Edited and published by Wellness Monster Louise
As an alternative to traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes, or vaping, has become the new so-called healthier trend. But is vaping really safer and how do they affect the lungs compared to regular smoking? Can you get hooked on e-cigarettes? How about using vaping as a way to stop smoking? Does it work? Is vaping the next gateway drug for parents to get worried about? Despite what you’ve heard, good and bad, opinions from experts and researchers are mixed.
How to Vape
E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that can look like anything from a Tic Tac dispenser, to a ballpoint pen to an old-school cigarette. A long held belief is e-cigarettes are a safer way to get a nicotine fix. Each are filled with a liquid combining nicotine, flavorings and other chemicals and when turned on, the liquid turns into a vapor that one inhales.
Safer Than Cigarettes?
While nobody will tell you that vaping is completely safe, most people assume that the practice is much safer than traditional cigarettes including some experts. According to nicotine researcher Neal Benowitz, MD, almost half a million people a year die of cigarette smoking in the United States. But most of the danger lies from the many chemicals which are burned and then inhaled in through the smoke Most of the harm comes from the thousands of chemicals that are burned and inhaled in the smoke, he explains the researcher at the University of California at San Francisco. And a 2015 expert review from Public Health England estimated that e-cigarettes were 95% less harmful than traditional cigarettes. But those statistics don’t sit well with a tobacco policy researcher at the University of Michigan. “The worst critics of e-cigarettes would probably argue they’re a half to two-thirds less dangerous,” says Kenneth Warner, “But from a practical view, they’re probably on the order of 80% to 85% less dangerous, at least.” Still, Warner does concede that second-hand vaping is still pretty safe.
Not so fast says The Guardian who reported that in experiments involving mice exposed to the vaping fumes suffered “mild” damage to their lungs and became more susceptible to respiratory-type infections. In fact, the responses to different viruses and bacteria were weakened and two out of ten animals died during the testing. (https://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/feb/04/e-cigarettes-toxic-chemicals-research-finds-lung-damage)
The Problem with Nicotine
Most vaping liquids contain nicotine, which everyone knows is addictive. When one stops using an e-cigarette, one will go through withdrawal just as if they were smoking traditional cigarettes, but the effects may not be as extreme or as uncomfortable. Nicotine is any good for those with heart problems and some research suggests that the chemical may endanger arteries as well. Other studies have shown that nicotine is dangerous for unborn babies regardless how it is breathed in.
Vaping is the New Smoking
Some people have switched from smoking to vaping in hopes of having the new practice help them to quit smoking altogether. 56-year-old Caren Kagan Evans says that she has tried to quit smoking using a nicotine patch, gum and even hypnosis, but nothing has worked for her. But vaping did. “I’m breathing, sleeping, and eating much better since I started vaping. My ‘smoker’s laugh’ went away, and I no longer smell like an ashtray,” she says. Even Dr. Warners seems to agree saying, “My reading of the evidence is that it is quite convincing that e-cigarettes are helping some people quit smoking.” However, not everyone is convinced.
“If there was good evidence that people were using e-cigarettes just to quit smoking, there would be wide support,” Benowitz says. “The problem is most of the e-cigarette use in the U.S. is dual use with cigarettes.” People use e-cigs in places or situations where they can’t smoke, like in a restaurant, but continue lighting up when they can, he explains. And according to the FDA, there’s no hard evidence that any e-cigarette is safe or effective in helping smokers to kick the habit and the American Heart Association says that vaping should only be used as a last resort as a way to quit nicotine. It doesn’t help that many vaping liquids come in candy and fruit flavors making them more attractive to those who don’t already smoke.
What many vaping users are unaware of is that many brands’ products contain other harmful chemicals like formaldehyde (often used when creating building materials and used as an embalming chemical) and others that are commonly used in antifreeze and can cause cancer. Another chemical, diacetyl, is a butter flavoring often used on theater popcorn and is considered harmless for this use. However, when inhaled, it is considered dangerous as it has been known to cause a lung disease called “popcorn lung.”
Everyone’s Doing It
Vaping stores are the new video stores with shops popping up all over the place promising new flavors and devices to try and some of them are luring kids into the shops. As reported by the journal Pediatrics in 2015, teens who had never smoked in their lives where six time more likely to try regular cigarettes compared to kids who haven’t ever vaped. However, another study that same year found that while vaping use went ups 24%, the use of other tobacco products went down to just under 11%. The FDA is cracking down on use too. Today, no one under the age of 18 can purchase e-cigarettes and sellers are checking everyone under the age of 27. Samples are not allowed and the devices can only be sold in vending machines that are located in adult-only establishments. The FDA is also requiring any e-cigarettes created after 2007 to go through a safety and approval review.
Vaping is Blowing Up. Really.
E-cigarettes are not the most sound of equipment out there. Between 2009 and 2016, there have been 134 reports of the devices exploding due to the overheating of batteries leaving many of these users. In addition, some children have been known to find their parent’s nicotine liquids and have ingested them poisoning the kids. Fortunately, the FDA are creating rules that will require nicotine warnings and child-resistant packaging for products with e-liquids.
Illustration of a toxic smoke in Lung . lung cancer concept [ID 120788953 © Pascalkfl | Dreamstime.com]
Close-up of a man vaping an electronic cigarette. Exhaling, smoke. [ID 69170752 © Gawriloff | Dreamstime.com]
Nicotine 3D. [By Benjah-bmm27– Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nicotine-3D-vdW.png]
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