Dr Karan Rajan: busting myths about vaping

We are cracking down on young people vaping.  

Our plans include banning disposable vapes, bringing in powers to stop them being marketed to children and cracking down on the illegal sale of vapes.  

NHS surgeon Dr Karan Rangarajan has explained how these plans will benefit young people – who may be encouraged to pick up vaping despite never smoking – and why it’s essential that they never start.  

Young people picking up vaping 

“We are certainly seeing vaping normalised on social media, with little to no awareness of any consequences. This is concerning, because the long-term impact of vaping is not yet known.  

Nicotine vapes are highly addictive, with withdrawal causing anxiety, trouble concentrating and headaches. Vaping could also become a gateway to forming harmful habits.  

Children who don’t smoke may pick up vaping socially, as a fun thing to do. Then, eventually, the oral association of having something in your mouth and taking a puff can become a habit.  

This may even lead someone to try more dangerous substances such as tobacco. 

Vaping addiction in young people 

Vaping contains nicotine, the same chemical in cigarettes that causes addiction. For young people who have never smoked, this is particularly worrying. 

As soon as you take a puff of a cigarette, or inhale a vape, you are going to get a hit of nicotine into your brain within seconds.  

That nicotine will increase the levels of various neurotransmitters associated with the reward center of the brain. Essentially, the more you smoke or vape, the more nicotine you will need to get that feel good factor.  

Additionally, it can be easy to form a psychological association with smoking or vaping.

For example, you may find you want to vape when you’re drinking coffee or taking a break, talking on the phone or driving in your car. This means it can quickly become part of your daily routine. 

Advertising vapes to young people 

Some vapes are marketed as enjoyable, palatable products – not held to the same strict criteria as tobacco when it comes to advertising, which I believe is an issue.  

Many of these products – particularly disposable vapes – are perfectly branded to manipulate and influence the purchasing habits of young people.  

When you look at the back of a cigarette packet, you see images reflecting the many risks of smoking, but often vapes are branded with bright colours and appealing flavours.  

We need more fair, equitable advertising for vaping products as well.”  

Dr Karan Rangarajan is an NHS surgeon, lecturer and author. You can find him on TikTok and Instagram.