Vaping and our Health: What The Experts Say

Last fact-checked 15 January 2021 | Report a factual error on this article

There’s a lot of misinformation out there about vaping, and it can be hard to separate truth from fiction. That’s why this week, I thought it would be helpful to look at exactly what the UK medical experts have to say about vaping and our health.

In this article, we’ll show you what Public Health England, the NHS and other trusted British medical institutions have to say about the relative risks and harms of vaping. We’ll also take a look at some specific examples, like vaping’s impact on coronavirus, pregnancy and mental health. 

Quick Links

    Vaping versus Tobacco: what the PHE have to say

    According to Public Health England (PHE), there is “...growing evidence that e-cigarettes are helping” the UK to achieve the second lowest smoking rate in Europe. Just take a look at this video, produced by Public Health England, which gives a really good overview of the risk profile of e-cigarettes compared to tobacco:

     

    The NHS View: What smoking does to your organs

    We might have the second-lowest smoking rate in Europe, but smoking is still the number one killer in England. According to the NHS, tobacco smoke harms almost every part of your body, including your stomach, your skin and even your bones. The good news is that, when you stop smoking, almost every part of your body will benefit.  

    The NHS provide a fairly comprehensive list of what tobacco does to your body on this advice page, but here’s a quick summary of what it does to just your brain, lungs and heart...


    YOUR BRAIN

    Smoking:
    According to the NHS, smoking “increases your risk of having a stroke by at least 50%, which can cause brain damage and death. And, by smoking, you double your risk of dying from a stroke.” This is, in part, because of what smoking does to your blood vessel walls — they “can rupture or burst which will lead to an extremely serious condition known as a subarachnoid haemorrhage, which is a type of stroke, and can cause extensive brain damage and death.”


    Vaping:
    If you can stop smoking, with or without the help of an e-cigarette, your risk of stroke reduces dramatically. The NHS says that “within two years of stopping smoking, your risk of stroke is reduced to half that of a smoker and within five years it will be the same as a non-smoker.” Nicotine is an addictive substance, but the NHS say that “Most people using NRT products do not become dependent on them.” Footnote 1

    YOUR LUNGS

    Smoking:
    The NHS say that smoking can cause “coughs, colds, wheezing and asthma,” as well as fatal diseases like “pneumonia, emphysema and lung cancer”. They go on to say that “Smoking causes 84% of deaths from lung cancer and 83% of deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).”


    Vaping:
    In late 2019, reports out of the United States linked vaping with some very serious (fatal) lung diseases. Public Health England investigated this straight away, and found that the deaths could all be linked to cannabis vaping, which is illegal in the UK.

    In a report titled “Vaping and lung disease in the US: PHE’s advice”, the PHE said “We are as certain as ever that e-cigarettes are far less harmful than smoking, which kills almost 220 people in England every day.” You can read the full PHE statement here.

    YOUR HEART

    Smoking:
    According to the NHS, “smoking doubles your risk of having a heart attack, and if you smoke you have twice the risk of dying from coronary heart disease”. The NHS also says that smoking increases your risk of…

    • coronary heart disease
    • heart attack
    • Stroke
    • peripheral vascular disease (damaged blood vessels)
    • cerebrovascular disease (damaged arteries that supply blood to your brain).

    Vaping:
    If you have a pre-existing heart condition and you vape e-liquid that contains nicotine, you need to be careful. The NHS says that nicotine — in any form — has the power to increase your blood pressure and heart rate.

    For most people with heart disease, the NHS say that Nicotine Replacement Therapy is safe, but if you have any concerns, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor first. Footnote 2

    If you have a moment, it’s worth reading the British Heart Foundation’s report on Vaping too. The BHF say that, while there are early signs that vaping is relatively harmless, more research on the impact of vaping on the heart is needed.


    Vaping & Coronavirus: What our Universities think

    We’ve all heard the rumour that your chances of getting coronavirus are higher if you vape. We’ve looked into this, and the truth is that nobody knows if there’s a link between coronavirus and vaping (...or any other lifestyle factor for that matter). There hasn’t been any research on vaping and coronavirus outcomes yet, but an alliance of UK universities have come together to put this right.

    The COVIDENCE UK Research Study is being carried out by “doctors, scientists, public health specialists and health economists” from some of the UK’s leading universities. If you have a few minutes, you should take the survey.

    You don’t need to have had the virus to participate in the study - you just fill in the form, and the research team then contact you once a month to ask you about recent symptoms, lifestyle habits and so on. The results will be peer-reviewed and reported as soon as possible:

    https://www.qmul.ac.uk/covidence/

    Vaping, pregnancy and mental health

    The mental health benefits of quitting smoking are well-documented (just take a look at this page on the NHS website). The same goes for pregnancy (the NHS explain the benefits of quitting tobacco if you’re pregnant on this web page). Quitting smoking is not the same as vaping, of course, and we shouldn’t mistake one for the other. We need to know much more about how vaping, on its own, affects pregnant women and people with mental health conditions. 

    The PHE has taken a look at these two groups of people. They released a report as recently as spring 2020, which basically came to the conclusion that we need more research in this area. Footnote 3 You can read the full report here. 

    In summary…

    It’s perfectly natural to be concerned about the health risks of vaping if you’re not a doctor yourself. A lot of the information out there (especially from US-based websites) just isn’t backed up by rigorous academic research and scientific studies. Hopefully the information we’ve shared this week — which only quotes UK medical experts and institutions, by the way — will put your mind at rest. 

    If you want to quit smoking and you still have doubts, talk to your doctor. Tell them that you want to quit smoking, and ask them for their professional opinion on vaping and how it might affect you as an individual. Your local GP might not be a specialist on vaping, but they are a medical expert on you. Your doctor knows you and your unique medical situation better than anyone else.

    Stay safe and happy vaping!

     - John Boughey


    Links & Citations

    Footnote 1:

    See “Myth 9: Nicotine replacement products are as addictive as smoking“ on the page below:
    https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/quit-smoking/10-myths-about-stop-smoking-treatments/ 

    Footnote 2:

    See “Myth 8: I've had a heart attack so I can't use NRT“ on the page below:
    https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/quit-smoking/10-myths-about-stop-smoking-treatments/

    Footnote 3:

    See chapters 5 and 6 of the PHE report, “Vaping in England: an evidence update including mental health and pregnancy, March 2020”, below:
    https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/869401/Vaping_in_England_evidence_update_March_2020.pdf

    0 comments

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *