You’ve seen the stories on the news almost nightly about e-cigarettes. You’ve wondered where did this vaping trend come from? Why are so many teens dying from this? Perhaps you’ve tried vaping before as a way to wean yourself off of other nicotine products. We will help breakdown what’s going on with this dangerous health trend.
About Electronic Cigarettes (e-cigs)
The use of e-cigarettes, or vaping, has been touted from the beginning as a substitute for cigarette smoking. Many manufacturers have claimed that vaping can actually help a cigarette smoker to quit. There may be some potential for adult smokers (who are not pregnant) to benefit from the use of e-cigarettes as an alternative to regular cigarettes and other smoked tobacco products. Many have assumed that this means that e-cigarettes are safe. E-cigarette use carries its own risks to one’s health. We do know that smoking cigarettes is bad for you. Recent trends have showed cigarette use has continued to decline among adults and teens. We know that e-cigarettes are not safe for youth, young adults, pregnant women, or adults who don’t currently use tobacco products. It’s still a good idea to stay away from all nicotine products.
E-cigarettes are battery powered devices that include a heating element and a cartridge with liquid. They work by hearing a liquid that usually contains nicotine and flavorings. The e-cigarette user inhales the aerosol into their lungs. Those who are standing by can also inhale this aerosol into their lungs. e-cigarettes are called e-cigs, vapes, vape pens, tank systems, mods, and several other names. Some e-cigarettes are made to look like regular cigarettes or cigars. Some are small or look like everyday items. e-cigarettes can be used to deliver marijuana and other drugs. e-cigarettes are often rechargeable and contain a lithium ion battery, just like that found in your cell phone.
The e-cigarette aerosol that users inhale can contain many different substances including: nicotine, ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs, flavoring such as diacetyl (chemical linked to serious lung disease), volatile organic compounds, carcinogens, and heavy metals such as tin, nickel, and lead. It’s difficult for users to know what is in their e-cigarette. Even cartridges that have been advertised to contain zero nicotine have been found to contain nicotine.
What are the health effects of using e-cigarettes?
We still have a lot to learn about the long term health effects of e-cigarettes. We do already know that e-cigarettes that contain nicotine carry the same risks. These include: addiction, toxic to developing fetuses, harm adolescent brains, and is cancer causing. e-cigarettes uniquely have cancer-causing chemicals the tiny particles that reach deep into the lungs. Injuries have occurred from e-cigarette devices. These injuries are caused by batteries that have caused fires or explosions. Additionally, children and adults have been poisoned by swallowing, breathing or absorbing the e-cigarette liquid through their skin or eyes.
What’s the deal with people using vaping to help them get off of cigarettes?
Yes, e-cigarettes are less harmful than regular cigarettes. However, this does not mean they are safe. We also do not yet have research lending to the long term effects of e-cigarettes. Despite what advertising you may have heard, e-cigarettes have not been approved by the FDA as a quit smoking device. In fact, often individuals who have previously smoked will switch to vaping and increase the nicotine dosage they receive a day. They do not adjust their intake of nicotine equally because the measurement is different. For example, a smoker previously smoked 10 cigarettes a day and they can measure this easily. When they switch to vaping to try to quit, they may purchase a cartridge with a higher amount of nicotine in it and finish that cartridge quickly. Many folks also continue to use cigarettes as well as e-cigarettes.
Adolescents and young adults are much more likely to use e-cigarettes than adults. In 2018, more than 3.6 million US middle and high school students used an e-cigarette in the past 30 days (4.9% middle school and 20.8% high school). Many have focused on e-cigarette companies banning advertising geared toward teens and restricting the sale of flavored cartridges. E-cigarettes come in fruit, candy, and other kid friendly flavors. Young people who use e-cigarettes are also more likely to smoke cigarettes in the future. The tactic used to advertise e-cigarettes now are the same that have been used in the past. 8 in 10 middle school and high school students say they have seen e-cigarette advertisements.
JUUL is a popular brand of e-cigarette that looks like a USB flash drive. All JUUL e-cigarettes contain a high level of nicotine. A single pod contains as much nicotine as a pack of regular cigarettes. JUUL is one of a few e-cigarettes that use nicotine salts, which allow particularly high levels of nicotine to be inhaled more easily and with less irritation than the free-base nicotine that has traditionally been used in tobacco products, including e-cigarettes. Frightening, studies have shown 2/3 of users aged 15-24 do not know that JUUL always contains nicotine.
E-cigarettes also can be used to deliver other drugs, including marijuana; in 2016, approximately one-third of U.S. middle and high school students who have ever used an e-cigarette reported using marijuana in the device.
Outbreak of Lung Injury due to Vaping
The information below is as of October 8th, 2019. Ongoing updates about the lung injury health concern in the United States can be found at here.
- 1,299* lung injury cases associated with the use of e-cigarette, or vaping, products have been reported to CDC from 49 states, the District of Columbia, and 1 U.S. territory.
- Twenty-six deaths have been confirmed in 21 states.
- All patients have reported a history of using e-cigarette, or vaping, products.
- Most patients report a history of using tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)-containing products. The latest national and state findings suggest products containing THC, particularly those obtained off the street or from other informal sources (e.g. friends, family members, illicit dealers), are linked to most of the cases and play a major role in the outbreak.
- Therefore, CDC recommends that you should not use e-cigarette, or vaping, products that contain THC.
- Exclusive use of nicotine containing products has been reported by some patients with lung injury cases, and many patients with lung injury report combined use of THC- and nicotine-containing products. Therefore, the possibility that nicotine-containing products play a role in this outbreak cannot be excluded.
- At present, CDC continues to recommend that people consider refraining from using e-cigarette, or vaping, products that contain nicotine.
If you are ready to quit or know someone who is ready to take that next step, reach out. It’s never to late to quit nicotine products and any change you make to reduce your use can improve your health. Allow our trained addictions specialists to help you kick the habit for good. Let’s get started now.