Public Health England have said that using E-cigarettes (vaping) is 95% better than smoking. But is this claim a bit premature? If vaping has only been mainstream since around 2007 in the UK and US, can anyone say they know the long-term effects of usage?
“There have been 48 deaths and a further 2,290 people made seriously ill as a consequence of vaping this year.”
Source: Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
For those who aren’t familiar with the process- vaping devices heat up liquid to an aerosol state that is inhaled by the user. The liquids usually contain nicotine but also a number of other substances such as heavy metals and possible carcinogens – albeit in smaller amounts than in traditional cigarettes.
Two recent studies in the US that have found the damage to hearts is similar in vapers and “traditional” smokers but the research samples were quite small. These aren’t the only studies- there are a number of academic studies happening all over the world, so can expect more results from those over the next few years. With research fairly limited at the moment, there is still uncertainty surrounding health effects on users or those who are exposed to their exhalations.
According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the US, there have been 47 deaths and a further 2,290 people made seriously ill as a consequence of vaping this year alone. It is unclear what the cause is. The victims are spread across all states (apart from Alaska) and the number of devices and liquids used are widely varied, albeit around 75% have added THC (the ingredient in marijuana that provides the high) to their vaping devices, and there is some evidence that an additive to thicken THC for vaping devices is causing the lung damage in 29 of the most recent cases. At the moment the problem doesn’t appear to have spread outside of the US, which could be because there are a high number of counterfeits in the US market.
That said, marketing to minors has also been aggressive by some players. Companies like Juul have been questioned over their marketing techniques and variations that would appear to be targeting children. Last year, an estimated 3.6m children in the US used a vaping device and a separate study in the UK claimed the figure was around 12% of 11-16yr olds. President Trump is currently contemplating raising the minimum age for vaping to 21 and banning the flavoured devices altogether in an effort to curb this “epidemic”.
As we have previously written, it can be very difficult to transition an already established business to a more sustainable alternative. The tobacco industry faces these challenges. E-cigarettes have been positioned as a less-harmful alternative to traditional cigarettes, but we shouldn’t forget that similarly positive narratives were also used by the tobacco industry in the past.
About the author
Miranda Beacham is Corporate Governance Manager in the ESG Research team. She is responsible for monitoring, engaging and voting of investee companies in line with our Responsible Investment Policy. She joined us in 1994 as a research assistant in the UK equity team and has 25 years’ industry experience*. Miranda studied Chemistry at Napier University and has the IMC professional qualification.
*As at 30 April 2019.