Healthcare Professionals Should Talk to Patients About Vaping Risks

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As a dentist, I encounter teeth staining caused by tobacco products during check-ups.

Patients are receptive when we explain the potentially harmful effects of cigarettes on their oral and gum health. However, it’s uncertain whether they will heed our advice later.

Dealing with vaping products, on the other hand, presents a more complex challenge.

I have observed a significant increase in vape product users in the dental chair and in the streets. Many teenagers are starting to use vapes at an early age.

I was shocked when a 13-year-old Form 1 student proudly informed me that he had been vaping daily for more than a year. This situation is dangerous, as many mistakenly believe that vape products consist only of harmless flavoured water vapours. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Vaping products use a battery to heat up a liquid into an aerosol that users inhale. These e-liquids contain nicotine, propylene glycol, flavours and other chemicals.

The use of vaping products is linked to the occurrence of nicotine addiction and E-cigarette or vaping-use-associated lung injury (Evali), an inflammatory condition that damages our lungs.

In June, a 16-year-old teen from Selangor, with a three-year vaping history, died from acute heart failure with pulmonary embolism, suspected due to Evali.

Dental research has shown a connection between vaping product use and gum disease and, separately, damage to the teeth’s enamel. 

Other possible effects of vaping products on oral health include throat irritation and mouth irritation, which includes mouth dryness, potentially leading to a higher risk of tooth decay and cavities.

People may not be aware that addressing diseases and lung damage resulting from vaping is not only costly but also irreversible. 

This underscores the need for increased awareness about the harms of vaping and measures to prevent these health issues associated with vaping.

As healthcare professionals, it is our duty to engage in health awareness, health promotion, and health education for our patients, emphasising prevention in relation to vaping products.

Healthcare professionals provide information, correcting misconceptions, advocating cessation and providing evidence-based guidance for cessation or referring them to cessation services.

In our practices, we should allocate time for discussions about the risks of vaping during history-taking or check-ups to reinforce the message that vaping is not a harmless activity.

I believe many healthcare professionals were disappointed with the Health Ministry’s decision to remove liquid and gel nicotine from the list of poisons in the Poisons Act 1952.

By delisting nicotine from the act, underage children could access vape products or be exposed to the harmful effects of vape products.

I hope that legislators pass the Control of Smoking Products for Public Health Bill 2023, which aims to control the sale and purchase of tobacco products, such as vape.

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