Using a vaporiser is known as ‘vaping’. Vaporisers (vapes or e-cigarettes) are battery-powered devices that heat a liquid (usually containing nicotine) into an aerosol for inhalation. Vaping is used as a safer substitute by smokers who are unable or unwilling to quit smoking or nicotine with approved therapies. It is not recommended for non-smokers or young people under 18 years of age.
Vaping is effective because it:
There is growing evidence that vaping has helped many smokers to quit. Millions of smokers have quit overseas with vaping and personal vaporisers are the most popular quitting aid in the UK, US and EU.
Complete cessation of all tobacco and nicotine is always the preferred goal. Where this is not possible, vaping is a form of tobacco harm reduction (THR) which aims to prevent the harm from smoke without necessarily ceasing nicotine.
In Australia in 2016, 1.2% of adults or 240,000 Australians were using a vaporiser, according to the 2017 National Drug Strategy Household Survey. It is legal to use nicotine in a vaporiser in Australia if you have a prescription from a registered Australian doctor.
Vaping is for adult smokers who are unable or unwilling to quit smoking or nicotine with the currently available treatments. It can be especially useful for smokers who miss the hand-to-mouth ritual of smoking and a ‘smoking-like experience’.
Some former smokers continue to vape long-term to avoid relapsing to smoking. Others use vaping devices briefly as a quitting aid, switching to vaping for a time, then ceasing vaping altogether.
Other common reasons for vaping are to reduce cigarette intake, to avoid harm to others from second hand smoke and to save money.
ATHRA strongly discourages the use of vaporisers by non-smokers. Although much less harmful than smoking they are not risk-free. The vapour contains some chemicals which could cause unwanted health effects.
Vaping should also not be used under the age of 18 years or in pregnancy. However, in all situations, it is likely to be much safer than smoking.
E-liquid or e-juice is the liquid solution used in vaping devices. E-liquid generally consists of nicotine and flavourings dissolved in propylene glycol (PG) and vegetable glycerine (VG).
Most beginners use about 2-5 ml daily, so a 30ml bottle lasts 1-2 weeks on average.
Propylene glycol (propane-1,2 diol) is a clear, tasteless liquid found in almost all e-liquids. It is also used in a wide range of products such as foods, asthma inhalers, air disinfectants and food flavorings. Another common use is for making theatre fog in stage productions.
Along with nicotine, PG helps to create the familiar ‘throat hit’ that smokers are used to, which can help make the transition from smoking to vaping easier. PG also helps to carry the flavouring in the e-liquid.
PG is generally regarded as safe but there is limited experience with long term inhalation. Some people can find it irritating in the mouth or lungs and may need to choose e-liquids with lower PG levels. On the other hand, PG has antibacterial properties and may help to reduce infections.
PG is a ‘thin’ liquid and is drawn into the wick more efficiently when you take a puff.
The other ingredient in almost all e-liquids is vegetable glycerine (VG), a clear, sweet tasting liquid. VG is also widely used in pharmaceuticals (such as cough syrups, creams), toothpaste and foods. It is generally regarded as very safe although there is limited information on long-term inhalation.
The main function of VG is to produce a thicker, denser vapour with a smoother feel. The greater the percentage of VG in the liquid, the more vapour is produced.
VG is quite viscous liquid though and does not soak quickly into the wick.
Most e-liquids are based on a combination of PG and VG, expressed as a PG:VG ratio, such as 50:50, 60:40 or 70:30, depending on the percentages of each in the mix.
A good starting ratio is 50:50. People who want big clouds choose more VG. Higher levels of PG give a stronger ‘throat hit’. People who are sensitive to PG, may reduce their PG levels and increase the VG component. The ratio selectd is very much a matter of personal preference.
Many users start with tobacco flavoured e-liquid which more closely resembles a smoking experience. However, over time, most progress to other flavourings such as mint, fruit, sweet, food and beverage flavors. Flavours are usually included in pre-mixed solutions.
Most of the flavouring chemicals are food flavourings and are safe to ingest, but less is known about their safety for inhalation. Some flavors could potentially cause harm from long-term vaping. However, any risk from flavouring chemicals is likely to be much less than from smoking.
Certain chemicals are known to have potential risks and are best avoided. These include
Vaping is substantially cheaper than smoking. Australia has the highest cigarette prices in the world and the tobacco tax is set to rise 12.5% every year on September 2018, 2019 and 2020. A pack-a-day smoker (20 cigarettes) spends $9,125 per year on smoking.
This is not surprising as most of the harm from smoking is due to the tar, carbon monoxide and 7,000 other toxic chemicals produced by burning tobacco. Vaporisers do not contain tobacco and there is no combustion or smoke. According to Public Health England
Whilst some people are more than happy to vape in the privacy of their own homes, others are happy to vape publically and if you are one of those who are happy to flaunt it then there is some VAPE 101 etiquette that you must know!
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