Correcting the myths about vaping. Interview

Posted on September 5, 2022 By Colin

MY INTERVIEW TODAY on Triple M radio Newcastle aims to correct some of the common myths about vaping. Vaping is much safer than smoking and is reducing smoking rates in young people.

Tanya: Dr. Colin Mendelsohn is a GP and academic working in tobacco treatment, we thought we'd have a chat to him to find out, well, how bad it is for us because the jury is out with a lot of the kids.

Steve: The constant question as you would well know, the constant question, is it worse, better, the same as smoking?

Colin: Look, the jury is in.

Steve: In?

Colin: Oh, yes, vaping is not harmless. But there's overwhelming scientific agreement it's far less harmful than smoking. And that's what we need to compare it with. Because it is basically a substitute for smoking for adult smokers who can't quit. And, you know, almost all the harm from smoke comes from the 7000 chemicals when you burn tobacco. And when you vape, you’re just heating a liquid into an aerosol and almost all of those chemicals are absent. And those that are there are mostly at a level less than 1% of what they are in smoke. So it's pretty much a no brainer that it is going to be safer than smoking.

Tanya: Okay, but what happens when people take up vaping? Is it is it a doorway to smoking? Or are you seeing a reversal of smoking?

Colin: Look, what we're actually seeing is a reversal of smoking. So I mean, there's always been this theory about gateway, and we’ve had this with marijuana and some other drugs, and it's been debunked. But what we're finding with vaping, is that in countries where vaping is available, smoking rates, including youth smoking rates are falling faster than ever. We're seeing that in the UK, the US and New Zealand. And what we think is happening is vaping, certainly in young people, vaping is actually diverting kids away from smoking.

Steve: Well, again, if that's the case, I think we'd all prefer them to be doing neither. When you talk about those chemicals that are in cigarettes these days verse the vaping, on a pure scientific level I’m going here, well one's better than the other but still you’d rather them do neither.

Tanya: But how do you deter them though, if you're coming on the radio saying, hey, it's, you know, nowhere near as bad, how do you actually deter them? Because I'm sure there is harmful factors in vaping.

Colin: We're how you deter them is a good question. So, all I think we can do with kids is tell them the laws, tell them the facts about vaping without exaggerating the risks, and really, it's going to be their decision. It's just like in the any other intervention.

Steve: Well, actually, you’re dead right, they will decide themselves. Nothing we adults tell them…

Tanya: What can we say as adults though, Colin to say, “It does this to you?” What is the harmful effects of vaping?

Colin: Okay, what's the harm? So if you're a non-smoker, look, there are very rare risks of battery malfunctions and there have been some fires. There's a rare risk of nicotine poisoning if you drink the liquid. You may get a cough, dry mouth, nausea. But serious harmful effects are very rare. There's never been a single death from vaping nicotine in the last 15 years. Whereas 8 million people die from smoking.

Steve: What's interesting you said 15 years because we're all kind of saying, well, it's all new research, therefore people don't know. But if you're talking about 15 years of research.

Colin: These products arrived in a big way in the US in the UK in 2006. So we've had a lot of experience. And there’s now 82 million vapers in the world. And the studies show that when smokers make that switch, they have improved breathing, improved asthma, emphysema, blood pressure, their heart risk reduces, improved gum disease which you get from smoking. So look, if you're a non-smoker you shouldn’t vape. But if you are a smoker it's probably the most effective quitting aid we have. It's a shame to take that away because of these exaggerated concerns about young people.

Tanya: All right, well, we appreciate your time. Thank you so much.

Colin: My pleasure.

Tanya: There’s Dr. Colin Mendelsohn, GP and academic working in tobacco treatment.

Still want more?

Listen to my interview on 7 September 2022 with Mikey and Emma on RNB Radio here.

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