Tuesday 23 October 2018

Dear Dr Jennifer: I vape regularly - will the odd cigarette do me any harm?

Dr Jennifer Grant, a GP with the Beacon HealthCheck screening programme at Beacon Hospital.
Dr Jennifer Grant, a GP with the Beacon HealthCheck screening programme at Beacon Hospital.

Dear Doctor,

I pretty much quit smoking and vape away to my heart's content but every now and then I have a sneaky fag - as much for that feeling of being bold as anything else. And even though I was a 20-a-day person for 15 years I've no desire to go back on them properly - this sneaky smoke is maybe every three months and I'm in my 50s. Do you think I'm doing any damage?

A You've done well to 'almost' break free from the chain of combustable cigarette smoking. However, I have a few concerns. Vaping is not risk-free either. Nevertheless there is some evidence to suggest that the quantities of nicotine from vaping exceeds that of regular combustable cigarettes.

The issue here is that you remain addicted to nicotine and therefore have a very high chance of returning to your old habits. In fact you already admit to the odd cigarette.

The evidence would suggest that people who transition to vaping having previously been smokers tend to flip flop between the two activities and never really quit. Consider also that you were a 20-a-day smoker for 15 years and are now in your fifties; it is possible that there may already be some damage done.

A sobering statistic is that one in every two people that smoke will die from a smoking-related illness, not to mention both cigarettes and vaporising devices are expensive.

As any doctor will tell you, there is only one stance on either vaping or smoking that makes health and economic sense: If you are truly concerned about your future health, I would strongly advise you to completely quit vaping and smoking.

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