Ever since the emergence of vaping within popular culture, debates regarding its potential health impacts have been a recurring theme. An assessment by Public Health England in 2015 suggests that vaping is likely 95% less damaging to health than conventional tobacco cigarettes.
This conclusion has been corroborated by annual reviews since then, including the most recent report released on 29th September 2022. This led to the UK government introducing vaping initiatives to support individuals seeking to quit smoking. Despite this convincing evidence, understanding the long-term repercussions of vaping remains incomplete.
The lack of definitive data primarily stems from disparate information. A significant proportion of vaping trial subjects are ex-smokers, leading to difficulty in distinguishing health problems originating from previous smoking habits versus those potentially caused by vaping. This predicament has been emphasised in several reports, including the one cited above.
EDGE Vaping delves into the effect of vaping on lung health, the prospect of recovery, and the necessity of consulting a medical professional.
Will Vaping Harm My Lungs?
There is still no certainty; growing evidence indicates that vaping could be a safer alternative to tobacco, endorsed by various UK authorities such as the NHS, as a tool for smoking cessation. Nevertheless, it is critical to recognise that the inhalation of any substance apart from air is likely to invoke some negative impacts.
Like air pollution and cigarette smoking, vaping introduces unnatural chemicals into our lungs. While data suggests that vaping is less harmful than smoking, due to the multiple known carcinogens it contains, it does not equate to vaping being entirely risk-free. Hence, individuals who have never smoked or vaped are strongly dissuaded from starting.
Several health concerns related to vaping have been raised, including conditions like ’popcorn lung’ and lung disease. However, these problems are often context-specific and do not typically pertain to mainstream vaping products. The harm usually results from individuals creating their e-liquids or procuring from less regulated markets such as the USA.
In the UK, compliance with the Tobacco and Related Products Regulation (TRPR) ensures that harmful ingredients frequently found in flavourings are banned, and all vape liquids meant for sale must receive approval from the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
Despite these regulations offering some assurance regarding the safety of UK vaping products, it’s pivotal to recognise the potential risks of inhaling any substance apart from the air.
Our comprehensive understanding of how vaping impacts lung health remains a work in progress. Some studies suggest potential hindrances to recovery from infections and exacerbation of pre-existing conditions.
Can I Recover From Lung Damage Caused by Vaping?
Providing a precise answer to this question is complex due to our limited understanding of long-term lung damage resulting from vaping. Both professional and anecdotal evidence often contradicts, resulting in the general public struggling to find clear-cut answers.
Jatish Shah, Director of Shah Deaddiction & Rehabilitation Service Centre, indicates that lungs can recuperate after quitting vaping, with notable improvements observed within days to months. Nonetheless, serious conditions such as emphysema or lung cancer may be irreversible. There’s no definitive proof linking vaping to these severe health problems, partially due to the difficulty in separating data between former smokers and vapers.
Stephen Broderick, a US-based lung surgeon at John Hopkins Medical, underscores the knowledge gap concerning the short and long-term effects of vaping and the specific e-cigarette components responsible for potential harm.
However, it’s important to bear in mind that Mr Broderick’s observations may not wholly pertain to UK vapers due to the UK’s more stringent safety regulations that have outlawed toxic chemicals in vape liquids.
Cancer Research UK admits that e-cigarettes are a relatively new commodity, making it premature to determine their long-term health consequences. However, they also state that numerous studies suggest that vaping is considerably less harmful than smoking due to the absence of cancer-inducing tobacco and significantly lower quantities of toxic chemicals.
While e-cigarettes carry some risks and may cause side effects, these usually subside over time with continued use. However, their long-term effects remain a grey area.
Consult Your GP
If you’re vaping and encountering new symptoms such as coughing, wheezing or chest pain, it’s vital to seek guidance from your healthcare provider. They are best positioned to provide advice regarding your health.
Similarly, if you’re contemplating quitting smoking and considering vaping as a potential aid, it’s imperative to discuss this with your GP before making any decisions. If needed, the NHS Stop Smoking Service can provide assistance in formulating your quit smoking plan.