Healthcheck UK Live

Posted 6th April 2020 by Dave Cross
BBC’s Healthcheck UK Live follows bartender ‘Ace’, a smoker, as he successfully uses vaping to improve his health and reduce his tobacco-related harm. Along the way we meet Dr Nick Hopkinson from the British Lung Foundation, who issues some no-nonsense facts about vaping.

“Just how hard is it to quit the fags, and is vaping a safer alternative?”

31yr-old bartender ‘Ace’ smokes hard and heavy, 40-60 per day, but he wants to quit tobacco. Nothing has worked for him to date.

“Everyone in my family smoked so it was just a culture growing up. So, at a young age, it was just ‘pinch a cigarette’ and go out and look cool in front of your friends.”

Patches made him dizzy, gum tasted foul, so every quit attempt ended in failure. Quitting tobacco has “never been more important”, says the voiceover, “in the wake of the coronavirus”.

“Vaping might help Ace say ‘goodbye’ to cigarettes for good. For many medics, vaping could be a gamechanger for quitters, that’s because it gives the same nicotine hit but a lot less of the harmful substances like tar or carbon monoxide.”

The problem, the program says, is that many smokers have been scared away from vaping by irresponsible media reports, leaving them thinking vaping is as bad, if not worse.

It’s amazing that despite the UK leading the way in vaping and tobacco harm reduction, people like Ace exist who still have limited understanding. He admitted to not knowing much, but worried over vaping a liquid: “What does that do to your lungs? Can it give you any diseases other than cancer? There’s so many questions to be answered.”

The presenter turned to the British Lung Foundation’s Dr Nick Hopkinson to find out more. He pointed out how vaping doesn’t produce tar or carbon monoxide, and that any other similar chemical compounds produced are present in much, much lower levels compared to smoking.

“People smoke for the nicotine, and vaping provides the nicotine but without most of the toxins that go along with smoking” – Dr Hopkinson

“One of the things that has happened over the last four or five years is that the proportion of people who think vaping is more harmful than smoking has actually gone up – even though that’s absolutely not what the science says,” explained Dr Hopkinson.

“There are two really simple messages: vaping is much, much safer than smoking, so if people switch from smoking to vaping that’s a big step forward to their health, and for people who don’t smoke, don’t start vaping.”

The BBC informed viewers that a study funded by Cancer Research UK revealed “that around 6 in 10 smokers thought that e-cigarettes were as bad for your health as smoking”.

Dr Nick responded: “The really important thing about this, there are still around 6 million people smoking. About a third of people who smoke have never tried an e-cigarette, so they’re missing out on something that might help them to quit smoking completely.”

Following a health check by Dr Nick, Ace is “100% there” to starting his next quit attempt.

With box mod in hand, Ace compiled a video diary to cover the ensuing weeks.

It wasn’t the easy route out of tobacco for Ace: “When I was at work earlier, I craved smoking a cigarette, especially when everyone who smoked went out for a cigarette break – but this was actually perfect,” he said waving his mod and atty at the camera. That said, Ace didn’t find vaping was helping with the cravings as much as he wanted it to.

ASH’s Hazel Cheeseman demonstrated for him the difference between smoking and vaping with the aid of two flasks filled with cotton wool. The tar from the cigarette jar was rapidly evident and a pungent reminder of the damage smoking does to lungs.

Unfortunately, the program briefly alluded to ‘danger’ posed by nicotine. The Royal Society for Public Health has said: “Nicotine [is] ‘no more harmful to health than caffeine’.”

Ace pledged to remain of the fags from that moment on, and he did: “Happy days and happy vaping”.

Ace reported feeling a lot more energetic, he’s taken up running and feels much better. He’s been halving his nicotine content of his liquids and is looking forward to stopping using nicotine altogether.

Yet again, vaping proves its worth as a tobacco harm reduction and smoking cessation tool.

The New Nicotine Alliance (NNA) commented: “Thank you Healthcheck UK Live for your balanced report on vaping. Regrettably, vape shops are currently closed so access to these products is heavily restricted.” The NNA has previously explained why it is so important access to vape shops is maintained through the COVID-19 lockdown [link].

Related:

  • Healthcheck UK Live, Series 1, Episode 4 – [link]
  • Nicotine “no more harmful to health than caffeine” – [link]


 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, dog walker