Vaping products a smoking cessation tool...but?
Vaping products and other non-combustibles (smoking alternatives that do not burn tobacco) are considered reduced-risk when compared to the traditional combustible cigarette.(Photo: Pixabay)

Twenty years ago, a Jamaican doctor picked up the habit of smoking cigarettes. It didn't take him long to decide that he needed to quit.

“It was not very hardcore but I did realise that it was affecting my health so I slowed down, but I still would get some smoking done every now and then,” he says.

Even though the doctor thought that he had it under control, quitting smoking on his own proved to be a challenging feat. This all changed when he discovered vaping.

“About two years ago I was introduced to vaping. I did the research and found out that it would be a healthier option than cigarette smoking. Since then I have cut down not only on the amount that I smoke, but I actually don't feel the need or want to smoke another cigarette,” the doctor said.

He is one of the countless smokers locally and internationally who have been able to successfully give up smoking with the help of vaping products.

“With vaping, I got the option to reduce the amount of nicotine I used, to the point where I'm now completely nicotine-free and I use my vape just for the flavour. So I definitely consider vaping an option to stop smoking … also [it's] something that once you do it properly, using quality vape liquids as well as taking care of your device, it can be a better option,” the doctor said.

Vaping products are rechargeable, battery-powered devices that heat liquid formulations — e-liquids — to create a vapour, which is inhaled. Because vaping products do not burn tobacco, the vapour contains substantially lower levels of the toxicants found in the smoke produced when tobacco is burned.

The e-liquid in vaping products is made up of a combination of flavourings and food and medical grade ingredients that are commonplace in all developed and developing countries worldwide. The liquid may also contain nicotine, but the amount, if any can be chosen by the consumer.

Vaping has been around since the 1960s, but did not achieve mass adoption and acclamation as a viable alternative to smoking cigarettes until the late 2000s. According to the BBC, vaping products have helped 70,000 people to quit smoking in the United Kingdom in 2017. Additionally, 54 per cent of the 3.6 million vapers in the United Kingdom stopped smoking in 2019.

Vaping products and other non-combustibles (smoking alternatives that do not burn tobacco) are considered reduced-risk when compared to the traditional combustible cigarette. It is now widely acknowledged that the cause of most of the serious health risks associated with conventional cigarettes is the toxicants in the smoke produced when tobacco is burned – and not the nicotine. However, because nicotine is so closely associated with smoking, many may think it is responsible for the harmful effects of smoking. This is not entirely so. At typical recreational doses it is usually safe for healthy adults.

Studies also reveal that the possibility of long-term effects from vaping is likely to be very small; and substantially smaller than that arising from smoking tobacco products. Furthermore, vaping helps to minimise smoking-related illness and death, reduce the effects of second-hand smoke and is a more environmentally sustainable option because of the reusable vape pen.

While other countries such as the United Kingdom have created regulation to allow for safe non-combustible alternatives, including vaping, countries like Jamaica still have a far way to go.

There is broad agreement among policymakers and the public health community on the need for, and importance of, developing an appropriate science base to inform policies and educate consumers about potentially reduced-risk products. The best way to manage any risk is via appropriate and relevant regulation of the industry backed by scientific research and findings.

As deliberations continue, however, vaping is increasingly becoming popular in Jamaica. Companies such as the Vape Shoppe in Kingston, now provide cigarette alternatives to smokers.

Jordan Mollison, director of the Vape Shoppe, says he started his business because he, too, was successful in using vaping products to desist from smoking cigarette.

“I was a smoker for 11 years, vaping helped me quit the habit, five years later I haven't looked back. I have never felt healthier [and] ever since then, I can now jog up a flight of stairs without getting short of breath. That is the reason why [I] started my vape business so I could help other Jamaican quit the habit. Since then I have helped scores of Jamaicans quit the habit and that for me makes it all worth it,” he says.

Greater collaboration between the Government and the vaping industry may prevent unnecessary infringement on the constitutional rights of the people, their access to accurate information, and their personal freedom of choice as consenting adults within the confines of the law.

The scientific community widely agrees that it is the combustion of tobacco that primarily causes smoking-related diseases and death, not vaping products. However, a regulatory framework for these products is necessary to allow for these advantages to materialise.

A market without governance facilitates access to unregulated and potentially harmful vaping products, which are 10 times more likely to end up in the hands of minors. Furthermore, submitting the vaping industry to the same regulations as the tobacco industry may hinder the major benefits it would have on the wider society. An appropriate regulatory framework should contain provisions on issues that are specific to this category of product, such as nicotine concentration, flavours, warning statements, ingredients regulation, advertising, and age restrictions on sales, to list just a few.

Regulation is essential to ensuring consumer safety and fair market access to all operators in any industry. Regulation of the industry would ensure that product quality and safety standards are established and enforced to assure consumer safety.

Legislation should provide sufficient marketing, distribution, and innovation freedoms to inform adult consumers on the range of regulated smoking alternatives available, allowing them to make informed decisions. Marketing and distribution controls and quality standards will ensure that regulated devices and liquids will get into the hands of adult consumers.

Based on the evidence, it is clear that appropriate legislation is necessary to ensure that these reduced-risk products are available to the public in the safest way possible.

Jordan Mollison, director of VapeShoppe started his business becausehe too was successful in using vapingproducts to desist from smokingcigarettes

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