In the years since their release, e-cigarettes and vaping has been advertised as a harmless and safer alternative to traditional smoking.
For one, vaping is not an approved method of smoking cessation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Research also suggests that vaping is not as risk-free as previously advertised.
In fact, a recent scientific statement from the American Heart Association has noted that vaping is a dangerous habit that can be detrimental to the health of your heart and lungs.
American Heart Association Warns of Vaping Dangers
“E-cigarettes deliver numerous substances into the body that are potentially harmful, including chemicals and other compounds that are likely not known to or understood by the user,” Dr. Jason J. Rose, chair of the AHA statement writing committee
The scientific statement, published in Circulation, spoke to research that had identified a “significant association” between e-cigarette use and the development of incident respiratory disease over two years. These conditions include chronic obstructive pulmonary disease/COPD, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, or asthma.
The statement also added that the ingredients found in e-cigarettes can also pose health risks.
“There has also been research indicating that even when nicotine is not present, ingredients in e-cigarettes, particularly flavoring agents, independently carry risks associated with heart and lung diseases in animals,” says Dr. Rose.
Dr. Rose added that the dangers of vaping have been highlighted through in vitro studies and in studies of people exposed to chemicals in commercially available products.
Additionally, the statement also pointed out how the younger generation is more likely to be the ones vaping. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identified e-cigarettes as the most commonly used tobacco product among high school and middle age students.
According to Dr. Rose, young people are enticed by e-cigarette flavors, and they then develop a nicotine dependence from vaping.
What are the dangers of vaping?
1. EVALI – Lung Injury
In the statement, Dr. Rose spoke about the presence of vitamin E acetate in e-cigarettes, sharing that this ingredient may be responsible for E-cigarette or Vaping-Use Associated Lung Injury (EVALI) hospitalizations.
“We saw in 2019 when (EVALI) was identified in the US that vaping products can cause very severe respiratory illness,” said Dr. Rose to Healthline.
“Over 2800 were hospitalized and 68 people died. Some of the chemicals used to flavor vaping products have known toxic effects to people.”
Per research from the CDC, 15% of the EVALI hospitalizations were children, and more than half of the hospitalizations for breathing issues involved people aged 24 or younger. Additionally, many of the cases featured vaping products containing tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the main psychoactive found in cannabis.
2. Poor lung health
According to adolescent medicine specialist Ellen Rome, MD, MPH, and lung specialist Humberto Choi, MD from the Cleveland Clinic, particles that you inhale from vaping can irritate your lungs. This can cause inflammation and also narrow the tubes where air flows in and out. This can lead to short-term breathing issues such as coughing and shortness of breath.
If that’s not enough, inhaling these chemicals while vaping over a longer period of time may also increase the risk for respiratory conditions like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and popcorn lung (bronchiolitis obliterans).
3. Nicotine dangers and cancer risk
According to Dr. Rome, nicotine exposure can disrupt the brain’s neurotransmitter systems. This can lead to long-term changes in cognitive development and even decreased memory ability.
According to Dr. Nima Majlesi, director of medical toxicology at Staten Island University Hospital, unintentionally ingesting nicotine can lead to seizures as well as profound muscle weakness leading to the inability to breathe.
If that’s not enough, vaping liquids with nicotine may also increase your risk for cancer,
“Some recent data is showing that the heating of nicotine can lead to the creation of carcinogens and increase the risk of cancer.” says Majlesi.
That said, Majlesi does add that the difference in risk of cancer associated with vaping compared to cigarettes is unclear.
4. Vaping is a getaway drug
“We see that people who vape are more likely to start using other tobacco products like combustible cigarettes, and vaping is correlated with other substance abuse.
This is very concerning because more young people adopt vaping and many of them have never used other tobacco products,” – Dr. Jason Rose
5. It’s bad for the environment
Vaping isn’t just harmful to your health, but it’s also harmful to the health of the planet.
Per Dr. Rome, plastics, nicotine salts, heavy metals (including lead and mercury), and flammable lithium-ion batteries courtesy of discarded e-cigarettes aren’t exactly biodegradable and this can create a pollution crisis.
We need to be investigating vaping
As e-cigarettes are an almost recent invention, having been available in the U.S. for about 15 years, there is not enough information on their long-term health effects. Yet, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t investigate these compounds now.
Rather, Dr. Rose suggests that we rely on shorter-term studies, molecular experiments, and research in animals to try to assess the true risk of using e-cigarettes,
“We made a general recommendation to enhance animal models to predict long-term effects, study the impact of vaping on patients with chronic disease, and utilize molecular studies to understand the effects on human health,” he says.
“It is necessary for us to expand this type of research since the adoption of e-cigarettes has grown exponentially, especially in young people, many of whom may have never used combustible cigarettes.”
Quitting vaping isn’t easy, especially because a lot of these products contain nicotine, which we know can be quite addictive. Now, before we delve into how you can quit vaping, let’s first decipher if you’re addicted to the act.
Per the Cleveland Clinic, a person with nicotine addiction may experience:
Mood and behavior changes
Urges or cravings for nicotine.
This is the most common symptom.
Feeling anxious, jumpy, irritable, grouchy or angry.
Feeling frustrated, sad or depressed.
Increased appetite and weight gain.
Constipation, gas, or diarrhea.
Cough, dry mouth, sore throat and nasal drip.
So, how can you quit vaping? Like quitting traditional smoking, the Cleveland Clinic recommends:
- Toss out your vape pens and pods.
- Identify habits and rituals that are associated with your habit and break those cycles.
- Distract yourself with exercise and relaxation techniques.
- Build a support system.
- Talk with a healthcare provider about pharmacological options like medication and nicotine replacement therapies like patches, lozenges, and gums.
Want to know more?
Vaping isn’t the only thing that’s gaining attention in the media. A U.S. Senator has recently called on the FDA to investigate Logan Paul’s highly caffeinated PRIME Energy drinks.
MAIN IMAGE CREDIT: Photo by John Caroro on Unsplash