Comment: Don’t forget e-cigs are far from risk-free

Hand holding an electronic cigarette over a dark background
Hand holding an electronic cigarette over a dark background
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E-CIGARETTES have been a godsend for many smokers. Where good old willpower, nicotine patches, gum and even hypnotism have failed, vaping has for many people been the difference that helped them to kick the habit.

There is growing evidence that not only are e-cigs the single most effective smoking cessation aide we have yet discovered but that they are also far less harmful than smoking regular tobacco cigarettes.

So far, so good, but we mustn’t forget that they are far from risk-free. We don’t yet know the full effect the liquid nicotine typically used in electronic cigarettes has on the smoker. Some studies suggest that they can substantially increase the user’s risk of cancer and the World Health Organisation is among those that remain concerned about their use.

Vaping isn’t good for us. It is useful as a means of quitting smoking tobacco, but unless it is a stepping stone to kicking the habit entirely we are only swapping one damaging habit for another bad but less damaging one.

And if they are not good for the smoker, they are potentially deadly for the growing number of children who get their hands on the liquid nicotine kept in the house by their parents. While a toddler can cause little harm with a packet of cigarettes, they can poison themselves if they get their hands on the electronic version.

So vaping is certainly not something that we want our children to start if we can help it.

The evidence so far is, as the researchers say, inconclusive. Those youngsters who have seen displays in shops and then gone on to try vaping tend to be experimenting and trying it out. Not something we want to encourage, but to some degree perhaps an inevitable part of the process of growing up.

It is too early to say that displays in shops are leading youngsters to pick up the habit, but until we better understand how young people might pick up the habit we should keep a careful eye on this.