Vaping: Where there’s smoke, there’s fireFeatured Products Promotional Features
Posted by: The Probe 5th March 2020
Love it or hate it, vaping has taken the world by storm since it was invented in 2003 by Chinese pharmacist, Hon Lik. The introduction of the smoking ban in 2007, which prohibited smoking in enclosed public spaces, has no doubt played a key role in the upsurge of vaping, as has many Brit’s growing interest in ‘getting healthy’. People are living longer, cigarette smoking and drinking rates have fallen, and younger generations are more health conscious than previous cohorts.
It also helps that vaping is considered by many to be less harmful than smoking – particularly here in the UK where there is a proper regulatory system in place for nicotine containing e-cigarettes. Indeed, unlike countries such as the US where there have been cases of lung disease and oil-like substances found in vapers’ lungs,[i] the UK has been extremely stringent with e-cigarette use. As such, e-cigarettes are thought to be 95% less harmful than tobacco.[ii] That’s good news for those who have already taken up vaping as a way of quitting smoking, and will no doubt prove to be a key driving factor for others looking to kick the habit.
As it stands, 54.1% of current vapers are ex-smokers, with a recent study showing that smoking cessation accounts for 31% of e-cigarette use. A further 20% attribute relapse prevention as the reason for taking up vaping, while 21% of current smokers claim that they use e-cigarettes to help cut down. Together with the fact that vaping can work out cheaper, it’s no surprise that the number of vapers in the UK has risen by 12.5% in just one year to 3.6 million people.[iii]
What’s interesting is that vaping is least prevalent among young adults – contrary to what some news reports would have you believe. Indeed, recent research shows that just 4.3% of 18 to 24-year olds use e-cigarettes, while the highest rates of use are among 35 to 44-year olds.iii This may come as a surprise to some of you given past trends and attitudes towards smoking, but the reality is that smoking – whether it’s cigarettes or e-cigarettes – simply doesn’t carry the same enigma as it once did. In fact, it’s quite the opposite, with a recent study showing that just 1% of young people who admitted to trying vaping did so because they thought it looked cool.[iv]
In light of this, it is clear that older cohorts may need extra attention moving forward, because while vaping is generally considered to be safer, it is not without its risks. The extent to which e-cigarettes can impact oral health is still being investigated, as vaping is still very much in its infancy compared to cigarette smoking, and it can sometimes be difficult to gauge accurate results in studies if participants partake in multiple forms of smoking. Still, there is sufficient enough evidence to warrant caution, and the profession should be taking the necessary action to protect patients against possible harmful effects.
According to a recent study, one possible outcome of vaping is periodontal disease triggered by changes in cellular activity. This study also found that there is a strong association between e-cigarettes and an impaired inflammatory immune response and fibrosis of the oral submucosa,[v] suggesting that the risks are actually extremely significant.
However, it’s not just periodontal health that is at stake. Certainly, other research implies that vaping puts users at a greater risk of developing dental caries, as many e-cigarette liquids have similar physio-chemical properties as high-sucrose, gelatinous candies and acidic drinks.[vi] Not to mention that there have been cases of oral and facial trauma caused by e-cigarette malfunctions, although it is important to note that these incidences have occurred mostly in America where regulations are less rigorous.
Yet even without the potential risk of malfunctions, there’s a lot to contend with. Therefore, it’s important that patients are equipped to deal with these potential threats. That includes providing them with the right knowledge, as many vapers might not necessarily be aware of the risks that smoking e-cigarettes can pose to their oral health, nor the actions that can be taken to mitigate these risks.
Patients’ needs are constantly evolving and with vaping comes a range of new complications that will need to be dealt with by professionals moving forward. At the very least, the profession can rejoice in falling smoking rates and the eradication of health problems that go along with it.
[i] Sky News. ‘Vaping in the UK continues to grow as fears about safety increase’. Published 24 September 2019. Accessed online 19 December 2019 at https://news.sky.com/story/vaping-in-the-uk-continues-to-grow-as-fears-about-safety-increase-11818201
[ii] Public Health England. E-cigarettes around 95% less harmful than tobacco estimates landmark review. Published 19 August 2015. Accessed online 19 December 2019 at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/e-cigarettes-around-95-less-harmful-than-tobacco-estimates-landmark-review
[iii] Action on Smoking and Health. Use of e-cigarettes (vaporisers) among adults in Great Britain. Published September 2019. Accessed online 19 December 2019 at https://ash.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Use-of-e-cigarettes-among-adults-2019.pdf
[iv] Action on Smoking and Health. In Britain young people vape just to give it a try, not because they think it’s “cool”. Published 18 June 2019. Accessed online 19 December 2019 at https://ash.org.uk/media-and-news/press-releases-media-and-news/in-britain-young-people-vape-just-to-give-it-a-try-not-because-they-think-its-cool/
[v] Thieleman D, Tulloch C, Pellegrini J. Electronic nicotine delivery systems: Vaping away gum tissue. Published 4 December 2019 in Dentistry IQ. Accessed online 19 December 2019 at https://www.dentistryiq.com/dental-hygiene/clinical-hygiene/article/14073049/electronic-nicotine-delivery-systems-vaping-away-gum-tissue
[vi] Kim S AE et al. Cariogenic potential of sweet flavors in electronic-cigarette liquids. PLoS One. 2018; 13(9): e0203717. Accessed online 19 December 2019 at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6128655/
[vii] Pitchika V, Pink C, Völzke H, Welk A, Kocker T, Holtfreter B. Long-term impact of powered toothbrush on oral health 11-year cohort study. Journal of Clinical Periodontology. 2019; 46 (7): 713-722. Accessed online 19 December 2019 at https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/jcpe.13126