As of 2021, there are an estimated 82 million people who vape worldwide, according to the Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction (GSTHR). While some people claim that nicotine vaping products (NVPs) helped them quit smoking successfully, there are many others who are vaping while smoking – this is called ‘dual using’.
The explanation for this ballooning number of dual users are markets where NVPs are freely and openly sold as consumer goods without any guidance on how to use them to quit smoking, rather than as medically-guided smoking cessation tools.
The other big problem with vapes being freely sold as commodities on the open market is that many users who don’t need it (like teens, children, and non-smokers) are easily picking up these products for casual and recreational uses.
Even children as young as 5 are already vaping.
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Let’s take a deeper look into why vaping while smoking is a missed opportunity.
Why Do Smokers Also Pick Up Vaping?
There are two main reasons why smokers tend to pick up vapes but still continue to smoke cigarettes.
Perceived ‘Harm Reduction’ from Vaping Products
Smokers may pick up vaping because it’s perceived as a less harmful approach to consume nicotine – the addictive chemical in cigarettes.
While responsible vaping products – like those you’ll find in your local pharmacy – have none of the dangerous carcinogens found in cigarette smoke, the illegal options can be very different indeed.
All vaping products sold in tobacconists, convenience stores, and corner shops are illegal. These are imported under the radar by criminal enterprises, just like illicit tobacco and drugs, and are made as cheaply as possible for maximum profits.
These have been found to contain high levels of nickel and lead, which is inhaled into your lungs with every puff and is extremely dangerous to the human body.
A smoker who is vaping while smoking can actually increase their exposure to harm, which is the opposite of the intent to reduce harm by vaping.
Ability to Vape In Smoking-Restricted Areas
Although many places restrict vaping similarly to smoking, vaping can easily be concealed, meaning people can vape where they can’t smoke – in the office cubicle, at the movies, on public transport, and even during family dinners.
Then, when they get the chance to get to a spot that allows smoking, they can light up a stick.
It’s easy to see that dual users are using vapes simply to fill in gaps in the day where they can’t smoke cigarettes, greatly increasing their overall nicotine intake and dependency.
While vaping may seem relatively safer than smoking, it isn’t completely safe. More importantly, smokers who aren’t motivated to quit and aren’t using responsible pharmacy NVPs under a doctor’s guidance may actually be trading an old addiction for a new one with an equally dangerous product.
Another important thing to consider is that the perceived safety of vaping, the colourful packaging, and candy-like flavours make them extremely appealing to teenagers and children – individuals who must not have access to anything that contains nicotine.
It is a known fact that many illegal NVP manufacturers and sellers target the younger generation to urge them to use the product.
The Effects of Vaping While Smoking
When used properly for smoking cessation, pharmacy-available NVPs can be a great tool. But, using non-pharmacy (illicit) vapes will only exacerbate the following problems – especially while continuing to smoke.
People who smoke while vaping increase their overall nicotine consumption and addiction.
Nicotine is the addictive substance in tobacco, NRT (patches, gums, etc) and NVPs. It affects a smoker’s reward system and makes smoking or vaping seem like the most pleasurable activity in life, even when it isn’t.
As mentioned above, smokers who also vape are likely just filling in the gaps in their day where smoking wasn’t possible. This increase in constant puffing, paired with the hand-to-mouth movement, greatly increases the body’s dependence on nicotine, and the rate of consumption that it’ll require to have you feeling whole again.
Zero Motivation to Quit
Vaping can be immensely successful if smokers have a strong motivation to quit smoking, and are doing so with responsible pharmacy NVPs with the ongoing guidance of a medical professional under a smoking cessation plan.
By picking up a dangerous illicit vape from the local convenience store with no real plan or actionable guidance, smokers are just forming new addictive habits.
Unfortunately, the criminal parties who profit from the increase in sales of these illegal products push them as a safer alternative to cigarettes, when they aren’t. And when these are paired with continued smoking, you’re even worse off.
To capitalise further on their efforts, they use colourful packaging and unique flavours to catch the attention of people who don’t smoke, especially young children and teenagers.
Increased Exposure to Harm
These cheap illegal vapes sold seemingly everywhere have unknown ingredients, with high nickel and lead levels being found by laboratories. These two metals are extremely dangerous to the body and increase the risk of cancer.
As mentioned earlier, even children as young as 5 years old are using these unregulated products that are manufactured without any regard for human health.
When you buy these products and also consume tobacco, you inhale hazardous chemicals while exposing yourself to cigarette smoke at the same time when you light up a stick. In other words, you’re greatly increasing your exposure to the harms of both.
Is It Possible to Use NVPs for Smoking Cessation?
There’s a lot of negativity around vaping, but this is all in regards to the illicit options mentioned above and the devastation they’re causing throughout the country.
But, thousands of pharmacies nationwide are now carrying trusted medical NVPs that are specifically made for smoking cessation, and the latest Cochrane Review found high-certainty evidence that NVPs are more effective than NRT in helping people stop smoking.
NVP products sold in pharmacies are made under stringent pharmaceutical standards on the manufacturing process and ingredients, are toxicologically assessed for inhalation, are locally insured, and are specifically designed to help you stop smoking.
You’ll know exactly what you’re inhaling, as pharmacy-sold NVPs are made exclusively with smoking cessation and your safety in mind.
However, just like other medicines, you’ll need a prescription to access them. This guidance ensures that you’re on the right path to actually cut smoking out of your life for good, and that should be the goal for any smoker.
If your GP deems it necessary, they can write you a nicotine prescription for NVPs.
You can chat to your usual GP about this, or book a bulk-billed phone chat with an authorised prescriber of nicotine.
The Help of GPs
GPs have helped many ex-smokers quit the habit successfully and keep themselves off cigarettes for good. They can provide you with a tailor-made smoking cessation programme with your specific needs in mind.
If NRT products prove ineffective as assessed by your GP, they can recommend pharmacy-sold NVPs to help you quit – products that are far more effective than NRT.
Having a healthier alternative to smoking is a great way to help you quit the habit. However, vaping still has potential dangers if the wrong products are used, and if they’re not used for smoking cessation.
With this in mind, the best way to stop vaping while smoking is to motivate yourself to go through a cessation programme with a GP to use pharmacy NVPs effectively to help you stop smoking for good.
We know you’re here because you’d like to know if you can still use NVPs to stop smoking even after being a dual user. We can help.
Smokefree Clinic gives you access to many medically reviewed and trustworthy resources that can inform and aid you in your path to wellness, so have a look around!
If you’re ready to get started, Smokefree can connect you to bulk-billing Australian healthcare professionals who excel in helping patients quit smoking for good, including using responsible vaping products where appropriate.
Click here to book your bulk-billed telehealth consultation with an Australian healthcare professional and quit smoking today.