To read some of the press these days is to think that vaping is one of the unhealthiest ideas known to humanity since someone suggested that smoking could cure asthma and cancer (which is admittedly not quite as bad as the idea that swallowing dog poo could cure a sore throat). But the reality is very different.
It bears repeating over and over that the NHS has backed vaping as a smoking cessation tool. It is not that vaping has zero health risk and yes, those who neither smoke nor vape will be the healthiest overall, but whenever someone swaps a cigarette for a liquid vape, they will be better off for it.
For that reason, it is definitely wise to take any anti-vaping articles with a pinch of salt. But sometimes even articles that give a balanced, factual and reasonable comparison of the impact of smoking and vaping can carry headlines that might give the wrong impression.
An example of this is an article in Cosmetic Dentistry Guide, with the headline ‘Dentist Highlights Dental Side Effects Of Vaping’. This is followed by an opening paragraph that states: “Vaping is often thought of as a less harmful alternative to smoking, but dentists have stressed that are risks.”
Without reading on, one could easily get the impression that this is a bad news story.
However, that’s not really the case, especially in the context of patients who have swapped smoking for vaping. The author of the article, Dr Michael Heffernan from The Wessex Dental Specialist Care, noted that “Vaping is not as damaging to oral health as smoking or chewing tobacco”.
This, of course, is rather more emphatic, not to mention factual, than saying vaping is “often thought of as a less harmful alternative to smoking”. It is less harmful, period.
Where Dr Heffernan did raise some legitimate issues was in the area of gum disease and dry mouth, where vapers have a higher risk than those who neither smoke nor vape, while under-18s who vape do suffer more oral health problems. That, of course, is exactly why using e-cigarettes and vape pens at such an age is illegal.
Perhaps most tellingly, Dr Heffernan did acknowledge both that there has not been a great deal of research on the overall effects of vaping on oral health – which is a very good reason to be sceptical of alarmist claims – while he also acknowledged that those who switch from smoking to vaping are “likely to see improvements in their oral health.”
To say the last part is true is something of an understatement. According to toothbrush maker Oral B, tobacco use is the number one cause of oral cancer. Chewing tobacco can be even worse than smoking; it may pose less risk of lung cancer, but it raises the risk of mouth cancer.
Overall, it may be that not vaping or smoking would be best of all for dental health, but any situation where the public could be misled into thinking there is no distinction between the two when it comes to impact on oral health, such as a misleading headline, is somewhat irresponsible to say the least.