E-cigarettes work by heating a liquid that contains nicotine, other chemicals, and flavors. Heating the liquid turns it into a vapor which is what the user inhales and exhales. They’ve been advertised as an alternative to tobacco products. They’re growing in popularity among smokers who want to quit, but there are hazards associated with them as well.
Vaping may damage the heart
Because they do not burn tobacco but infuse water vapor with nicotine, people who vape can avoid the cancer causing aspects of cigarettes like tar. However, E-cigarettes still contain nicotine. Nicotine is the drug in tobacco products that makes them addictive. Nicotine also constricts blood vessels and preliminary studies suggest it might do direct damage to the heart. Heart patients should avoid vaping and smoking cigarettes all together.
Vaping is Addictive
Ultimately, smoking is a chemical addiction to nicotine, and some research has suggested E-cigarettes work better for people who just want to cut back instead of quitting altogether. E-cigarettes provide a safer, less cancerous way to get a fix, but you’re still feeding a nicotine addiction.
Because nicotine is what makes cigarettes addictive, officials worry about the rise in use of e-cigarettes by teens. Early evidence suggests that e-cigarettes may become an introductory product for preteens and teens. These teens go on to become addicted to tobacco products including cigarettes. To stop this trend, in 2016 the FDA established new rules for e-cigarettes and their solutions. E-cigarettes are now considered to be tobacco products and are subject to government regulations including the requirement of being 18 to purchase.
Vaping Can Damage the Lungs
Many e-cigarette flavors have been found to contain diacetyl. When inhaled, diacetyl causes bronchiolitis obliterans – more commonly referred to as “popcorn lung” named for the popcorn factory where the disease was first discovered. Popcorn lung causes scarring of the tiny air sacs in the lungs resulting in the thickening and narrowing of the airways. While the name “popcorn lung” may not sound like a threat, it’s a serious lung disease that causes coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath, similar to the symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
The Benefit May Outweigh the Risk for Some
While there are risks associated with vaping, it does give smokers an alternative devoid of cancer causing tar. For this reason, many vapers admit there may be risks with vaping but adopt the attitude, “At least it’s not as bad as cigarettes.” The scientific evidence seems to support them. One study found that smokers who switched entirely to e-cigarettes cut their intake of toxins as much as those who quit smoking by using nicotine replacements like the patch, gum or lozenges.
The long term effects of e-cigarettes is still up for debate. If you decide to try vaping to help you quit, use caution and understand there are still risks involved. There is no debate whether a person should try to stop smoking, however. Every year in the U.S., more than 480,000 people die from tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke, making it the leading cause of preventable death in this country.
If you’re ready to quit, that’s half the battle. The American Lung Association has some wonderful resources that can help. Your medical care providers can be a key resource as you’re trying to quit smoking. They can discuss medications to help you stop smoking and direct you toward local resources. If you have questions about smoking, don’t hesitate to call us at (662) 348-3342.