Vaping: Useful Medical Tool or Harmful Fad?
posted on January 19, 2018
What’s It All About?
Vaping is the term used to describe the use of electronic cigarettes. These devices use heat to turn specially designed liquid into a vapour which is then inhaled by the user as a substitute for smoking cigarettes or other forms of tobacco.
There is some evidence which supports the use of e-cigarettes as a method of nicotine replacement therapy to help ease smokers into a tobacco-free lifestyle. However, due to their being a relatively new product, there is a lack of long-term analysis on what the health effects of vaping might be.
Most physicians and scientists who are working on the question of vaping’s health effects are firm on the idea that they are less harmful than smoking. The question rests on exactly how much less harmful are they?
Nicotine, the active and addictive substance in tobacco, is a powerful toxin at any level of ingestion and so the inhalation of nicotine-infused vapour brings with it the known short-term effects of nicotine use such as increased blood pressure and decreased oxygen levels which might lead to permanent heart problems over time.
Vaping and Youth
A major concern of health officials is the accessibility of vaping materials to adolescents and teens, who they consider especially susceptible to marketing tactics and peer pressure.
As the Canadian government attempts to curb the number of young people starting to smoke, they are concerned by the overlap between teens who vape and those who smoke. Some research suggests that this overlap is partially due to behavioural patterns in youth, which assumes that the same kids who engage in the risky activity of smoking have an increased chance of starting to vape.
The accessibility of vape products to youth has recently been addressed at the Federal level in Canada with Bill S-5. This bill imposed new regulations on how e-cigarettes can be advertised and placed restrictions on where the products can be sold.
This effort is largely in line with the government’s efforts to cut the rate of smoking amongst teens by trying to prevent them from starting in the first place.
Even this attempt at regulation is somewhat at odds with those who view vaping as a harm reduction technique that should be available to smokers who are looking to either cut down or quit altogether.
There is some fear at Canada’s Heart and Stroke Foundation that vaping represents a re-normalization of nicotine consumption, which, if not handled correctly, could lead to a new generation of people who are addicted to nicotine.
A 2017 study suggests that using e-cigarettes as an aide to quit is more effective in countries that are less restrictive over where individuals are able to use their devices, suggesting that Canada’s approach might just be counter-productive.
Overall, the main message is that while we remain unaware of the potential long-term health effects of vaping, early research in the area shows that there is definite potential for them to be used as a harm reduction model for those looking to quit smoking. With this in mind, keeping them out of the hands of teens is an important step to take in order to not allow a normalization of nicotine consumption.
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