TikTok doctor warns truth about vaping danger won’t be seen ‘for 20 or 30 years’

Medical experts have taken to the video-sharing platform to warn young people of the risks associated with vaping.

The colours and flavours of disposable vapes are appealing to children
Vaping danger TikTok campaign The colours and flavours of disposable vapes are appealing to children (Alamy Stock Photo)

An NHS doctor and content creator is warning young people on TikTok that “history is repeating itself” with vaping and, just like smoking, the truth about the dangers will “take decades to come through”.

Dr Ahmed Ezzat – who posts under Dr Mish Mash – says: “Who would have thought that back in the 1920s to 1940s, doctors on every billboard were trying to promote smoking cigarettes, even claiming, with the tobacco companies, that smoking cigarettes cured or treated asthma and shortness of breath.

“If anyone was to the say that now it would be absolutely farcical. So in the same way, we’re kind of seeing history repeat itself.”

The London-based general surgery registrar says there are lots of parallels between cigarettes and vapes – electronic devices designed to allow people to inhale nicotine in a vapour, which are available with or without nicotine.

“If you look at smoking, it took 40 years [to see the health implications]. Let’s wait another few decades and see what happens with vaping.

“Just because there isn’t enough evidence yet to prove that it’s harmful, it doesn’t mean in any way that there is no harm,” he says. “They could be very harmful, and that the effects won’t be known until 20 or 30 years from now.”

It’s part of a new drive by TikTok to provide factual information from trusted sources about the potential dangers of vaping and direct people who want to quit towards the organisation Talk To Frank.

With over 154,000 posts on TikTok under #vaping and 14,000 posts under #quitvaping, it’s discussed a lot on the social media site, and creators like Dr Emeka Okorocha (@Doctor.Emeka) and medical student Christina Aaliyah (@christina.aaliyah) have also been working on the campaign to educate users.

There’s been a rise in trend in the number of younger kids who are trying and then picking up vaping, says Ezzat. “These are children because they’re under 18, have never smoked cigarettes before.”

NHS figures from 2022 show that 9% of 11 to 15-year-olds vaped at the time, and for 15-year-olds, the number is as high as one in five. Last week, new figures from Cancer UK showed that the rise in vaping was greatest in people who had never smoked, rising from 2% in July 2016 to 9% in May 2023 for 18 to 24-year-olds.

(Alamy Stock Photo)

The colours and flavours of disposable vapes in particular may attract children and young people to buy them. “People buying these very cheap £2 vapes that are colourful that I see at every bus stop. These are kids coming out of schools.

“These flavours normalise it, instead of somebody buying, say chewing gum or chocolate, they buy a vape that is perceptually seen as being cool.”

And vaping among adults isn’t helping either. “Increasingly, you’re seeing parents vaping around children, even in playgrounds, and because they perceive it as ‘not smoking’.”

This is where there is a “cultural confusion”, Ezzat says. “There’s a matrix where people haven’t quite registered that vaping is smoking and vaping is just as bad.

“But – and this is where it becomes tricky – vaping has a use, but it certainly is not for children or those who’ve never smoked before,” he says. “The NHS recommends vaping for those in a controlled way for those who are trying to stop cigarette smoking and can’t stop. [For] individuals who are addicted to smoking, vaping absolutely has a use under a regulated way, in consultation with a doctor.”

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