Then there are the questions over the safety of the liquid used in e-cigarettes, which throws up equally confusing research.
To clear things up, we asked Colin Mendelsohn, chairman of the Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association to tell us the bottom line: Is vaping safe – and what do we know about it so far?
“The question is, not whether vaping is safe, it’s whether it’s safer than smoking,” he told us. “Vaping is a substitute for people who smoke who can’t quit. The best available evidence we have is that vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking.”
"That’s based on what we know about what’s in tobacco smoke and what we know is in vapour. That figure has been calculated after a full analysis by the Royal College of Physicians and Public Health in the UK.”
Here’s what else he told us:
- Nearly all of the chemicals in smoke are absent in vapour. “Those that are there are present in mostly less than 1% of the strength they are in tobacco smoke.”
- It’s far less harmful to health than cigarettes. “Of course there are chemicals in vaping liquid, and of course it’s better not to do anything, and we don’t recommend e-cigarettes for people who don’t smoke. But for people who do, and the overwhelming majority of people who vape are using it to quit cigarettes – there’s overwhelming agreement that there are substantial health improvements.”
- Vaping doesn’t lead to cigarette smoking, or even regular use of e-cigarettes. “A lot of kids try vaping and they do it for a while and it’s just experimental. But less than half a percent of people who have never smoked, but try vaping go on to become regular vapers.”
Short answer: on the whole yes, vaping is safe.