A hot-button topic in the news the past few months has dealt with the usage of e-cigarettes, or “vaping,” especially among teens.
Over the past few years, the negative health effects of vaping have prompted health care professionals to recommend that individuals quit using e-cigarettes. In Canada, Jan. 19 through Jan. 25 is their “National Non-Smoking Week,” and it’s a good chance for us down south to reflect on the harms of smoking, especially with the arrival of e-cigarettes into our lives over the past decade.
Answering all the dangers of smoking?
When e-cigarettes first arrived on the scene during the first decade of the 21st century, it was touted as a healthy alternative to smoking cigarettes. With decades of research proving that a link exists between cigarettes and lung cancer, millions of Americans tried to quit smoking. While some were successful, others simply couldn’t kick their addiction to nicotine, the chemical found in cigarettes.
That’s where e-cigarettes came in. It was supposed to be the magic solution that allowed smokers to smoke in a more healthy way, not having to kick their nicotine habit while also eliminating the harsh odors of cigarettes, since e-cigarette liquid helps create a more pleasant smell. Additionally, without the secondhand smoke of a cigarette, e-cigarettes were supposed to reduce the chances of developing lung cancer compared to smoking cigarettes.
However, findings in the past few years about the connection between vaping and harmful health conditions, not to mention the negative effects associated with nicotine, raises new questions about e-cigarettes.
Is vaping safer than cigarettes? Yes, but…
If you’re bound and determined to choose between vaping and smoking, choose vaping. Compared to smoking, vaping exposes the user to far less harmful chemicals.
However, the best choice is to do neither, since both have connections to striking health effects.
While the harms of smoking cigarettes are well-documented, as of November 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have confirmed 47 deaths related to use of e-cigarettes, related to lung injury from the prolonged use of e-cigarettes.
Another side effect is a condition referred to as “popcorn lung.” Many e-cigarettes contain harmful ingredients that include ultrafine particles that could injure the lungs, volatile organic compounds, heavy metals such as nickel, tin and lead, and flavorants that include diacetyl.
Diacetyl is a chemical used in products like microwave popcorn to create a butter-like flavor. Workers at factories that produce microwave popcorn have reported higher incidences of disease related to the chemical. That chemical is included in some e-cigarette flavorants and is directly inhaled, resulting in the “popcorn lung” effect.
Knowing the risks is half the battle
Just like many are addicted to cigarettes, e-cigarette users can become addicted, as well. This is why health professionals are warning about vape pens and, in particular, targeting teens that have become addicted to e-cigarettes. The U.S. Surgeon General’s Office has created a toolkit to help parents talk to their children that use e-cigarettes. You can find more information at E-cigarettes.SurgeonGeneral.gov.