Since the long-term consequences are unknown if you’re vaping you’re essentially a guinea pig for one of the biggest experiments in history…

This is according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa (HSFSA).

Professor Pamela Naidoo, CEO of the HSFSA says that we simply don’t know the long-term effects of vaping.

Vaping is a gamble

This is evident in the many different views on vaping: It’s banned outright in some countries, but accepted, and even promoted as an effective and ‘safe enough’ method to quit smoking by other national health systems.

The reason for these divergent views is that, at this time, vaping is a gamble. Studies haven’t been able to run long enough to be conclusive. The long-term consequences are unknown and unknowable. Vaping may turn out to be healthier than smoking, but it could turn out to be worse.

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“There are a number of good reasons why the HSFSA, as one of the country’s leading health organisations has taken up the anti-vaping cause,” Naidoo says. “What the evidence from a number of short-term studies has shown is that vaping is very far from risk-free. Smokers who want to stop, have healthier alternatives available to them.”

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Cancer-causing chemicals in vaper

Exhaled aerosol clouds contain cancer-causing chemicals such as aldehydes that are potentially dangerous to everyone around vapers, Naidoo says. Vaping is also largely funded by big tobacco, an industry built on exploiting the addictiveness of nicotine, putting people’s health at high risk and creating one of the major causes of disease and death in the world.

“Worldwide, there is a significant investment in the marketing of e-cigarettes and vaping culture especially through social media channels with high youth appeal. Vaping is no longer simply being used as a method to stop smoking, but is fast becoming the common way to introduce people who have never smoked cigarettes, particularly young people, to a lifetime of nicotine addiction.”

What we do know about vaping

We might not know the long-term consequences of vaping, but there are some evidence-based facts that we all need to know about vaping:

  • Vape clouds are not water vapour – Vape juices contain a variety of chemicals which form compounds when exposed to heat and turn into an aerosol which is then exhaled. It’s not water vapour. It’s an aerosol cloud of unknown chemical compounds, as every vape juice contains different and largely unregulated elements.
  • Nicotine has health impacts – Apart from being highly addictive (addiction adversely affects mental health), nicotine also has physical impacts. It is toxic at high levels. Even at non-toxic levels, nicotine is known to increase blood pressure and restrict blood flow throughout your body. Due to this, nicotine has been linked to hair loss, gum disease, dry, saggy, wrinkly skin, and erectile dysfunction. Nicotine can put you at risk of hypertension and vascular damage, which in turn increase your vulnerability to stroke and heart disease.
  • Vaping increases the risks of halitosis and gum disease – Vape juices contain propylene glycol which, along with nicotine, reduces saliva. We need healthy levels of saliva to wash away bacteria in the mouth. This leaves vapers vulnerable to having bad breath and increasing the risks of gingivitis and periodontitis.
  • Vaping decreases the expression of 358 genes related to immune function – A recent study¹ found that smoking cigarettes decreases the gene expression of 53 genes that play a part in fighting viruses and bacteria. Vaping affects an astonishing 358 of them. What’s scary is that we have no idea what this actually means yet.
  • Vaping is likely to increase the risks of cancers – Vape juices contain a variety of solvents such as glycerine and propylene glycol, as well as metallic particles such as chromium, cadmium and lead. When heated, they form new, unknown compounds, which are likely to be cancer-causing aldehydes.

Do you believe the South African government should ban e-cigarettes?

The HSFSA includes the research² of Professor Richard van Zyl-Smit of the Division of Pulmonology and Lung Institute at the University of Cape Town in its anti-vaping campaign. His research shows that e-cigarettes have not been shown to be safe or effective in quitting smoking.

“They contain nicotine, which is toxic and addictive, and tobacco companies are selling them. How can they be good?” Van Zyl-Smit says.

“The e-cigarette industry needs to be tightly regulated, and independent assessment of the harms needs to be made, or we risk replacing one evil for another. E-cigarettes may be less dangerous than tobacco, but given that tobacco kills 50% of its users, what would not be safer?”

The decline in teen smoking has sadly been reversed thanks to e-cigarettes, Naidoo adds, and could be creating a generation of health problems not yet known to us.

“It has become imperative to educate ourselves on the possible effects of vaping, not only to protect our health, but that of future generations who are rapidly taking up vaping. Our health, and that of our children, is far too precious to gamble away in an experiment.”

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For support to stop smoking and vaping, contact the Heart and Stroke Health Line 0860 1 4278 or National Quit Line / National Council Against Smoking 011 720 3145.