To Vape or Not to Vape?


Vaping seems to be one of the hottest trends around recently, with celebrities being spotted sporting an electronic cigarette left, right and centre. But is all the hype worth it? Are e-cigs really the future of smoking? And what makes them so great, anyway?

This last question is probably the easiest to answer. There are several reasons for the immediate and ongoing success of e-cigarettes. Foremost is the significant lack of chemicals in their composition compared to standard cigarettes. E liquid (the solution used to produce the vapour) contain essentially just 4 main ingredients – propylene glycol, glycerine, water and nicotine – plus flavourings; a stark contrast to the 4000+ chemicals commonly found in tobacco cigarettes. It’s these chemicals that primarily contribute towards links between smoking and cancer, heart disease and respiratory problems, so many smokers are hailing e-cigarettes as a drastically healthier alternative.

It’s worth noting that, as things stand in 2015, electronic cigarettes have not been subjected to extensive testing and research. As a result, it is difficult to tell how much, if any, health risk they pose over extended periods of time. It is therefore difficult to claim that e-cigs are better for you than regular cigarettes – all that can be safely asserted is that they do not contain any of the harmful chemicals that tobacco-based cigarettes do, and that your chances of developing illnesses associated with these chemicals is reduced if you opt for e-cigarettes instead. Whether e-cigs will cause their own, unique health problems is entirely unknown.

Consequently, health organisations such as the NHS, FDA and WHO are unwilling to support their use as a smoking cessation aid until conclusive evidence is produced to show their relative use in helping people to quit smoking, as well as the impact their use can have on the human body. Yet thousands of smokers, ex-smokers and even some smoking charities have voiced their support for these electronic wonders, mainly as a means of cutting down on normal smoking habits.

E-cigs combine the look, feel and function of standard cigarettes, meaning vapers can puff merrily away without initially anyone realising they’re not using the real deal. They also provide a dose of nicotine every time you use them, to satisfy your body’s cravings in the same way a cigarette would – but crucially, you can choose the amount of nicotine that is given, thereby enabling you to gradually decrease the dosage: essentially, you can wean yourself off nicotine. And without the distinctive smell of smoke and its incumbent noxious chemical stew, you cut down on second-hand smoke risks as well as smelling sweeter. They’re also more socially acceptable, as they are permitted in many places where regular cigarettes are banned.

As to their future, it’s difficult to tell. Currently, electronic cigarettes cost around half the amount of normal cigarettes over the course of a year, and some models offer reductions in spending of up to 75%. For many people, this is a huge incentive to take up a new form of smoking, and unless the price of cigarettes drops dramatically in the coming years, it’s likely to be a principle selling factor in the success of e-cigs.

Additionally, many tobacco companies are investing in their own e-cigarette brands. Larger corporations such as British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco and Japan Tobacco have all released their own versions of the electronic device as well as some e-liquids, indicating that they believe there is significant mileage in the product itself.

Of course, all of this could be for nothing if science provides evidence that e-cigs are equally or more harmful to human health than standard cigarettes. But that point is many years off, judging from the lack of interest the scientific community seems to be showing in actually researching this new technology. Some tentative studies indicate that the risks are minimal, but many have been funded by electronic cigarette companies, so should be taken with a pinch of salt.

None of this speculation seems to have put off prospective vapers, however. Celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Moss and Johnny Depp have been seen vaping, and this is fuelling wider public interest. It’s entirely possible that vaping is a transient trend, destined for only a few years of dazzling brilliance before fading away into obscurity. But something tells me this isn’t the case, and that vaping is set to stay with us for many years, even decades, to come.



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