Vaping: harmless trend or toxic habit?

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The vaping phenomenon has increased over recent years; you don’t seem to be able to walk down a street without being in cased in a cloud of flavoured smoke, although this is preferred to inhaling second-hand cigarette smoke. We have to ask ourselves are we just swapping one harmful toxin for another? With some many unknowns about the adverse side-effects of vaping and e-cigarettes on the body and the Public Health England (PHE) recently given the green light e-cigarettes, we delve deeper into the vaping trend.

Public Health England (PHE) has published a new independent evidence review on e-cigarettes advising anyone who is having trouble quitting smoking to switch to e-cigarettes and seek professional help. This they claim is the best possible combination in order to quit smoking.

“Our new review reinforces the finding that vaping is a fraction of the risk of smoking, at least 95 per cent less harmful, and of negligible risk to bystanders,” said Professor John Newton, Director for Health Improvement at PHE.

Different forms of vaping and e-cigarettes have been around since Joseph Robinson first came up with the idea in 1927; however it wasn’t until the mid-2000’s that the trend really took off. A new wave of millennials and the use of social media are feeding the vaping craze, many of whom are still in school, have turned it into a competition making shapes and forms from the smoke.

Schools are struggling to cope with the up rise in school children vaping .the majority of schools have issued a ban on vaping and e-cigarettes and whilst you rarely see a child light a cigarette today as was the fashion 10-15 years ago, it seems this new craze of vaping is bigger especially with the epidemic of social media.

There are many different forms and flavourings of the vaping kits, from e-liquids vaporizers which have a cartridge or tank to a dry herb vaporizer which has a heating chamber.  The e-juice or e-liquids also come with different amounts of nicotine in them.

There have been numerous studies since the release of vapes in and only now beginning to learn how vaping can affect your health.

One of the most recent studies conducted by Moon-Shong Tang, professor of environmental medicine at New York University, said the DNA changes were similar to those linked to second-hand smoke, but added that more work was needed to see whether vaping really did increase cancer rates.

The study showed that large quantities of e-cig vapour raised levels of DNA damage to the lungs, bladders and hearts of mice.

They also found that the molecular machinery cells use to repair this DNA damage was less effective in the lungs of mice exposed to e-cig vapour.

Then they looked at how nicotine, the chemical that e-cigs vaporise, affects human lung and bladder cells grown in a lab dish.

The researchers found that nicotine damages the DNA inside those lab-grown human lung and bladder cells. And they found that these cells were less able to repair this damage. These cells were then more susceptible to further genetic faults that could give them properties like those of cancer cells.

The researchers described their results as: “It is therefore possible that e-cigarette smoke may contribute to lung and bladder cancer, as well as heart disease, in humans.”

While this is technically possible, the study didn’t look at humans, and so didn’t show any effect on the health of humans.

E-cigarettes are a relatively new technology and so we can’t be certain about any long-term effects the devices might cause to health – they haven’t been around long enough for this to be completely worked out. But compared to smoking, the evidence so far shows they are less harmful and for some a helpful tool to quit smoking.