The health risks of cigarette smoking have been recognised for many years. Most of these risks are thought to be related to the many components of cigarette smoke other than nicotine, but it is the nicotine that gets people hooked on cigarettes. Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), particularly in the form of patches but also in the form of lozenges and chewing gum, has been shown to be a useful supplement to will power in those struggling to kick the cigarette habit. Then along came so-called e-cigarettes and the phenomenon of “vaping”.
E-cigarettes work by heating and creating a vapour from a solution that generally contains nicotine; propylene glycol and/or glycerine; and flavourings. Research shows that e-cigarettes can help people stop smoking. The problem is that many users of e-cigarettes (vapers) are not actually interested in using the devices to combat their nicotine dependency.
It is now 10 years since the ban on smoking in public places came in in England. UK sales of vaping products have now reached £1bn per year and it is estimated they will exceed £2bn per year by 2020! The tobacco companies have recognised the potential profits in vaping and are moving into the business themselves.
Current evidence, including the latest Cochrane Collaboration report, suggest that vaping has no serious side effects and there is little doubt that these devices are much, much safer than cigarettes. However, vaping is a relatively new phenomenon, and it may turn out that inhaling these vapours over many years has effects on the lungs that are completely unsuspected at present.
Why humans feel the need to expose their brains (and other organs) to nicotine is a mystery to me. But then addiction is a strange thing…