We’re all aware of the risks of smoking…
In 1964, the first report from the US Surgeon General’s Advisory Committee on Smoking and Health was released, concluding that smoking cigarettes can cause lung cancer and is the single most significant cause of chronic bronchitis.1 Nearly 60 years later, the negative health effects of smoking are widely known and many people have turned to vaping as a safer option. But are people aware that vaping – the new nicotine addiction – comes with its own dangers?
Vapes or e-cigarettes operate by activating a battery-powered heating device and vaporising a liquid solution when the user inhales. Although originally intended to help smokers quit, vapes are now being commonly used by people that didn’t smoke before and have become an introduction to nicotine.
You might be thinking – “But why does this impact me as a multinational employer?”
Well, with the number of people vaping increasing all over the world, there’s a need to understand the risks associated if multinationals are going to maintain a healthy workforce, manage their medical claims and fulfil their responsibilities to the environment.
So, who exactly is vaping? As you might expect, younger generations are the biggest users of vapes, with 20% of people in the US between 18 and 29 years of age vaping, compared to 16% of people between 30 and 64.2 In the UK, 7% of adults smoked vapes in 2021 and the number of 11 to 18 year olds who vape grew from 4% to over 8% between 2021 and 2022.3
And why are people vaping?
- People believe it’s less harmful than smoking.
- E-cigarettes can be more convenient than cigarettes.
- The lack of smoke and the flavoured taste reduces the stigma.
But why are these risks a problem for you?
While fewer adults smoking cigarettes is obviously positive, the increased use of vapes poses two main dangers: to health and the environment.
Dangers to health
It’s commonly believed that vapes mitigate the health implications of cigarettes, but, according to many, this is just wishful thinking.
The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine released a consensus study in 2018, which made it clear that using e-cigarettes does cause health risks as they contain and emit toxic substances. These chemicals can cause cardiovascular diseases and lung diseases such as asthma or lung cancer.4
Cristian Waitman, Co-Founder of MindCo Health,5 a virtual reality smoking cessation programme, also warns of some of these risks. “Although vaping is often marketed as a safer alternative to smoking, it's important to remember that safer doesn't necessarily mean safe… The long-term health risks of vaping are still not fully understood, especially when compared with the well-documented risks of smoking cigarettes, but we do know that it can have serious health consequences."
The environmental impacts are also cause for concern
As well as the potential risks to your peoples’ health, there’s also the environmental impact to consider.
The most popular e-cigarette is the disposable vape, with more than half of vapers (52.8%) using these in 2022.6 E-cigarette waste can have a bigger environmental impact than even cigarette butts, since e-cigarettes include plastic, nicotine salts, heavy metals, lead, mercury and flammable lithium-ion batteries.7 An improperly disposed vape won’t biodegrade, and will eventually break down into microplastics and chemicals, polluting waterways and impacting wildlife.
According to a 2020 study, many e-cigarette users reportedly disposed of their empty vapes incorrectly.
- 51% - throw them away in regular waste
- 17% - put them in regular recycling
- 10% - of vapes end up as litter.
The most sustainable way of recycling vapes is to take them to household waste and recycling centres. If you can remove the battery from the vape, you can recycle this separately, but if not, the whole vape can be put in the electrical recycling.8
The important bit – what can you do to help?
What can you do to help look after your people who vape, and reduce the environmental impacts?
Raise awareness of the health risks
- We’ve spoken about how the dangers of vaping are little known and potentially not believed, so an important first step could simply be opening up the discussion to educate your people in understanding that vapes are not a safe alternative to cigarettes.
- Running an awareness campaign to make your people aware of the risks could allow them to make more informed decisions about their health.
Focus on the environmental impacts
- Multinationals are under more pressure than ever to take responsibility for, and manage, their environmental impact.
- You could consider setting up somewhere in your workplace for people to properly dispose of their disposable vapes and educate them on the environmental impacts of not doing so.
- Your awareness campaign could also encourage more sustainable options... with many younger people being environmentally conscious, it could even help give them the nudge they need to quit vaping.
Look into alternative smoking cessation techniques
- We’ve suggested that vape usage in adults is commonly linked to smoking cessation but vapes are not the only solution.
- You could encourage your people to try nicotine patches or nicotine gum. But MindCo Health believes you could try an alternative solution. MindCo provides a smartphone-based virtual reality mindful exposure therapy that it calls “VR-MET” to empower people quit smoking supported by coaching, without the need for vapes or nicotine substitutes. Cristian Waitman says, “By addressing addiction's physical and psychological aspects, this approach offers a comprehensive and innovative solution to improve employee health and wellbeing, accessible to all directly from their homes."
By focusing on these areas, you can reduce the risk that vapes pose to both your people and our planet.
If you would like to educate your people and run a smoking cessation awareness campaign in your workplace or find out more about MindCo Health's virtual reality programme, contact your local MAXIS GBN representative or email [email protected].
MAXIS GBN may receive fees, commissions and/or other remuneration from third parties in connection with the services we carry out for you
1 Anon, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/sgr/history/index.htm
2 Elizabeth Drew, mpowerwellness, https://www.mpowerwellness.com/blog/vaping-statistics#:~:text=Teens%20between%2015%20and%2017,between%2025%20and%2034%20do.
3 Anon, Nicotine vaping in England: 2022 evidence update main findings https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/nicotine-vaping-in-england-2022-evidence-update/nicotine-vaping-in-england-2022-evidence-update-main-findings
4 Anon, American Lung Association, https://www.lung.org/quit-smoking/e-cigarettes-vaping/impact-of-e-cigarettes-on-lung#:~:text=E%2Dcigarettes%20produce%20a%20number,as%20cardiovascular%20(heart)%20disease.&text=E%2Dcigarettes%20also%20contain%20acrolein,primarily%20used%20to%20kill%20weeds.
5 MindCo, a company registered in Delaware, United States of America having its registered office at 2021 The Alameda, suite 380, San Jose, CA, 95126 (“MindCo”)
6 Anon, Nicotine vaping in England: 2022 evidence update main findings, https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/nicotine-vaping-in-england-2022-evidence-update/nicotine-vaping-in-england-2022-evidence-update-main-findings#:~:text=current%20vaping%20prevalence%20(including%20occasional,not%20currently%20vaping%20(98.3%25)
7 Anon, truth initiative, https://truthinitiative.org/research-resources/harmful-effects-tobacco/toxic-plastic-problem-e-cigarette-waste-and-environment
8 Anon, Recycle Your Electrics, https://www.recycleyourelectricals.org.uk/how-to-recycle-electronics/what-electronics-can-be-recycled/recycle-vapes/#:~:text=All%20household%20waste%20and%20recycling,kit%20with%20your%20electrical%20recycling.