According to new data released in June 2018, fewer people are now smoking in the US than ever before. Time magazine said that the rate had dropped to 14 per cent of the adult population – compared with an estimated 40 per cent in the 1960s.
These headline figures suggest that Americans – and indeed, much of the western world if recent data is to be believed (in the UK, rates have fallen from 26 per cent to 19 per cent over the past six years) – are steadily turning their backs on a habit which has been pilloried for decades for its harmful effects on health.
Not quite the full story
But the data doesn’t quite give the full story. Digging a little deeper, it transpires that e-cigarettes/vaping is filling some of the void that was once occupied by millions of cigarettes. In fact, vaping is now the most popular tobacco product amongst American teenagers.
While this sounds like a step in the right direction, the question on a thousand doctors’ and scientists’ lips is: is it really? Is vaping less damaging to a person’s health than smoking a cigarette? And – a different question entirely – is vaping, so popular amongst youngsters, merely a gateway to fully-fledged smoking later in life?
It’s clear that, in part, vaping’s “cool” factor – especially in schools and colleges (and let’s not forget that vaping means kids get to come home without their clothes reeking of tell-tale cigarette smoke) – is behind its popularity. But away from trends and marketing, does this change simply signify that a new generation is swapping one harmful product for another?
Stop smoking, live longer
The same week that the US smoking data was announced, the well-respected Mayo Clinic spoke to the media about the health benefits of quitting smoking. Dr J. Taylor Hays, director of the Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependence Centre, said that when he meets a smoker under the age of 40, he asks: “Do you want to add 10 years to your life?” If they answer that they do, he offers a simple solution.
“If you want to avoid all of the ill-health effects – chronic lung disease, heart disease and lung cancer – stop smoking,” he said.
But this isn’t really news. We all know that smoking is really – and I do mean really – bad for you. What I want to know more about is the harmful effects of vaping, especially when it is becoming a popular alternative to cigarettes.
Is vaping really the answer?
Working as a hypnotherapist in London, I see a seemingly endless parade of smokers (and the odd vaper) who know the damage they are doing to their body and want to quit. Hypnotherapy can help – more of which later – but the sheer rate at which they come in can be quite distressing. Why does anyone still start smoking, given how well-documented its harmful effects are?
Often, smokers are nudged towards vaping as a healthy alternative. But the more I read about vaping, the less sure I am that this is the answer.
Whilst searching for the truth, I discovered that vaping as we know it today is actually just a modern take on a centuries-old trend – one that easily predates smoking cigarettes.
In ancient Egypt, they would “vape” with hot stones, onto which they would place herbs. According to Vaping Daily, In the 1920s something approaching the modern e-cigarette was invented, but it wasn’t until the mid 2000s that it took off.
Nicotine is key
The key to vaping’s success is that it contains nicotine: a drug that is both legal and socially acceptable. Throw in a modern twist (e-cigarettes as a cool “gadget”) and a vast choice of flavours, and vaping is essentially a portable version of a hookah pipe of the type you’d see in a Middle Eastern or Indian market.
Its rise has been phenomenal – there are an estimated 40-50 million vapers in the world today.
On the one hand, there are clear positives when someone switches to vaping, as they are no longer exposing themselves to the thousands of harmful chemicals that can be found in a cigarette – around 70 of which have been linked to cancer.
And research this year (2018) from the University of East Anglia found that vaping does help people to stop smoking cigarettes.
The study, which was funded by Cancer Research UK, showed that smokers who switched to vaping tended not to want to go back to cigarettes – and they reported feeling healthier, with a better sense of taste and smell, and fewer breathing problems. The report’s lead researcher told the media that e-cigarettes were at least 95 per cent less harmful than tobacco smoking.
But other reports give conflicting evidence. In November 2016, a toxicologist at the University of Rochester in New York reported that vapours from e-cigarettes could inflame mouth cells in ways that may lead to gum disease. He also found that vapour in the lungs made it difficult for cells to repair damage. In tests, fibroblasts – cells that repair damaged tissue – ran out of energy when exposed to vapours from e-cigarettes.
In other words, their skin-healing properties were reduced.
There’s more: UK newspaper The Guardian reported in January 2018 on discoveries made by the environmental medicine team at New York University, who found in tests that DNA changes caused by nicotine found in e-cigarettes were adversely affecting the lungs, bladder and heart. The changes were likened to those seen when people suffered the effects of secondhand smoke.
In the same article, however, the director of the Tobacco Dependence Research Unit at Queen Mary University of London reiterated that vaping was much less harmful than smoking cigarettes. He stated that the best current estimate is that vaping poses, at worst, around 5 per cent of the risks of smoking.
Cancer Research UK also seemed somewhat underwhelmed by the findings of the New York University team, and told the Guardian: “Up to two-thirds of long-term smokers will die because of their addiction, but e-cigarettes don’t contain tobacco.”
Their spokesperson pointed out that they do contain nicotine – which keeps people addicted – but this is not the reason why people typically have health problems when they smoke cigarettes.
The long-term view still missing
Confused? You probably should be. It’s because no one can categorically state how harmful vaping is in the long term.
A recent report on the Vice website also challenged the notion that vaping is significantly safer than smoking cigarettes. In April of this year, Vice quoted Stanton Glantz, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, as saying: “The hope for e-cigarettes was that they would give people an alternative way to inhale nicotine that’s not as dangerous as a cigarette. While that was a rational hope, it has turned out not to be the case.”
Glantz reckons that vaping is around two-thirds as bad for people as smoking cigarettes – a marked difference from the “5 per cent as bad” figure that has been cited by many experts for the past three or four years.
Everything from nickel and chromium to formaldehyde have reportedly been found in the vapour produced by electronic cigarettes – and all can cause cancer.
Does “food grade” mean safe?
The Vice article also queried claims that because the liquid in e-cigarettes was “food grade”, it must be safe. It quoted David Eaton, a professor of toxicology at the University of Washington, who said: “Something may be safe for consumption, but that’s very different than saying it’s safe to inhale into the lungs.”
A part of the problem is that users of e-cigarettes don’t really know what they are buying. Devices are available from a multitude of suppliers; liquids are shipped in from manufacturers all over the world. And every time a vaper inhales the liquid their device has heated, a multitude of particles enter their lungs.
Even if it is true that vaping is significantly less harmful than smoking a cigarette… wouldn’t it be better to give up completely?
I don’t think anyone alive would say that smoking e-cigarettes is better than not smoking at all, and while I admit to having a professional interest in helping people to quit, it also breaks my heart when I see a young person (anyone, in fact) puffing away on an e-cigarette.
Sure, it might not lead to them smoking regular cigarettes further down the line, and yes, I agree that there is every chance that long-term studies may conclusively prove that vaping isn’t that bad for you.
But until that day, why take the risk? Why pick up an e-cigarette in the first place if there is a chance it will do what millions of cigarettes have done before… and kill you?
Proven way to stop smoking
Hypnotherapy for smoking is a proven way of giving up the cigarettes for good. People sometimes have strange ideas about hypnotherapy and think the goal is to put people in a perpetual trance so that they wander around zombie-like and enter some kind of bizarre mental state when offered a cigarette. That’s not it at all.
I think a better explanation is that hypnotherapy helps people to get into a relaxed and highly-suggestible state, so that their normal way of thinking can be adjusted. It’s a bit like re-programming a computer, only in this case it is the brain that is being given a reboot.
These are some of the things that can be done to help people stop smoking during a hypnotherapy session:
1/ I can powerfully reinforce the idea that smoking is harmful, and that every time someone lights a cigarette, they are steadily killing their body. This creates a significant disincentive to smoke.
2/ I can help give people emotionally significant reasons that they want to be fitter and live longer. Right now a smoker might think, “Well, yes, it’d be nice to see my kids grow up”, but in hypnotherapy this sensation can be made much, much stronger and more motivational – to the point where the idea of lighting up seems ridiculous.
3/ I can create lasting physical sensations that are linked to lighting up – unpleasant ones. The brain can effectively be “re-wired” to make people believe that the smell of cigarette smoke is truly horrific – the worst smell they can think of. Or, on a similar note, that the taste of cigarette smoke on the tongue will make them want to be sick.
Astounding death toll from smoking
The death toll from cigarettes is astounding – it’s around 6 million a year worldwide. Of course, there’s every chance that smokers will live to be a 100, but the statistics show that the likelihood of them living a long and healthy life is vastly reduced compared to someone who doesn’t smoke.
Equally alarming – as well as the likely death sentence, endless puffing and panting, smelly clothes, stained teeth and premature ageing of the skin – is the cost. A 30-year-old smoker who gets through five packs a week will spend nearly £100,000 on cigarettes over the next 40 years (in today’s money). If they live that long.
Or they could spend less than one per cent of that today on hypnotherapy for smoking… and be in with a very good chance of saying goodbye to their habit for good.
A good hypnotherapist can find your “pain point”
It doesn’t work in every single case, it’s true: you need a hypnotherapist with a good track record of helping people to quit, who will work with you to find your unique “pain point“, i.e. the most powerful reason for you to want to give up. That’s exactly what I do.
Switching from cigarettes to vaping might be some kind of a solution (although we’ll need to see how this story plays out to be sure), but at best it is a “sticking plaster”.
What every smoker really wants is to quit for good.
10 ways that smoking can ruin your health
1 It can cause cancer
There are thousands of chemicals in cigarettes, and reports suggest that around 70 of these are cancer-causing. This can lead to cancer of everything from the stomach to the lungs, blood, pancreas and mouth.
2 It makes you short of breath
The photos on cigarette packets showing arteries and lungs clogged up with black-looking goo are real. Coal miners often died from a disease called pneumoconiosis – a disease of the lungs caused by dust inhalation which often led to chronic wheezing – and the residue caused by thousands of cigarettes can have a similar effect. Multiple respiratory ailments can be directly caused by smoking. If you have asthma, smoking can make it much worse, too.
3 It wreaks havoc with the immune system
Your immune system is a complex and comprehensive set of biological responses to the threat of disease and infection, and when weakened it can lead to autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and alopecia areata. Smoking can weaken your autoimmune response. Related to this is Type 2 diabetes, which is also said to be an increased risk when someone smokes.
4 It gives you a brown smile
It’s true. Life-time smokers very often have severe tooth discolouration, caused by tar in the cigarette. Because the smoke kills off “good bacteria” in the mouth, it can also lead to foul-smelling breath as well. In short, smoking can make a person seriously less attractive.
5 It doubles the risk of a stroke
A stroke can leave people partially paralysed and suffering from a variety of speech and behavioural problems, and according to studies smokers can expect to at least double their chances of having one.
6 It can lead to problems in the womb
Reports show that women who smoke are at greater than average risk of stillbirths, miscarriages, premature births and having sickly children. Male smokers, meanwhile, can look forward to damaged sperm and a lower sperm count.
7 It will give you withered skin
Studies have found that long-term smokers look older than non-smokers by as much as 10-20 years. This is because of a 300 per cent increase in the likelihood of severe wrinkling around the eyes and mouth.
8 It makes your bones brittle
Research have found that smokers often have more brittle bones than non-smokers. Chemicals in cigarettes reduce the calcium in bones and osteoporosis can ensue; back pain, bone fractures and a stooped posture are common symptoms.
9 It can make you go blind
According to the Macular Society, smoking is the biggest “modifiable” risk factor when it comes to age-related macular degeneration, which can cause people to go blind. It happens when toxic chemicals in cigarettes find their way to the delicate tissues in the eye through the bloodstream. Smokers are three to four times more likely to develop macular disease than non-smokers.
10 You’re killing others
Secondhand smoke is not a myth: TV’s Roy Castle (a lifelong non-smoker) died because of it. According to The American Cancer Society, over 40,000 people in the US die every year because of secondhand smoke. Children are especially vulnerable to the effects of it.
The top 10 health benefits of stopping smoking
1 Less chance of a stroke
The likelihood of having a stroke will drop to that of a non-smoker around five years after quitting.
2 Heart attack risk falls
Your chance of having a smoking-related heart attack halves after 12 months. Stay smoke-free for 15 years, and your heart should be in as good a shape as someone who has never smoked.
3 Live longer!
Quit young enough, and you’re likely to live an extra 10 years longer than you otherwise would have done.
4 Stop living with guilt and regret
Misery at not being able to run around the park with the children, at wasting so much money and being such a slave to your addiction will disappear – meaning you get to stop feeling so miserable about yourself.
5 Don’t worry about anxiety
Within just two to four weeks, any anxiety associated with not having a cigarette should have disappeared. Yes – the thing that you have been dreading forever (and the reason why you swore you could never quit) should be all over in a month.
6 Lungs breathe properly again
Your body will start to regrow cilia in your windpipe, which improves your ability to get rid of dirt and mucus from your lungs. As a result, shortness of breath will often improve in less than a year after stopping smoking.
7 You’ll keep your teeth
Smokers who live to 75 typically have around six less teeth than a non smoker. If you stop today, in around 13 years your risk of losing teeth will be no worse than for someone who has never smoked.
8 Cancer risk drops
It might take a decade, but long-term abstinence means that the chance of developing lung cancer will be halved compared to if you’d carried on smoking.
9 You start to look younger
The smoking damage to your skin isn’t entirely irreversible, and studies have found that stopping smoking sees positive changes to skin colouring, smoothness and elasticity in as little as five months.
10 Your food tastes better
Your sense of taste and smell will start to improve within days after stopping.
So yes, all of the information about smoking & vaping is ultimately confusing. So instead of weighing up the pros and cons, why not just stop? When I work with a client to help them stop smoking, it ordinarily takes a single session lasting upto a couple of hours. You would do a detailed Q&A about your habit, plus keep a smoking log that tells us both exactly what makes you tick about smoking. This detailed work helps me tailor your treatment exactly to you, which I believe is far more effective than anything generic.
And if you’d like to find out more about how you can stop smoking, then just get in touch with us and we can set up a free 20 minute consultation.
Thanks for reading