Vape: Up in smoke

Published Nov 12, 2016, 12:10 am IST
Updated Jun 8, 2018, 3:20 pm IST
With claims of helping to quit smoking, vape is the new ‘in’ thing for millennials. But Doctors think otherwise.
E-cigarettes or vapes are quite a hot commodity right now and apparently, the easiest way to quit smoking.
 E-cigarettes or vapes are quite a hot commodity right now and apparently, the easiest way to quit smoking.

We’ve seen Hollywood stars like Leonardo DiCaprio not-so-secretly puffing on them, or heard rumours of Ranbir Kapoor using it to help kick his smoking habit. These e-cigarettes or vapes are quite a hot commodity right now and apparently, the easiest way to quit smoking. Just last week, the hashtag #VapeWithBenefits was trending on Twitter rooting for people to replace their smoking habit with vaping, since it contains no tobacco. Instead, they come in different flavoured liquids — that still contain nicotine and glycerine — and with the help of a handheld electronic device, it creates vapours that are inhaled, recreating the feeling of smoking.

City socialite Ambita Chenai, who began smoking e-cigarettes six years ago, picked up the habit to quit smoking regular cigarettes. “The transition to e-cigarettes was literally overnight. I had tried the pill, the patch, the gum... none of it worked. It’s a healthier option — I’m not saying it’s 100 per cent safe, but when you look at the alternative, it’s a much safer option,” she says. Aryan Sharma, a 32-year-old audio consultant who used to smoke 10 packs of cigarettes a week, adds, “My friend suggested I go with a higher nicotine content liquid first and then bring it down. Within a week, I had cut down my smoking by half,” he says, adding that he now only smokes one cigarette every two days.

However, medical experts believe that even with the lack of tobacco, the fact that nicotine is present in the liquids themselves is worrisome. Dr Sandeep Raj Bharma, Consultant Pulmonologist at Care Hospitals, says, “It may be less harmful than cigarettes, but we still don’t know how safe they are. It contains nicotine and propylene glycol, and it could lead to accidental nicotine poisoning. Even if some don’t contain nicotine, they contain carcinogens like PG and glycerine. It normalises smoking behaviour, and it could reverse social norms about the harms of smoking.”

Paul Jebakumar, 32, an MNC employee who tried vaping to quit his smoking habit, says that vaping made him feel worse. “Right after I quit vaping, my consumption of cigarettes went up. I also found that glycerine is harmful. It gave me throat ache and my coughing was a lot more than what it was when I was smoking cigarettes,” Paul says, adding that quitting cigarettes cold turkey, helped him the best. “E-cigarettes may not have other carcinogens, but it still has nicotine which is one of the main things to worry about.

“Non-smokers also could get addicted to it through vaping, and since (the habit of) e-cigarettes are costly, they will choose normal cigarettes,” warns Dr Prasanna Kumar Reddy, pulmonologist at Apollo Hospitals. For now, vaping may be the lesser evil, but even international drug regulators agree that the long-term effects of vaping are not fully understood, and needs to be researched about a lot more.