. The number of hospitalisations linked directly to smoking has slightly increased since 2005.
Action on Smoking and Health reported that in 1976 Professor Michael Russell wrote that smokers die from tar, not from nicotine. ASH explained how the danger with smoking is caused by the toxins produced by the burning of tobacco and “by contrast, non-tobacco, non-smoked nicotine products, although addictive, are considerably less harmful.”
What are e-cigarettes? Electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes, are battery-powered devices. They contain water, propylene glycol and glycerol, flavours, nicotine and a heating device that turns the liquid into vapour. However, some e-cigarettes do not contain nicotine.
Electronic cigarettes do not produce tar and carbon dioxide which are the two most harmful toxins in traditional cigarettes, fact that decreases the risks of health problems. However, some substances have been found in the e-cigarette vapours that are ruled as unsafe.
The Royal College of Physicians reports that e-cigarettes are proving to be more popular than Nicotine Replacement Therapy as a substitute for smoking and the “competitor for tobacco cigarettes.”
The study also shows that the “hazard to health arising from long-term vapour inhalation from the e-cigarettes available today is unlikely to exceed 5% of the harm from smoking tobacco.”
Moneywise, The Telegraph reported that a-pack-a-day smokers spend around £300 a month on cigarettes in the UK while vaping costs around £30 a month.
The long-term use of electronic cigarettes’ impact on health and body has not been evaluated, but they are considered to be a safer alternative to traditional cigarette smoking, said SmokeFreeBrain.
Dr Alexis Bailey, Senior Lecturer at St George’s University of London, told the University that electronic cigarettes have become popular “partly because of the harm reduction compared with smoking traditional cigarettes however there is still considerable debate in the scientific community over just how much safer they are and how good they are for smoking cessation.”
Companies such as British American Tobacco have launched potentially reduced risk products based on vapours and tobacco heating products called New Generation Products. The company has been investing approximately US$2.5 billion in their New Generation Products since 2012.
Following the acquisition of Reynolds American Inc. in 2017, British American Tobacco announced that they are now “the world’s leading vapour company”, with Vype, their flagship vapour brand, now present in the United Kingdom as well.
With over 1,500 flavours, Vape Club is UK’s largest vape e-liquid shop and supplier for anything regarding e-cigarettes.
Tom Tangney, 35, Vape Club’s Operations Manager spoke about his experience with smoking and vaping:
“I am no longer a smoker. What made me quit was health concerns, having smoked for nearly 20 years, aged 15-34. I wanted to stop because it is clearly very dangerous to smoke. I managed to quit using a specific electronic cigarette with a specific type of e-liquid in it. I had a ‘vape kit’ and some e-liquids bought for me for Christmas 2015 by my wife. My brother had previously bought me an e-cigarette, the ones that look like actual cigarettes, but I did not like that one.
“I tried giving up cold turkey in the past and succeeded once. I tried the gum but that was horrible and I was put off of the patches as my friends tried them and ended up smoking even more!
“I think more people are using e-cigarettes now for 2 main reasons. One, they really do work. They really do help to stop smoking. I vaped for 2-3 years roughly before I managed to completely stop, but other people managed to quit long before me. The other reason I think they are so popular is because of how close they are to mimicking smoking. It’s like giving up without having to give up, if that makes sense? You can continue the habit but are no longer at anywhere near as much risk. I think the likes of Public Health England coming out and saying vaping is 95% safer than smoking definitely helped some people, who were maybe unsure about the safety of e-cigarettes, make the decision to try them.”
Many people find themselves addicted to smoking and they try to get rid of it using other methods, which later turn into another addiction.
Sanjay Bhaker, a second-year Biomedical Science student, quit smoking six months ago by switching to electronic cigarettes. He said: “My dad has been smoking for about 25 years and he started to get Mild Emphysema which is a condition where the lungs are not able to produce enough oxygen because obviously the cells are being killed by the tar and nicotine. I thought ‘I don’t want that’.
“However, I find myself vaping more than I was smoking. I never smoked in the house. I smoked in the garden, but now I vape in the house and pretty much anywhere. Am I actually quitting? You are losing regardless. You are giving up one for the other.”
When you trade traditional cigarette with electronic ones, as Mr Bhaker said, are you really quitting?
It is safe to say, with all the research done so far into the battle between smoking and vaping, that smoking is indeed extremely nocive on not only your health but also on the people around you and it is the cause of thousands of deaths every year.
Electronic cigarettes are considered to be safer, but up to the point where you reach for them more than you used to smoke, which means contaminating the body with more nicotine than when smoking cigarettes.
But the safest way is not switching to e-cigarettes, but quitting smoking for good. This way, you save your life, the health of the people around you and even a large amount of money.