As any smoker who has tried quitting tobacco for more than a couple of days will tell you, it isn’t easy. Evidence for the effectiveness of cessation treatments such as nicotine patches and gum is fairly weak, with these methods showing only modest success rates, and most users will have to try quitting a few times before it sticks. In the meantime, figuring out effective harm-reduction methods in users currently unable or unwilling to quit is important to minimise the amount of damage being done. Most people know by now that smoking is uniquely deadly – tobacco smoke contains around 7000 chemicals, many of which are toxic. For that reason, tobacco use is the cause of millions of preventable deaths each year globally from lung cancer, heart disease and other life-threatening illnesses.
So, how do we reduce harm? Vaping is increasingly seeming like a good option. That applies in particular to smokers suffering from respiratory issues – that includes several forms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema. What these diseases have in common is that they affect the narrow passages (known as bronchioles and bronchiole tubes) which carry air to and from the air sacs in the lungs, causing coughing, shortness of breath, tightness in the chest and other symptoms. That happens when cigarette smoke destroys air sacs known as alveoli and causes inflammation of the airways in the lungs. While these conditions are progressive, they can be managed with proper treatment. While the best thing to do for these conditions is to quit smoking immediately, quitting "cold turkey" can be too difficult for many people. Vaping whilst reducing the nicotine content of chosen e-liquids can be a preferable solution as it helps the user slowly reduce their nicotine dependency.
Why is vaping better than smoking? The answer is pretty simple: vaping doesn’t burn tobacco and therefore doesn’t produce tar or carbon monoxide – two of the most dangerous byproducts of smoking. Vaping produces a vapour which contains nicotine; although nicotine is the addictive component in tobacco smoke, by itself it’s relatively harmless. While we can’t say for sure that vaping is 100% safe, it’s almost universally accepted that it’s much less harmful than tobacco – a study commissioned by Public Health England found vaping to be 95% less harmful. Research points to that being true for respiratory issues, too – in one study which began in 2015 and was published in 2020, researchers took 22 COPD patients who switched to vaping and measured them against a group of COPD patients who continued to smoke conventional cigarettes. After observing them for 5 years, they found a number of COPD flare-ups had been cut in half in the cohort which switched to vaping, while the group which continued to smoke didn’t see any relief from their symptoms.
If someone is considering a switch from cigarettes to vaping, it’s a good thing for their respiratory health. If you suffer from respiratory issues and are considering making the change, it’s important to consider that you’re making a switch to a vape that works for you – one of the most important factors in preventing relapse. For heavy smokers, that might consist of using a vape tank and an e-liquid with a higher nicotine content – rather than a low powered e-cigarette which a heavy smoker might not find to be a suitable replacement. There’s plenty of information online on to help you figure out which vapes are most likely to work for you, depending on how much you smoke – just make sure you’re taking your information from trusted sources.