14 Apr 2022

New research reveals dangers of vapes, e-cigarettes

From Checkpoint, 5:39 pm on 14 April 2022

Vaping or e-cigarettes are a gateway to traditional smokes, according to new Australian research.

A team at the Australian National University reviewed the results of close to 200 studies. It concluded non-smokers who vape are three times as likely to take up regular smokes than those who do not.

Vapes can deliver nicotine by heating a liquid and turning it into a fine spray for inhalation rather than burning tobacco like regular smokes.

But lead researcher Professor Emily Banks said bottom line, vapes are harmful. 

“We reviewed the global evidence about e-cigarettes and the bottom line is that they're harmful for non-smokers and particularly for young people. 

“We found they increase the risk of addiction, poisoning, injuries and burns, lung injury, and one of the other problems we've got is we don't know what they do to a lot of major health conditions like cancer and cardiovascular disease.” 

That was when compared with not smoking at all, she said. 

“When we look at the issue for smokers, we find there's limited evidence that they help smokers to quit. 

“But what we would see in that group is, but for those people who can't quit by any other means, then using e-cigarettes to quit smoking promptly and completely may well be beneficial.” 

Her team reviewed 25 studies from around the world and “every single one of those studies showed that non-smokers who use e-cigarettes are more likely to go on to become smokers than non-smokers who don't use these cigarettes. 

“It may not actually be causal, but even when you account for those kind of behavioral factors, we still see an increased risk of taking up smoking and it's of the order of three fold. 

“So every single one of those 25 studies showed a significant increase in the risk that non-smokers would take up smoking if they used e-cigarettes.” 

Australian data showed the use of vapes and e-cigarettes was more concentrated in young people, she said. 

The most common age group was 18 to 24. 

"Then it gradually diminishes and older people are much less likely to use e-cigarettes.” 

E-cigarettes delivered a wide range of chemicals, Banks said. 

Closeup detail of Female with an Electronic Cigarette, Horizontal shot

Photo: 123RF

“There are standard chemicals in them. Propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, offering nicotine and often flavorings, and the latest toxicological analysis of what's in them found over 243 different chemicals.  

“Some of those chemicals include ones known to be harmful. Other ones often have chemicals we don't really know what they do, so there are over 16,000 flavours in e-cigarettes and a number of those flavours we know are safe when you eat them, whereas e-cigarettes heat them to a high temperature and then you inhale them. So there are uncertainties about what those chemicals do.” 

The study found the majority of smokers who quit successfully did so without any aid. 

For people who could not quit by those means such as medication, e-cigarettes were a reasonable alternative for people who were informed about the risks and benefits, Banks said. 

“We're not suggesting that from this report that they be outlawed, and in fact the whole point about this report is it's a review of the evidence for the community to make decisions about what to do.”