To Vape or Not to Vape?

Vaping has taken the U.S. by storm, rapidly eating into the tobacco market while implying a “safer” or “healthier” alternative to cigarettes. For those unfamiliar, “vaping” refers to the act of inhaling and exhaling an aerosol along with flavoring and various chemicals (typically nicotine). Vaporizers (or “vapes,” vaping devices) come in many different forms; many are rechargeable, refillable electronic devices. A wide range of flavors are available for every palate. Many popular flavors, such as cotton candy or fruit medley, are enticing to younger audiences.

Is Vaping “Better” Than Smoking Cigarettes?

Many vape manufacturers would have you believe vaping is a healthier alternative to smoking cigarettes. As Johns Hopkins Medicine points out, regular tobacco cigarettes contain approximately 7,000 chemicals (many of which are toxic), while e-cigarettes contain far fewer toxic chemicals. Though the toxicity may be lower, not enough research has been done to know precisely what chemicals (or levels) are present in vape devices.

At the very least, e-cigarettes and traditional cigarettes always contain one highly addictive and toxic chemical: nicotine. Nicotine can increase blood pressure, cause an adrenaline spike, and elevate heart rate, thereby increasing risk for heart attack. Of course, nothing about device or delivery mechanism changes the addictive nature of nicotine.

Perhaps worst of all, vaping is introducing a new generation to nicotine by the millions. Let’s take a closer look at the connection between vaping and teenagers…

Vaping & Teens

The National Institute of Drug Abuse reports some key statistics in its Teens and E-Cigarettes report:

  • 30.7 percent of teen e-cigarette users will start smoking within six months, compared to just 8.1 percent of non-users.
  • Seven in ten teenagers are exposed to e-cigarette ads.
  • A shocking number of users don’t know what’s in their e-cigarette, due in part to the fact that manufacturers don’t have to disclose their ingredients. Only 13.2 percent of teen users say nicotine is in their device, while 13.7 percent say they don’t know, and 66 percent say “just flavoring.”

According to the American Heart Association, vaping use doubled among high school students from 2017 to 2018. It’s no wonder that on December 18, 2018, Surgeon General Jerome Adams declared vaping among youth an epidemic in the United States.

The Health Risks of Vaping

Vaping isn’t just risky for teenagers, who may use it as an entry point for years of tobacco abuse. Vaping has a few health risks of its own. For example, did you know that vaping can irritate cells in the gums, mouth, and throat? Or that many vaping liquids contain chemicals harmful to the lungs, including diacetyl, 2, 3-pentanedione, and acetoin, according to a 2016 study that analyzed 51 types of flavored e-cigarettes? (As an interesting aside, this study notes there are more than 7,000 e-cigarette flavors on the market… and that was over three years ago.)

Vaping: Not Safe or Harmless

It’s possible that vaping may be a marginally better alternative for adults addicted to nicotine. However, vaping is not safe or harmless, nor should it be recommended as a smoking cessation tool.

The question the medical community should ask is, “Just how harmful might vaping be?” More research is needed to understand the chemical relationships involved in e-cigarette devices. In the meantime, their use is not recommended.

You Can Quit! We Can Help!

If you desire to quit smoking, talk to your doctor at St. Thomas Medical Group in Nashville about the many safe and approved cessation therapies that may be available. Change is possible. Call +1 (615) 297-2700 or schedule your appointment with a provider online.