Today, an estimated 3.2 million adults in Great Britain are using e-cigarettes (or vaping) frequently – a significant jump from 2012 when there were just 700,000 recorded. Since its rise in popularity over this time, vaping has been met with an awful lot of controversy, particularly due to the circulation of fake news on news websites and social media. So, are any of the criticisms actually true?
What are the top vaping myths?
1. Popcorn lungs
Many people say that e-cigarettes cause ‘popcorn lung’ as some flavourings used in e-liquids, to provide a buttery flavour, contain diacetyl, which at high levels of exposure has been associated with the serious lung disease called bronchiolitis obliterans – a disease common among people working in a popcorn factory, hence being coined ‘popcorn lungs’.
However, diacetyl is banned as an ingredient from e-cigarettes and e-liquids in the UK, so it is unlikely to affect e-cigarette users. Not to mention, according to Cancer Research UK, there has been no cases of popcorn lung reported in people who use e-cigarettes.
2. Vaping smoke is harmful to bystanders
It is a given that exposure to second-hand smoke is harmful, which is why the law in the UK prohibits smoking in closed public spaces and workplaces. However, currently, these laws do not cover vaping – it is up to the area or company’s discretion whether it is allowed or not.
E-cigarette liquid is typically composed of nicotine, propylene glycol and/or glycerine, and flavourings, which gets emitted into the atmosphere when vaping, unlike the harmful toxicants found in cigarette smoke. Therefore, it is unsurprising that recent research by Public Health England have found that there are no identified health risks of passive vaping to bystanders. However, those who have asthma and other respiratory conditions can be sensitive, so it is wise to make adjustments where appropriate.
3. E-cigarettes will lead young people to smoking
Many believe that young people experimenting with vaping will lead to them smoking, however a report by Public Health England has found no substantial evidence to support this claim. According to UK surveys, most e-cigarette experimentation does not turn into regular use, and regular usage is rare and confined to those who already smoke and are using it as a way to cut down on cigarettes or quit entirely altogether.
4. E-cigarettes are just as harmful as cigarettes as they contain nicotine
Even though nicotine is the reason people become addicted to smoking, evidence shows that it carries minimal risk of harming your health. Instead, it is actually the hundreds of thousands of chemicals contained in the cigarette smoke that causes most harm. The main danger comes from the inhalation, and exposure to tobacco smoke as it contains a large number of toxicants, such carbon monoxide, which can be highly detrimental to the health of the smoker (not to mention those breathing in second-hand smoke too).
E-cigarettes, on the other hand, do not contain or burn tobacco. Instead, vaping devices heat a solution containing nicotine, flavourings and other additives which deliver nicotine to the user, without containing two of the most harmful ingredients found in tobacco smoke: tar or carbon monoxide.
5. E-cigarettes aren’t regulated
This is a completely incorrect claim as, in actual fact the UK has some of the strictest regulation for e-cigarettes in the world, to ensure people aren’t smoking anything that could be detrimental to their health.
Under the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations 2016, e-cigarette products are subject to minimum standards of quality and safety, as well as packaging and labelling requirements to provide consumers with the information they need to make informed choices. This means all products – from flavoured liquid, a Juul starter kit and e-cigarettes themselves – must be notified by manufacturers and list all information about the ingredients used, to the Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
Despite these negative claims, it is clear that vaping is significantly healthier than smoking cigarettes on a daily basis, and not to mention the cessation rates have been on the increase year on year. Today we are seeing an accelerated drop in smoking rates, and in England we are currently at record low of 15.5% in England – not to mention that e-cigarettes could be contributing to at least 20,000 successful new quits per year and possibly many more, is there any other reason to make the switch?