The Irish Medical Times - How to nip smoking in the bud


On paper, it's a great idea. Funny thing about paper, it tends to go up in flames. 

Vaping companies saw the dollar signs and started aiming their marketing at children. Using similar tactics learned from Big Tobacco many years ago - make it seem cool, use fashionable colours, pretend it’s all about independence, freedom, fun, rebellion, success, relaxation, friendship and sex appeal (FYI: fake e-smoke billowing out of your nose is not attractive - you look like the caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland). 

In fact, here’s a Life Rule - Anything that comes out of someone's nose or mouth at high speed is never attractive. (coming out at slow speed is not a great look either). 

There were some early celebrity endorsements of vaping, and of course the ever present social media influencers, who appear to be easy and willing enablers to sell on, let’s see, oh, anything. But who needs people these days, vaping and e-cigarettes have been promoted with popular animations and online gaming. They sell it in flavours like cotton candy and gummi bear - how can vaping executives look a person in the eye and say that is not aimed at children?!

Vapes can be made to look like everyday items for easy concealment, presumably from parents (as an adult you shouldn't have to conceal a legal passtime, unless you are heavily into axe throwing - might be advisable keep that one under wraps at the office party). 

Recently, I have seen e-cigarettes discarded on the street, they look like highlighter pens. Addictive substances should not look like something you might have in your Pokemon pencil case. Their plasticity and disposability is also a concerning environmental issue that goes against the social conscience the young generation rightly boast.  

Vaping exposes you to fewer toxic chemicals than traditional cigarettes but they still contain chemicals of concern and have been attributed to lung injuries including lung burns, breathlessness and death. There are links to chronic lung disease and asthma, and associations with cardiovascular disease, attention deficits and mood swings. Not to mention they are emerging products with problems we have yet to realize. 

Let’s not forget that addictive nicotine is still part of the experience and provides a stronger hit than traditional cigarettes. Nicotine dependence can negatively impact the development of brain regions used for judgement and decision making. 

On to the most shocking point of all - vaping is proving to be a gateway to traditional cigarettes for the next generation (afterall, nicotine begets nicotine, in all its forms). 

A 2021 study from the American National Library for Medicine entitled ‘Reasons For Transition from Electronic Cigarette Use to Cigarette Smoking Among Young Adult College Students’  was revealing. Reasons included the perception that cigarettes were cheaper, they required less maintenance, just open a pack and it's ready to go as opposed to charging it up or buying liquid pods, and students reported a heightened sensory pleasure from a ‘real’ cigarette. 

Also, the reason why anyone in college does anything on a night out - peer pressure, and the cool factor (or in this case, lack thereof; e-cgis are considered something high school kids use, not super cool college kids who want to emulate the generations that went before them, and walk in their tobacco stained wake!). 

We have established that vaping is not the harm-reducer it aimed to be. In a similar ‘good-idea-gone-bad’ scenario, the man who invented plastic bags was a Swedish engineer named Sten Gustaf Thulin. He was concerned about the amount of trees being cut down to make paper bags, so in 1959 he invented the plastic bag. 

Gustaf, Gustaf, Gustaf, you and Alfred Nobel have a lot to discuss (Alfred invented dynamite, became a pacifist and created the Nobel Prize to promote peace - look, we’ve all done it). But don’t fear, the world still has a conscience and alongside the global push to stop using single-use plastic, we need to collectively, as a community, stop smoking and vaping. We also need to do our best to prevent the next generation from falling into the nicotine trap.

Uk Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, recently outlined proposals to raise the legal age of smoking annually by one year, each year. Children in Britain, now aged 14 or younger, would never be allowed to legally buy cigarettes. 

There is no age restriction on the sale of e-cigarettes in Ireland. 

At a recent government Oireacthais Joint Committee on Health debate on the topic of ‘Issues related to cardiovascular health, stroke and heart attack - programme, services and prevention’, the Irish Heart Foundation Director of Advocacy, Chris Macey, said “The smoking rate among children is starting to rise for the first time in a generation.”

Come on, Ireland! 

Remember in 2004 the world went into anaphylactic shock when Ireland (the island of big Leprechaun dancing booze hounds) became the first country in the world to implement legislation creating smoke-free workplaces that included bars and restaurants. Bars, lads! We stopped smoking in bars! 

In 2002 we were the first country to introduce the plastic bag levy (sorry, Gustaf). In 1999 we were the best-in-class when it came to adopting the Euro (Punt? Leave it out!).

We can be the agents of change when people least expect it, that’s our underdog superpower - if any political big swingers are reading this, we need to be decisive, catch up with the Brits, and focus our health policy on the burning issues. 

Stop smoking and vaping - before it stops you.  

For the original article click here - How to nip smoking in the bud

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