You may have heard recent reporting that e-cigarettes may be less harmful than smoking combustible cigarettes. First, less harmful does not mean the same thing as harmless. A rattlesnake bite might be less harmful than a king cobra bite, but you probably don’t want to be bit by either! Second, e-cigarettes may be less harmful for people who currently smoke traditional cigarettes – not for someone who has never smoked before. Yet, even as the writing of this article, a recent study showed e-cigarette use is linked to risk of heart attacks (Gantz et al., American J Preventive Medicine, 2018)! E-cigarettes are relatively new and the detrimental health effects will take many years to be born out. E-cigarettes do not undergo rigorous testing for safety and health like medicines do.
Here are some important reasons to avoid or quit e-cigarettes.
1. Nicotine causes Addiction. Nicotine causes changes to the brain that lead to an addiction. In fact, nicotine is as addictive as heroin (Goodman and Gillman, 2018) which means that it does not take much use for your brain to become dependent to the nicotine; and, if you know anyone in your family (uncles, aunts, grandparents, etc.) who suffer from addiction to nicotine, you know just how incredibly difficult it is to quit. Furthermore, 1 in 3 teens who “vape” will eventually start smoking traditional cigarettes. Lastly, the addiction will be very expensive: $30 a week for the rest of your life!
2. Vaping is a misnomer. E-cigarettes produce an aerosol- not harmless “water vapor.” Aerosolization occurs by combustion of the e-juice that then creates a suspension of tiny particles that “vapers” subsequently inhale into their lungs. These tiny particles are absolutely not harmless, and some of the substances that have been found in the aerosol are:
· Nicotine – one “Juul” pod contains as much nicotine as 1 entire pack of cigarettes!
· Ultrafine particulate matter that gets lodged and builds up in tiny alveoli in the lungs making it hard to breathe over time
· Diacetyl – a flavoring also found in flavored popcorn that has caused a lung disease (“popcorn lung”), similar to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, in factory workers at microwave popcorn plants.
· Volatile organic compounds and antifreeze
· Known cancer-causing agents
· Lead, mercury, nickel, tin
3. Latest Data Points to Additional Health Risks. Yes, there were “fake texts” circulating that claimed that some young college students had developed lung cancer due to e-cigarettes. Cancer typically takes years to develop, and e-cigarette use is just too new for such occurrences. HOWEVER, data is starting to trickle out that confirms that e-cigarettes are simply bad for your health! Somerfield et. al recently detailed a case report of a young adult who developed respiratory failure due to hypersensitivity in the lungs caused by e-cigarette use (Pediatrics, June, 2018). And, as mentioned previously, e-cigarette use has been shown to increase risk for heart attack.
4. E-Cigarettes are Not Regulated. The FDA is still in the process of vetting data about e-cigarettes and no regulations regarding safety, ingredients, advertising, etc. have yet to be implemented. Thus, other than scientists who independently are testing ingredients and health effects, there is actually no way to know exactly what chemicals and particles you are inhaling into your lungs. The e-cigarette companies most certainly do not have your health in their best interests; they just want your money!
5. Opposed by Health Organizations.The Surgeon General, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Truth Initiative, the American Cancer Society, the American Lung Association, the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids all speak to the public health crisis that is evolving because of e-cigarette use. You can choose to believe these organizations who have no motive other than your health or the tobacco and e-cigarette companies that are trying to develop you as a lifelong customer.
If you or someone you know has developed an addiction to nicotine, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW. For parents who wish to know how to talk with their children, please visit The Partnership for Drug Free Kids at drug free.org
And for more valuable information, please check out the following resources:
Vaping PSA: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MfQ6pKVkkl4
The younger a person starts use of nicotine, alcohol, or THC, the greater the risk for developing an addiction to ANY substance (including opioids/heroin).
Helmets protect brains from sports injuries; seatbelts prevent deaths from car accidents; parents are the only "helmets" that can protect children's brains from developing substance use.
Be sure to learn what leads kids to use, what causes a higher risk for use, and what you can do as a parent to protect your children and prevent or delay use.
The longer you can keep your kids from trying their first substance, the less likely they are to develop a lifelong substance use disorder. Remember, it all starts during adolescence!