QUESTION: 

Hi Zac, I’m at my wits’ end! I have smoked for over 20 years and tried all the traditional methods of quitting. Patches, gum, eating nuts, hypnotism and no luck! My 20-year-old nephew asked me if I had tried vaping – which is something I thought was very bad for you and worse than cigarettes. He told me that vaping had received a bad rap and it had been a great method of helping many of his friends ween off cigarettes. He told me to research on the internet but so many reports are conflicting.

What are your thoughts on vaping? Do you think I should give it a go in order to quit smoking or is too dangerous and I should I give the other methods another crack? I’m desperate – I really do not want to smoke anymore? 

Jo, 45 – Tasmania

ANSWER: 

Hi Jo, thanks for your question. This is a little difficult to answer so bear with me. I don’t want to stand directly on one side of the fence. I’ll make a few points and hopefully put you in the direction that is best for you.

I believe that vaping is better for you than smoking cigarettes. Tar is far worse for your lungs than vapour. But do you know what’s better for your lungs than either of the two? Fresh air. Your lungs are extremely delicate and designed to really only breathe in oxygen. In recent times, researchers have discovered our lungs struggle to even filter out the pollution in our air.

Cigarettes cause harm due to the combustion process when smoking tobacco. It wears down the cell lining of your lungs, making them more susceptible to the cancer-causing chemicals found in cigarettes.

Vapes don’t combust, they vaporise. However breathing oil vapour still damages your lungs but at a significantly lower rate than smoking tobacco.

Speaking from my own experience, I’ve had patients who successfully used vaping as a cessation tool to quit smoking. They were in the same age bracket to you and had a similar career of smoking. They made the right decision in speaking with their doctor to choose a quitting method that was right for them.

I support Greg Hunt’s push to make vape oils prescription only – it maintains that vaping is used only for the right reason. I also don’t believe there should be any other flavours other than tobacco or menthol.

Quitting smoking is extremely difficult – nicotine addiction is one of the hardest to kick. The reason why search results for “how to quit smoking” are endless is because everyone has their own trick. You need to find out what works for you.

I recommend speaking with your doctor and seeing if vaping works for you to quit smoking. If it doesn’t, I’m sorry to say it but start again. You don’t want to exchange cigarettes with vaping and still be addicted to nicotine.

An exercise I do with my patients with anxiety who are quitting smoking is deep breathing. I recommend you sit yourself outside in a nice quiet spot and breathe in deeply 20 times. The feeling you will have afterwards is better than any rush from nicotine. Give it a go next time you get cravings. I suppose it’s not an Ask Doctor Zac article without saying it, but have a glass of water after your breathing. It’ll make that extra difference!

I’m not surprised your 20-year-old nephew is the one who suggested it. Young people are attracted to vapes as they’re considered ‘cool’ and are marketed towards them with a range of sweet flavours. It was a similar story to older Australians who will no doubt remember when a cool looking cowboy on a horse told us to smoke cigarettes. Like all substances, they need to be used responsibly and preferably for those people who use it as a smoking cessation aid, rather than recreationally.

Smoking has been the bane of the medical industry in the last few decades. The illnesses and diseases that have been proven time and time again to come directly from smoking are 100% preventable. I’m hesitant to give vaping the green light as we haven’t seen the long term effects like we have with cigarettes.

Jo, keep trying until you find the tool that sticks. You aren’t alone in quitting so ask everyone you know who used to smoke how they quit. Even ask strangers! Tasmania has the highest smoking rate in Australia, so your quitting will help reduce that unenviable position. The more questions you ask the better chance of finding a solution to quit!