Vaping vs smoking
As far as nicotine replacement therapies go, vapes and e-cigarettes are relative newcomers – yet in a just a few years they have skyrocketed in popularity. In Australia alone, there may be around 240 000 people currently vaping, according to the 2016 Australian census data. But do they work?
The heart surgeon who advocates vaping
According to Dr Gopal Bhatnagar – Cardiac Surgeon and Head of Cardiovascular surgery at Trillium Health Center, Canada – vapes work effectively for many people who have tried patches, gums and sprays unsuccessfully. Dr Bhatnagar also performed the first cardiopulmonary bypass surgery in Canada back in 2004, so he is eminently qualified to provide sound medical advice. In fact, he is a tireless public health advocate in his country.
Politicians cherry-picking data & taking a moral stance against vaping
In October this year, the deputy opposition leader, Tanya Plibersek, declared that nicotine e-cigarettes should be banned due to the lack of clinical evidence for its safety, and that vaping is a “shadow” lobby arm of big tobacco.
The positive clinical evidence for vaping
The trouble is, even a cautious CSIRO report have cited US studies that showed nicotine vaping helped smokers quit, and avoid inhaling the 100 known carcinogens and 900 potential cancer causing chemicals found in tobacco smoke – none of which are found in e-cigarette vapour.
The toxins in vapour are at levels permissible in inhalation medicines, and at concentrations permissible by workplace safety standards. Numerous UK studies have also shown that levels of carcinogens and other harmful chemicals are lower in people who have made the switch from cigarettes to vaping.
Big tobacco didn’t invent vapes or e-cigarettes
As far as big tobacco goes, vaping was developed outside the tobacco industry as an alternative to smoking, and as an aid to help reduce nicotine intake. The modern e-cigarette was developed in 2003 by a Chinese pharmacist Hon Lik whose father, a heavy smoker, died of lung cancer.
Ironically, while the Australian Government continue to debate the legislation of vapes and e-cigarettes, they are in fact allowing big tobacco the opportunity to catch up and “own” the vape market, with a view to keeping vapers hooked on nicotine.
So who should we believe? The politician or the doctor?
Getting back to Dr Bhatnagar – to understand his point-of-view, you need to understand what he does on a daily basis – heart surgery. He has seen the effects and outcomes of combustible tobacco smoke on the cardiovascular health of the patients he operates on – first hand. In short, he has held tobacco smoke damaged hearts in his hands. The medical opinion he advocated on Canadian TV was: “Don’t Smoke! And if you do, do everything to stop!” (CTV National News).
Vaping vs smoking
So why is a heart surgeon saying that vaping is safer than burning tobacco leaves?
Let’s take a quick look at the reasons why Dr Bhatnager advocates the use of vapes (with approved diacetyl-free flavourings) over cigarettes:
- The main ingredient in vape juice is propylene glycol which is a non-toxic food additive.
- Vape juice is not a tobacco product
- The nicotine in vape juice is the same pharmaceutically produced ingredient used in nicotine patches, gums and sprays
- Vaping reduces and/or stops a smoker’s use of carcinogenic combustibles
- Vaping substitutes the hand-to-mouth behaviour and the visual/psychological sensation that smokers are accustomed to.
- The nicotine delivery system via vapes is as effective as patches, gums and sprays.
The long term effects of vaping
No doubt Ms Plibersek is well meaning and has our best interests at heart. And she is right to a degree. Research is limited, and the effects of vaping need to be thoroughly tested and better regulated so that vapes are as safe as possible for the community.
Who knows what happens if you vape for 20 or 30 years? That said, the clinical evidence is showing that vaping is not intrinsically dangerous, and far less harmful than smoking. It should also be noted that vapes were designed to help smokers transition off smoking and nicotine, and not to be used long term.
Millions of Australians still smoke while politicians debate
And let’s not forget the white elephant in the room also – the 2.5 million Australians who continue to smoke cigarettes daily – a habit that is 100 times more toxic than vaping! However, Ms. Plibersek is choosing to focus single-mindedly on the potential risks, while not taking into account the clinically proven benefits of e-cigarettes over smoking!
Another glaring contradiction is that the Government continues to support the legality of one use of nicotine (via smoking), while not supporting another perfectly legitimate use of nicotine (via vaping).
On a final note, the longer the government stalls on the legalisation of nicotine vaping, the longer millions of Australian cigarette smokers continue a toxic habit that that puts them at risk of early mortality, cancer, heart disease, stroke and a number of negative health issues – not to mention the burden on the our health care system.