The Truth About Vaping
Vaping is all the rage. You cannot go anywhere nowadays—cafes, malls, restaurants, subways, taxi stands, or night clubs—without seeing its signature white cloud hovering languidly over someone or other. The instruments in which the e-cigarettes are encased have become ever more ornate. Simple metal tubes have been replaced by long, large, gaudy pipes, or, more rarely, well-design objects of good taste and refinement.
E-cigarettes are advertised as a less harmful substitute for traditional cigarettes. As such, they ought to appeal mostly to smokers. However, non-smokers have also taken up vaping—as a kind of fashionable activity. In the last decade, e-cigarettes have not only become a new smoking product but a new cultural fad.
A number of claims and counter-claims have been made regarding the health benefits of vaping. On one side, there are those who say that e-cigs are better for you because they lack the addictive and poisonous substances found in tobacco products. The trouble with this claim is that electronic cigarettes are too new for us to know its long-term effects. A few studies have been published that suggest e-cigarettes are, on balance, safer than tar and nicotine filled cigarettes. But these papers have not withstood the rigorous reviews of experts in the field.
The other side of the debate has been much more confident and effective in its advocacy. They point out that e-cigarettes are not completely free of nicotine, and that they produce a vaporized form of formaldehyde. Inhaling such a carcinogenic gas cannot be good for your health, the nay-sayer claim. And, of course, they are right. Substituting one poison for another is no path to a long and disease-free life. There is also the fact that on most e-cigs users can increase the voltage that ignites the liquid nicotine, allowing them to get a nicotine kick equivalent to that of a normal cigarette.
The promise of e-cigarettes is that they give smokers the feeling of smoking without having to inhale the toxic chemicals of an actual cigarette. They also remove smokers from the pariah status they’ve been forced into over the last couple of decades. Smoking, the products suggest, is cool again; and vaping is a more acceptable form of it.
If you smoke, the idea may appeal to you. Although some public venues have taken a strong stance against vaping—going so far as to post no-vaping signs in their windows—most places have not yet decided whether to allow it on their premises. For the moment, you have as much freedom to vape as our grandfathers had to smoke back in the 50s and 60s.
However, where you vape is not as important as whether you should vape at all. Those who are for and against vaping have offered spotty evidence for their respective positions. No conclusive evidence can be mustered for either set of arguments. Until more time has passed and more systematic studies carried out, it is probably best to let e-cigarettes alone. Save your lungs, your health, and your life.
About Christopher Reid Chris was born in Washington, D.C. and lives in Britain. He works as a blogger, essayist, and novelist. His first book, Tea with Maureen, has just been published.