Jury is still out on whether ‘vaping’ is the best way to give up the smokes
As a word, vaping has yet to achieve common currency, but it is getting there. Short for vapourising, it describes the process whereby nicotine is inhaled into the body by those who smoke electronic cigarettes.
These e-cigarettes, as they are known, have gone from being a curiosity a couple of years ago to a near-ubiquitous presence in convenience shops and garages.
Increasingly, in pubs and clubs the little red or blue glow of e-cigarettes is replacing what was once the fug of cigarette smoke.
E-cigarettes were first introduced in China in 2004, the same year that Ireland introduced the workplace smoking ban.
As smoking restrictions increase with every passing year around the world, they have become more popular.
The battery-powered devices let users inhale nicotine-infused vapours. These e-cigarettes use a vapour to deliver the nicotine hit to users.
Crucially, there is no tar, carbon monoxide or any of the other chemicals that make cigarettes such a deadly product.
E-cigarettes are not carcinogenic because nicotine, the only relevant agent in them, does not cause cancer.
Because there is no secondhand smoke, they are not banned indoors and they leave no lingering smell. It is hardly surprising then that they are being seized upon by smokers as an alternative to cigarettes.
“I was smoking €5,000 worth of cigarettes a year and I couldn’t afford to keep doing it, not to mention the health effects,” he said. “I know they work. I’d recommend them to anybody. I know somebody who was on 60 a day and hasn’t touched a cigarette since taking them up.”
Cheaper than cigarettes
Kelly estimates that the cost to him from smoking e-cigarettes is 10-15 per cent that of smoking cigarettes. E-cigarettes are much cheaper than cigarettes, though there is anecdotal evidence to suggest the standalone ones which are advertised as the equivalent of 30, 40 or 60 cigarettes do not last anywhere near that length of time.
The Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland advised pharmacies in June 2011 that, in the absence of appropriate regulation, electronic cigarettes should not be offered for sale in pharmacies.
Oncologist Prof John Crown is ambivalent: “I would, generally speaking, be pro-anything that gets people off cigarettes. On an individual basis, I know people who have sworn by them.
‘Nicotine is a toxin’
“I don’t believe they are carcinogenic, but I don’t think they are harmless either. Nicotine is a toxin, but it is not as big a cancer-causing toxin. Nicotine does stuff to your arteries, the speed of your heart and brain function, but it is nowhere in the same area as cigarettes.”
‘On a par with caffeine’
However, electronic cigarettes have found an ally in Prof John Britton who is the director of the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies at the University of Nottingham.
He said recently that nicotine was not a “particularly hazardous drug, it’s probably on a par with caffeine” though he did stress that the lack of standardisation across various e-cigarette manufacturers needed to be dealt with.
The electronic cigarette industry is booming.