Vaping: Facts & Thoughts

For those of you who have been living in a cave the past few months in order to survive the winter, vaping is technically inhaling water vapor into the lungs. The term is more commonly in reference to an electronic cigarette. A device heats up nicotine liquid that then turns into water vapor, which you then inhale.

The federal government, specifically the Food and Drug Administration, is concerned about the addictive nature of vaping and how it is being marketed to young people.

But what are the actual facts around vaping?

First, there’s no doubt that vaping is safer for you than smoking tobacco. While both contain nicotine, the particulate matter from tobacco is more harmful than the nicotine from either. (https://academic.oup.com/ntr/article-abstract/21/1/41/4956222?redirectedFrom=fulltext)

Vaping is also an effective means to quit smoking. A recent study (https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1808779) in the New England Journal of Medicine by a British public health researcher demonstrated that vaping was more effective than nicotine replacement treatment for smokers who wanted to stop. In addition, it is easier to quit vaping than smoking, and, as I’ve mentioned, the risks of vaping are also lower than that of smoking. In fact, the British Public Health Service doesn’t even consider vaping to be a serious health risk.

A different study (https://academic.oup.com/ntr/article-abstract/19/2/160/2631650) found that switching to vaping resulted in the same reductions of biomarkers of exposure to hazardous chemicals as quitting all types of smoking altogether. In other words, current smokers who switch to vaping dramatically reduce their health risk.

But what should you as a parent think about vaping?

There’s no doubt that, in an ideal world, your child would neither vape nor smoke. But all parents know that the desire to experiment (not to mention the lack of a frontal lobe) means that you should realistically expect that your child will try something (or perhaps many somethings) that you would prefer them not to try. And if the choice is between vaping and smoking, the clear winner from a health and safety perspective is vaping.

I am the mother of a 20 year old and a 17 year old. My husband and I count ourselves fortunate that they are both great kids with an excellent set of friends. But we are also realistic about the many choices available to them regarding experimental substances, now and in the future. And if they have to experiment, we’d much rather they choose something that, from a health perspective, is the best of an admittedly not ideal set of choices.

Let me be clear—I am not an advocate of vaping. But I would much rather my child vape than smoke (either tobacco or marijuana) or experiment with any other illicit substances. And even there is disagreement about my choices (and reasonable minds can most definitely disagree about this issue), those are my choices for my children. It should be up to each individual family to make its own decision in accordance with that family’s values, not for the government to make that choice on the family’s behalf.

What we as parents need is unfettered access to the facts so that we can make the choice that’s best for our families. What we don’t need is fear-mongering by government agencies and distorted interpretations of the available data by a government who, however well-meaning it may be, wants to substitute its judgment for ours.