Should children be vaping?

Should parents be warning children about vaping instead of smoking?

As parents we always hope our children will do the right thing, but at the same time we know they will make mistakes. The aim is for those errors in judgment to teach them a valuable lesson, and not for their mistakes to impact the rest of their lives. We know that they will drink alcohol, but hope they won’t be gripped by it. We know they might miss lessons, or climb trees or enter buildings they shouldn’t, or even take drugs.

And we know that at some point they might try cigarettes, because it has been that way since children could steal a cheeky smoke behind the bike sheds without the gaze of the teachers, or under pressure from friends in their early teens.

vaping2Now though, a new interloper has strolled into the conversation, in the form of vaping. It’s cheaper and probably easier to obtain. The smell doesn’t linger and stick to clothes, and young nails remain pristine. Therefore, the artifice of normal play can be complete (unless you know some tell-tale signs, including nose bleeds and dry skin) and vaping can happen without parents ever realising.

And is that really so bad? According to Public Health England independent evidence concludes that e-cigarettes are 95% less harmful than their tobacco counterparts, but 44.8% of the population are unaware that vaping is better than tobacco.

The government’s hope is that vaping can be a prime weapon in the battle to convert people from smoking, and it appears that it could be working already, with 500,000 making the move across in the past year alone in the UK.

But googling the question, ‘Is vaping harmful?’ brings up 459,000 responses, and they’re not all as positive as the data revealed by PHE. Barely four months ago an American study analysed 24 compounds found in the chemicals flavouring e-cigarettes, and discovered at least 6 aldehydes – which are recognised as primary respiratory irritants. The researchers stated that, “toxic degradation products may be produced by reaction of the flavour chemicals at the high temperatures present during vaping.”

Most e-liquid manufacturers would bridle at these results and insist their products are tested and fully analysed by experts. Let’s assume that the PHE is right and that vaping is healthier than smoking, with the proviso that more testing of the long-range effects is needed and the habit is still not ‘healthy’ in its own right.

This is therefore a good thing for our general health, and logically it should be a positive step that more pupils aged between 11 and 15 have tried e-cigarettes than smoking, according to the Health and Social Care Information Centre data.

Additionally, earlier in 2015 it was reported that 17% of secondary school pupils in Wales have been seen using e-cigarettes within school grounds. This is important for the rest of the UK because the Welsh government wants to ban vaping in public spaces because it believes vaping could act as a gateway to smoking – and also because it portrays the ‘action’ of smoking as normal. If the ban happens, England Scotland and Ireland will no doubt be watching.

The conclusion is inconclusive, if you will. Clearly there’s a groundswell of support that says vaping is better for the lungs than smoking, and it seems to be starting at a very early age. In a perfect world a youngster will shy away from both smoking and vaping after a good chat from wise parents – but then when have teenagers ever done what they were told?

Written by Patrick Vernon on behalf of El-Science

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