Is vaping safe?
The history of vaping.
This is a question that gets asked repeatedly and for good reason. Whilst vaping is relatively new in the grand scheme of things, it’s actually still been around for well over 10 years. In that time it’s proved to be a highly volatile market undergoing changes rapidly: new tech, new regulations, new standards etc. Whether or not it is safe is not a subjective question and should be left entirely up to the data, or what data is available to us.
In the early days of vaping before governments could step in and regulate it with well-thought-out legislation, vaping probably wasn’t as safe as it is today – anyone could sell just about anything, and they did in droves! A few years after vaping became a more popular thing, the government amended the TPD (Tobacco Product Directive) to include vaping and e-liquid. It was a strange thing for them to have done but ultimately it needed doing: unregulated products can be dangerous for obvious reasons, if there are no standards to which manufacturers should adhere, then they are free to use and sell whatever is at their disposal. And that often means whatever is cheapest.
The law regarding e-liquid.
The TPD brought strict rules which altered the vaping landscape significantly. Not only was nicotine containing liquid restricted to 10ml and 20mg/ml strength, it had to undergo emissions testing at a laboratory with sufficient tools, then it had to be notified to the MHRA (Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency). This was an expensive and time-consuming endeavor which saw many small companies fold overnight. Other businesses decided it was still very much worth continuing and did exactly that. But more importantly: the emissions testing was used to determine if any of the banned chemicals were present in the product being tested. The list of chemicals which are now forbidden in ejuice are present in tobacco. So how is this fair? Why should we hold eliquid to a much higher standard than tobacco, especially since tobacco is responsible for the deaths of millions of people every year? The answer is actually quite simple and even makes sense: because we should.
It is simple to omit chemicals from the production of eliquid, but much harder if not impossible to remove completely from tobacco. If vaping can be made to be safer than smoking, then it absolutely should be. As the world’s most popular (by an astronomical margin) smoking cessation, it only makes sense that it should be safer.
For example: one chemical which is now banned in vape juice is Diacetyl. A few years ago there was a media hoohaa regarding this chemical and a case regarding a condition called “popcorn lung”. Not only is popcorn lung extremely rare, but it’s diagnosis has never once been attributed directly to smoking. And let’s be clear: Diacetyl is present in tobacco and in concentrations much higher than you would find in Tobacco. Now that the chemical is illegal in nicotine containing eliquid, we can all rest easy about this condition.
There is no easy answer to the question; is vaping safe? And yet the empirical evidence glaringly points to the assumption that it is indeed safer. Not only are carcinogens banned, the way vaping works lends itself to a cleaner, safer inhalation of nicotine. Organic material is not burned, the toxic fumes from which are not inhaled, and the tar produced by burning tobacco does not enter your lungs. That’s not to say that vaping is 100% safe. Is vaping safe? No. Is it safer than smoking? Probably. Not only does the NHS advocate vaping as a safe alternative to smoking, so too does Public Health England. When two authorities such as these giants make an assertion like this, we tend to listen. If we cannot trust them, who can we trust?
Ultimately, and if we believe NHS and PHE (which most of us do) then not vaping is safer than vaping, and vaping is safer than smoking.
There are still unknowns to the equation however, smoking is largely the same for everyone but vaping is very different on an individual level. For example: some vapers will use a disposable vape such as an elf bar, which contains 2.5ml of vape juice and it can take them a few days to drain it. Others will go through 30ml of eliquid in a single day. If we then also consider the myriad different flavours and vape liquid products currently available both on the web and on the high street, it is an eye wateringly diverse market and very few flavours are the same. The one good thing about the TPD is that those TPD registered products will be free of banned ingredients. As per the governments rules regarding e-liquid and banned chemicals:
SUBSTANCES NOT PERMITTED AS INGREDIENTS IN E-LIQUIDS
From the TPD:
- any ingredient that poses a risk to human health in heated or unheated form
- vitamins or other additives that create the impression that a tobacco product has a health benefit or presents reduced health risks;
- caffeine or taurine or other additives and stimulant compounds that are associated with energy and vitality;
- additives having colouring properties for emissions;
- additives that have carcinogenic, mutagenic or reprotoxic (CMR) properties in unburnt form.
From national standards:
- Substances classified as carcinogenic, mutagenic or reprotoxic (CMR categories 1 and 2
- Substances classified with specific target organ toxicity for the respiratory tract (STOT category 1)
- Respiratory sensitizers • Vitamins used as food supplements
- Stimulant additives such as caffeine or taurine
- Pentane 2,3 dione
- Diethylene glycol
- Ethylene glycol
- Metals, including cadmium, chromium, iron, lead, mercury and nickel
- Preservatives liable to release formaldehyde.
You can find the full document here:
Rather than asking the question: “is vaping safe?” perhaps we should ask: “Should I vape”. The answer to this question very much depends on your situation. If you don’t smoke, then logic dictates that would be a bad idea. If you smoke and you want to quit, it could be the answer you’ve been looking for all this time.
Vaping can be an incredible thing: no smoke, great flavours, great value, (So long as you shop at Drip Hacks!). It’s an incredible market with lots to offer and it can sometimes seem overwhelming. What’s for sure though – it’s very popular and with good reason, it’s come leaps and bounds since it’s inception over a decade ago and is now safer than ever according to the strict rules of the TPD.
Is vaping safe: NO. It is not without some health risk. Is vaping safer than smoking? This is actually a complicated question without a clear-cut answer since there are so many variables. If you could only buy one type of vape device and one type of eliquid it would be much easier to answer. We firmly believe it is safer however and as mentioned so too does PHE and the NHS.