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Saturday, 20 June 2015

Is vaping good or bad?

Some very clever chemist invented the e-cigarette. This is a battery-operated device, the same size as a cigarette, which uses a heating element to vaporise a dose of nicotine. You then breathe that in, and that gives you your nicotine fix.

I'm not a smoker, never have been. But I know smokers, and they tell me that it's very, very difficult to give it up; the problem is the craving for nicotine, So why do they want to give it up? Because cigarettes can make you very ill, or kill you. However, it isn't the nicotine that does the damage, it's the tar, the smoke, and the other junk that you inhale deep inside your lungs which aren't designed to deal with this.

So if you switch from smoking cigarettes, to e-cigarettes, you reap huge health benefits. But what about the people around you? What about passive vaping?

Well, I'm pretty sceptical about the damage done by passive smoking; I think the air would have to be heavily smoky, and long term, to make much difference. I don't like to be close to a smoker, though; the smell is horrible, and I prefer to move away. So I'm happy with a ban on indoor smoking, and I certainly wouldn't let anyone smoke in my house or my car. So, on the whole, I support an indoors smoking ban.

Vaping? I don't know. What is coming out of the device is mostly water vapour, but also the flavouring, glycerin and propylene glycol, and perhaps some nicotine. Water vapour is harmless, but I wouldn't want to be breathing in large amounts of nicotine. However, research has shown that the amount of nicotine you get from passive vaping, it really tiny, which isn't surprising. Why? Because, think about it. To get a sufficient dose of nicotine, the vaper inhales the whole amount into her lungs. But the passive vaper, is inhaling something diluted by a roomful of air. So the answer is, maybe, but certainly not as bad as passive smoking.

Another issue, is, does vaping lead to smoking? Is it a "gateway" drug? If someone takes up vaping, will that lead them on to smoking? I don't think so; I don't see why it would. Smoking is massively more expensive, and everyone knows about the health risks. Whereas, we do know that smokers turn to vaping as a good way to give up the more harmful and expensive habit of smoking.

So should vaping be discouraged, or banned in enclosed public places? Well, this depends on how harmful passive vaping is. So maybe more research is needed. Here's a proposal.

We want an experimental group and a control group. In the experimental group, we'd discourage vaping, on the grounds of "gateway" and "passive". This would lead to fewer people giving up smoking (and therefore more deaths and illness), sadly, but we must make sacrifices to arrive at truth. In the control group, we wouldn't discourage or regulate vaping.

It would, of course, be grossly unethical to force a group of people to be our experimental group and suffer in health as a result. We couldn't do that, in good conscience, to a group of people.

However, the Welsh are about to do it to themselves.

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