Rohan Swamy looks at the disagreement surrounding e-cigarettes and how safe they can really be.
I smoked my first e-cigarette in the summer of 2012, when a friend of mine, visiting India from the USA, very kindly agreed to bring along a Blu-Cig starter kit for me. If I have to go back in time to describe it, all I remember about it was – it was interesting. Of course, back then, vaping hadn’t caught the fancy of the masses, and Leonardo DiCaprio wasn’t smoking them at the Golden Globe awards, so being one of the first people in the newsroom vaping at work, I did have quite a few people turning their heads, looking at the new novelty ‘gadget’ as it was called back then.
 
But that was five years back and times have changed. Vaping incidentally has towed the fine line between being safe and unsafe, ever since the beginning. It is quite reminiscent of the cannabis conundrum – with the world and lawmakers all equally divided on the merits and demerits of the same. However, a recent report on RTÉ seems to suggest that a study conducted into e-cigarettes rates them ‘safer’ than tobacco filled cigarettes.
 
The study conducted in the UK was done on 181 participants over a period of six months and as the report suggests, ‘The study found that, compared with full-time smokers, those using e-cigarettes had far lower levels of cancer causing toxins in their saliva and urine.’
 
Of course, this is not surprising. Most normal cigarettes have over 400 chemicals and carcinogens in addition to nicotine present in them. E-cigarettes, on the other hand, just have nicotine infused flavours that can be vaped at a person’s convenience, indoors or outdoors. Does that make it safe? Well, technically it is safer than a normal cigarette.
 
A woman who I run into regularly and is a sort of unofficial smoking buddy told me recently she had switched to vaping. When I asked her of her experiences, she said rather dryly, ‘It’s alright. Nothing fancy.’
 
E-Cigarettes have taken the same route to popularity as many new gadgets and products – celebrity endorsed marketing. Right from Jenny McCarthy to Stephan Dorff, there is a long list of vapers who proudly endorse brands like Henleycigs, Skycigs, Blu, and many more. Vaporiums that started catching the fancy of crowds in 2014 have now become mainstays in bigger cities in Europe and the USA.
 
And for every study done to prove that e-cigarettes are safe, there are reports by organisations like the WHO that claim otherwise. In a report from January 2014 the US FDA has claimed that pneumonia, congestive heart failure and hypotension are possible illnesses that have found a link to e-cigarettes.
 
In an event as such, the findings of the study done in the UK will definitely be lapped up by e-cigarette manufacturers to use for marketing the products. Whether it garners any positive responses from vapers or regular smokers is debatable, but it will definitely help boost cigarette sales in the long run for various manufacturers of e-cigarettes.
 
However, not all smokers or vaping converts buy into the supposed benefits of vaping. A friend who works in construction, who was a chain smoker that had shifted to vaping, has recently gone back to smoking. When I asked him the reason behind it, he said, ‘Oh come on, we are all killing ourselves either way – vaping or smoking. I might as well do it the right way.’
 
I admit I cannot argue with that logic. Smokers gonna smoke and vapers gonna vape.