'Vaping' grows but jury out on safety

''Vaping'' is on the rise in Dunedin, but a University of Otago researcher is concerned the tobacco alternative could act as a ''gateway drug'' for the real thing.

Opinion is divided on the use of e-cigarettes, which simulate smoking by vaporising a liquid solution which often contains nicotine. Users hail them as a safer alternative to tobacco, and a quitting aid.

But critics are concerned not enough is known about the health effects of e-cigarettes, also known as vaporisers or vapes, and the potential they could act as a ''gateway drug'' for the real thing.

The Southern District Health Board is preparing to ban people from using them on its property.

Dunedin ''vapers'' Shaye Kirk and Owen Butler said the practice was growing in the city. Both of them still smoked, but using vaporisers allowed them to cut down and save money and both were certain it was healthier than smoking tobacco.

They and other users got around Ministry of Health regulations, making it illegal to sell liquid solutions containing nicotine domestically, by importing it from overseas, which was legal, as long as it was for personal use.

''I am quite a heavy chain-smoker and I'd go through 100 bucks worth of durries a week,'' Mr Kirk said.

By comparison, more than a week's worth of e-cigarette liquid - known as e-juice - cost between $10 and $15 for a heavy user.

Mr Butler said vaping had become ''really popular over the last year'' in Dunedin, but was still nowhere near as widespread as in North America, where there were specialised shops dealing in the product.

University of Otago marketing professor Janet Hoek was cautious about vaping and about to carry out research to get a better idea as to the way New Zealanders used the product.

She supported the Ministry of Health's approach to e-cigarettes and believed more evidence was needed before a change in regulations was considered.

''I think it's always very difficult to put a genie back in the bottle, once it's been allowed out.''

Questions that needed answering included whether e-cigarettes - and the multitude of e-juice flavours available - could act as a ''gateway'' to smoking traditional cigarettes.

Another potential problem was dual use.

''In other words, instead of helping people to quit smoking altogether, there is some evidence from the United States and Korea that suggests people are becoming less likely to quit if they use e-cigarettes.''

More New Zealand-based data was needed to answer these questions.

''At the moment, we don't have a lot of New Zealand data about e-cigarette use and our study, we hope, will be the first in a continuing series of studies.''

In the meantime, she advised people not to use e-cigarettes.

Prof Hoek hoped, as part of her research, to speak to 20 Dunedin people who used the product. Anyone interested in taking part could contact Christina Yeates, at christina.yeates@otago.ac.nz.

SDHB settings and lifestyle team leader Anne McSoriley said the board was in the process of banning e-cigarette use on its grounds as part of a review of its smoke-free policy.

''The policy is just waiting sign off by the senior executive,'' she said.

National Poisons Centre toxicologist Dr Leo Schep said it had received four calls on the issue of e-cigarettes, but none had been serious.

One involved a child potentially ingesting a small amount of e-juice and another involved a cat.

''It's not huge on our radar,'' Dr Schep said.

However, there was a risk of nicotine poisoning for people who ingested the fluid and users were advised to keep their equipment out of children's reach.

• Vary in shape and size, with designs ranging from imitation cigarettes to larger box or pipe-shaped models.
• Work by vaporising a liquid solution, which usually contains nicotine, which is then inhaled by the user.
• Invented by a Chinese pharmacist in 2003.
• Users are hailing them as a healthier alternative to cigarettes, but the jury is still out on how safe they are.
• Their popularity has grown worldwide to the point where Action on Smoking and Health recently estimated the numbers of users in the United Kingdom had grown from 700,000 in 2012 to 2.1 million this year.

- vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz

Thread closed

This thread is now closed. - Ed

Vaped in the city

Oh, I see what you mean, it was my commenting Style. To be clear, I advocate vape use on hospital wards. I was tutored in a style called mock irony (40 yrs ago). I don't actually endorse banning stuff that helps people.

Sighs and shakes head

Your comments were more grandiose if that's more understandable.

Of course you would not smoke or vape in a doctor's waiting room, the southern district health board should update its non smoking protocols, but to be honest a full on total ban like your original comment implies is probably a bit rash and missing key detail. Even seems a bit callous to the fact that people use electronic cigarettes to quit horrible cigarette addictions.

I despise cigarettes they make me sick, the smell. I am sensitive to poison. But if I am working hard hours around cigarette smokers I find it difficult not to go out and buy smokes and start smoking again.

So I find electronic vapourisers great. You get your taste buds back! And you can breathe better! And honestly the higher nicotine flavours taste yuck and the lower ones not so bad. You really do ween yourself off smoking. And if your feeling stressed you don't go back to the ciggies. [abridged]

Smoke and mirrors

Why 'narcissistic'? Do users vape into mirrors? Maybe you mean sollipsistic, narcissists are not welcome @45 South.

Dunedin Anti Everything Brigade

Come on that's slightly narcissistic. It's clearly stated on the websites like virginvape.com what the juice is made from. Obviously the university of otago need to pay somebody to follow a link and do some research.

If you don't understand why people would vayp then don't put them down.

Would you rather some rude fellow light up a tailor made cigarette in your vicinity, I would not myself. Vayporisors/Techno Darts do not stink at all, much reduced risk of second hand smoke inhalation, in fact eliminated. And opposed to the hundreds of poisons in cigarettes, there are two in vayp juice.

High fire risk industries like sawmills and mdf plants and forestry they are great, the risk is again eliminated. And you're not going to otherwise tell an addicted smoker tradesperson to not smoke when they are working 60 hour weeks doing the hard yacka are you.

What about those Cigarette quitters who can't help light a disgusting noxious cigarette when they have a social drink?

Sure vaypers can blow big clouds of vayp and it looks questionable but it's non toxic does not smell and relieves stress the same as tobacco.[abridged]



Hung jury

Ban them. The Free Market is out of control and that jury is forever sequestered in a smoke filled room. The government has changed the law several times to suit, one more wont hurt.

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