Most people would assume that replacing smoking cigarettes with vaping is a positive step toward better health. It is well-known that smoking tobacco cigarettes involve risks to just about every organ and tissue of our bodies. While vaping appears to be an attractive smoking cessation tool, it also carries significant risks to your health and there is a great deal of uncertainty as to what harm vaping may do long-term.
Although vaping is probably safer than smoking tobacco, the long-term health effects of vaping are still unknown and may carry their own risks.
There are concerns about people using both tobacco and e-cigarettes and that one addiction may simply be traded for another.
E-cigarette flavors are likely to be benign, but it is still unknown if these flavors pose health risks if heated and aerosolized.
Do not vape, do not use vape nicotine-containing products, do not vape illicit products, or tamper with e-cigarette products.
Don’t be fooled!
Don’t be fooled by trading one addiction for another. Smoking cigarettes is a deadly addiction, and vaping may not be much better, if at all. The main focus about should be that both are preventable. Neither combustible cigarettes nor e-cigarettes are totally safe.
E-cigarettes may not contain carbon monoxide, but they do contain other toxins that may be harmful to our bodies. It is possible, however, that using e-cigarettes provides a safe avenue for smoking cessation since there is likely to be little chance of relapse to smoking cigarettes.
In other words, e-cigarettes may provide a chance for the person’s lungs to repair the damage from combustible cigarettes and remove some bad toxins from tobacco. The dilemma is that many e-cigarettes still may contain substances that can negatively impact our health.
To say that e-cigarettes are less harmful than combustible cigarettes remains a controversial topic. One of the issues with e-cigarette usage is that it doesn’t end as a traditional cigarette does. Typically, e-cigarettes last up to ten times longer and whatever exposure the person is getting to any potentially harmful effects is prolonged.
Use of e-cigarettes in young people
There is no question that youth e-cigarette use has exploded in popularity. The notion that it is a healthy alternative and that it actually helps people quit smoking traditional combustible cigarettes is undeniable.
The question, however, remains that even if it stops people from the dangers of combustible cigarette smoking, is it truly a healthier alternative?
There still needs to be more clinical research to answer this question. The FDA and others are trying to calculate whether there is a net benefit from stopping tobacco smoking versus introducing other potential problems with vaping.
Fortunately, there has been a decline in adolescent tobacco smoking. In 2017, the actual prevalence of teen tobacco smoking was only 8.8%. On the other hand, this decrease has been offset by a skyrocketing increase in e-cigarette use, and we still don’t have all the answers regarding safety.
Many adolescents and young adults mix vaping with THC or CBD. These products complicate the issues related to safety as well.
But isn’t tobacco smoking decreasing?
Yes, it is gradually declining. It is more difficult to find places that permit smoking. And many places where smoking is restricted, also restrict vaping too.
In 2018, tobacco smoking hit an all-time low of 13.7%. That translates to tens of millions of people who still smoke despite the warnings and global history of health problems and deaths.
Many people use both tobacco and e-cigarettes. Dual use complicates the issue because people tend to forget about stopping one or the other, thereby defeating the purpose of using vaping to stop tobacco smoking.
Adults are still more likely to smoke tobacco cigarettes than younger people.
What are the dangers of vaping?
Consistency and knowledge of what is actually in the e-cigarette product is the biggest concern. Some devices will claim there is no nicotine, yet in fact contain nicotine.
E-cigarettes contain aerosolized gases or “vapers,” hence the name. These are highly heated chemicals, particularly propylene glycol, which can irritate the heart, lungs, and other major organs of the body. Studies are showing significant health risks.
Some of the aerosolized gases that are inhaled and exhaled may cause long-term health risks. Flavors which are popular are probably safe since they are food additives and are on the FDA’s list of “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRAS) substances.
However, this applies to the flavors if they were ingested only. It is not known whether the flavors pose a health risk if they are heated, aerosolized, and inhaled deeply into the lungs. An example is cinnamon, which is safe to eat, but there is evidence that when it is aerosolized and inhaled in e-cigarettes it places people at risk for lung cell damage.
US respiratory outbreak
In the fall of 2019, there was a tragic outbreak of acute lung disease that affected vapers. It was called EVALI or “e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury.”
There was a clear risk found from vaping. It was associated with the use of illicit, illegal vaping products containing vitamin E acetate and additives such as THC and CBD. Many were hospitalized and there were incidences of death.
The CDC recommendation from this incident was that e-cigarettes should be avoided if they contain illicit THC. Furthermore, tapering with any e-cigarette product may place a person at risk of unintended consequences.
- CDC. Outbreak of Lung Injury Associated with the Use of E-cigarette or Vaping Products.
- International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Lung Toxicity of Condensed Aerosol from E-CIG Liquids.
- The BMJ. What are the Respiratory Effects of E-cigarettes?
- Journal of the American Heart Association. Impact of Electronic Cigarettes on the Cardiovascular System.
- AFP Journal. Cigarette Smoking Among U.S Adults Hits All-Time Low.
- CDC. Youth and Tobacco Use.