Cigarette smoking requires no definition, nearly everyone knows what the habit entails. Vaping has also become so commonplace in the last few years that most people are familiar with it.
The habit involves inhaling a vaporised and flavoured liquid, with the aid of a fancy battery-powered vaporiser.
Vaping was introduced as an alternative to cigarette smoking, in an attempt to mitigate the known risks of smoking that include cardiovascular disease and cancers.
Vaping appears to be safer than cigarette smoking. There is far less exposure to harmful toxins compared to traditional smoking. Those unable to stop smoking using other strategies can benefit from switching to vaping.
But, those who have never smoked or vaped shouldn’t get tempted to start either of the habits.
A word of caution comes from a recent review of vaping habits in Europe. There have been observations of increasing vaping tendencies by adolescents, and people who have never smoked.
Aggressive marketing sways adolescents to vaping, more so within social media influence. The habit appears trendy, not only from vaping gadgets themselves but also from the various flavours available. Some have noticed that once vaping starts, there’s a tendency to get hooked on it, in other words, addiction sets in.
The referenced review noted that vaping is deemed to be safer. This is true if compared to cigarette smoking.
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But the data only holds in the short and medium term. The habit cannot be deemed to be entirely risk-free in the longer term. This is because vaping still contains some nicotine and other vaporised additives whose long-term effects on the lungs remain unknown at present.
But cigarette smokers switching to vaping can be confident that they have made a good choice in reducing cigarette-associated health risks.
So how should readers interpret the said observations on vaping?
For starters, vaping has no health benefits. Those who have never smoked should not get tempted to start vaping, nor even consider smoking traditional cigarettes. Those continuing to smoke should try to stop entirely.
If that appears unappealing or impossible, moving on to vaping is healthier in the short to medium term. The eventual aim should be to stop inhaling any smoke or vapour into the lungs.
Children and adolescents are a special group to watch. They should be continuously educated about the risks of smoking and vaping.
More may need to be done about marketing and underage selling of vaping products. Public health authorities must maintain surveillance on the long-term effects of vaping and put appropriate policies in place.
Dr Alfred Murage is a Consultant Gynaecologist and Fertility Specialist