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Vaping isn't Smoking. It's Different.

Vaping is considered a 95% less harmful pathway to quitting. 

That's according to a the PHE. Our Ministry of Health endorses the same message and sees vaping as a less harmful alternative to smoking. One of their key messages is “Stop smoking services must support smokers who choose to use vaping products to quit.” 

Despite that, not since the Springbok Tour in 1981 has a topic seemed to divide our nation, opinion makers, families and keyboard warriors more than the vape debate.

Vaping seems to stir up controversy among the public and the media. Opinions even differ between countries. That’s possibly part of the problem. 

In the USA the lung injuries and EVALI deaths that have occurred are related to people who used vaping products containing THC, a psychoactive component of cannabis, bought on the street from unlicensed sources. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, “These cases appear to predominantly affect people who modify their vaping devices or use black market modified e-liquids. This is especially true for vaping products containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).”

We are lucky in New Zealand that we have The Smokefree Environments and Regulated Products Act 1990 which regulates vaping products and smokeless tobacco products in New Zealand. A new website (vapingfacts.health.nz) was recently launched by Associate Minister of Health Jenny Salesa to provide us all with a source of clear and credible information about vaping as one of the ways to stop smoking.

From the MOH key messages - "The Ministry of Health is identifying safety standards for vaping products in New Zealand. In the meantime, vapers should buy their products from a reputable source, such as a specialist retailer."

Counsellors who encourage people to quit smoking know they have to have understanding and empathy for their clients. There’s no place for being judgemental. Quitting smoking is no easy thing. It can be really hard. When I hear someone who smoked for 30, 40 or 50 years say that they chose to switch to vaping despite coming up against some moral panic from others, and hear them say that it gave them all the things they enjoyed about smoking without any of the things they didn’t like, that’s surely a win for them and our health system.

So let’s talk about the main difference between smoking and vaping. Smoking delivers nicotine by burning tobacco and other chemicals, which creates tar and other toxins which are harmful to your health. Vaping heats up e-liquids which contain only a handful of ingredients (which may or may not include nicotine).

The difference between smoking and vaping is how nicotine is delivered into the body. Smoking involves burning and combustion, and vaping doesn’t involve burning, it delivers the compound through vaporisation.

If you’re wanting to choose to vape to quit, it's good to ask for help from other people who have successfully done it. Their stories can be funny and inspiring like this one from Stuff journalist Mike Yardley.

“Without wishing to sound like one of those tiresome, rabid reformed smokers, cigarette smoking is a hideously stupid waste of money, given the clear, viable and cost-effective alternatives. Vaping was my great circuit-breaker, liberating me from a 25-year love affair with cigarette smoking.”

If you’re having trouble remembering the difference between smoke and vapour, or just want to have a convincing story to tell your friends, think about the difference between the smoke produced by a campfire and the steam produced by a pot of boiling water. 

Vaping is only intended for adults who smoke and wish to stop. People who do not smoke should not take up vaping as they will become addicted to the nicotine in the product. The healthiest option is not to vape or smoke. Don’t vape if you don’t smoke. Only vape to quit smoking. Those are key Ministry of Health messages.


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