Over the last five years, e-cigarette use has become common, especially among young people. In fact, more high school students use e-cigarettes than regular cigarettes. But, many people are unaware of the true impact these devices can have on users' health. Despite growing evidence that smoking e-cigarettes, or vaping, may be even more dangerous than smoking cigarettes the popularity of these activities continues to rise. For this reason, our team here at Ascend Medical has put together a comprehensive guide about the dangers of vaping and e-cigarette use.
What is Vaping?
E-cigarettes are devices that heat a liquid into an aerosol that the user inhales. This liquid usually contains flavoring, nicotine, and other additives. Like in regular cigarettes, the nicotine in e-cigarettes is addictive. Because most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, they are considered tobacco products. Furthermore, tobacco smoking has long been clearly linked to cancer.
Besides nicotine, e-cigarettes can contain harmful and potentially harmful ingredients, including:
- ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs
- flavorants such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to serious lung disease
- volatile organic compounds
- heavy metals, such as nickel, tin, and lead
Vaping Health Risks and Effects
There are several health risks associated with vaping. In fact, as of Jan. 21, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed 60 deaths in patients with e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury (EVALI). Here are some of the risks and effects of smoking e-cigarettes.
E-cigarettes contain dangerous chemicals.
Both the World Health Organization and the United States Surgeon General have issued warnings about the dangers that may be associated with e-cigarettes.
While tobacco smoking has long been clearly linked to cancer, e-cigarettes are still unregulated. However, an FDA analysis of e-cigarettes from two leading brands found that the samples contained carcinogens and other hazardous chemicals, including diethylene glycol, which is found in antifreeze. Furthermore, research conducted in Greece found that e-cigarette use could cause breathing difficulties both in smokers and non-smokers, similar to regular cigarettes.
Vaping has been linked to heart and lung injury.
Both regular cigarettes and e-cigarettes contain nicotine as a primary agent. "Nicotine is both highly addictive and highly toxic," explained Dr. John Michael Smith, Chief Medical Officer at Ascend Medical. "The chemical raises blood pressure and spikes adrenaline, increasing the likelihood of a heart attack."
In addition, vaping has been linked to a buildup of oil and/or white blood cells in the lungs, which can lead to lung injury. In fact, 530 cases of lung injury and seven deaths due to vaping have been reported in the U.S. as of September 2019.
Vaping misconceptions make e-cigarettes more dangerous.
Young adults and children have a misconception that vaping is harmless, especially when compared to traditional smoking. Not only do vape cartridges come in a variety of flavors that are more attractive than the taste of tobacco, the lack of smoke makes the activity more appealing. With no smell, e-cigarettes actually reduce the stigma around smoking. Furthermore, e-cigarettes are small and easy to hide and can be conducted indoors without detection.
Among youth, e-cigarettes have become more popular than any traditional tobacco product. In 2015, the United States Surgeon General reported that e-cigarette use among high school students had increased by 900%, and 40% of young e-cigarette users had never smoked regular tobacco.
Comparing Vaping to Traditional Smoking
For many reasons, e-cigarettes should not be promoted as a safe alternative to smoking. While it's true that e-cigarette aerosol doesn't include all the contaminants in tobacco smoke, it still isn't safe.
Most e-cigarettes still deliver nicotine, which is highly addictive and can harm the developing brains of teens, kids and fetuses in women who vape while pregnant. Some types expose users to even more nicotine than traditional cigarettes.
In addition to nicotine, e-cigarette vapor includes potentially harmful substances such as diacetyl (a chemical linked to a serious lung disease), cancer-causing chemicals, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and heavy metals such as nickel, tin, and lead. Users breathe in these toxic contaminants, and non-users nearby risk secondhand exposure.
Furthermore, the liquid used in e-cigarettes can be dangerous, even apart from its intended use. Children and adults have been poisoned by swallowing, breathing or absorbing the liquid through their skin or eyes.
E-cigarettes have also been linked to thousands of cases of serious lung injury, some resulting in death. While the exact cause is still not confirmed, the CDC recommends that people not use e-cigarettes.
How to Prevent Your Children from Vaping
The CDC recommends the following techniques to prevent your child from smoking:
First, set a good example by being tobacco-free and ensure that your kid is not exposed to the secondhand emissions from any tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.
Talk to your child or teen about why e-cigarettes are harmful for them.
Set up an appointment with your child's health care provider so that they can hear from a medical professional about the health risks of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.
Speak with your child's teacher and school administrator about enforcement of tobacco-free school grounds policies and tobacco prevention curriculum.
If you're concerned you or your child may be at risk from vaping, the team at Ascend Medical is here to help. As a primary care system that revolves around you, we're proud to offer membership-based healthcare services, mobile diagnostics, and 24/7, on-demand virtual visits to address all of your health concerns - exactly when and where it's convenient for you. Book your same day appointment today!