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Why E-Smoking is More Dangerous Than Previously Thought

Lung-related illnesses tied to vaping

After the reported deaths related to vaping and several hundred lung illnesses, an all-out investigation is on to determine what is causing the deaths and illnesses and may result in a ban of e-cigarettes in the end.

Following the Clean Indoor Air Act restricting smoking in public places, many turned to e-cigarettes. These devices turn nicotine and flavorings into vapor instead of smoke, satisfying cravings. But after several injuries and deaths, vaping is coming under scrutiny as a significant danger to health.

Vaping is the process of heating plant matter, typically nicotine or cannabis, and liquid which is inhaled as water vapor by the user. It was initially thought safer than inhaling smoke because it releases a cloud of steam. However, it is proving to be deadly, with more than 450 possible cases of lung illnesses reported to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in 33 states.

More alarming are the six deaths attributed to vaping, including the recent death of a 65-year-old Minnesota man who died of a lung-related illness associated with vaping. According to the Washington Post, most of the victims are male with an average age of 19.

And while you might be tempted to turn to e-cigarettes as a way to stop smoking, Michael Blaha M.D., M.P.H., director of clinical research at the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease, suggests it is not advisable, and shares the truth about vaping:

esmoking

+ Vaping is less harmful than smoking
Tobacco cigarettes contain 7,000 mostly toxic chemicals. E-cigarettes likely expose you to fewer toxic chemicals.

+ Vaping is still bad for your health
Since nicotine is present in both regular and e-cigarettes, they are highly addictive. And since it is also a toxic substance, it can raise your blood pressure, and increase your adrenaline which increases your chance of having a heart attack. Also, there are many unknowns about vaping, such as what chemicals make up the vapor and the long-term physical effects.

+ Electronic cigarettes are just as addictive as traditional cigarettes
Both products have nicotine, which may be as addictive as heroin and cocaine. And e-cigarette users may get more nicotine by buying extra-strength cartridges, or by increasing the e-cigarettes voltage to get a greater hit of the substance.

+ Electronic cigarettes aren’t the best quit smoking tool
Despite marketing efforts that claim they are an aid to stop smoking, they have not received a green light from the FDA as a smoking cessation aid. In fact, a recent study found that most people ended up smoking both tobacco products.

+ A new generation is becoming addicted to nicotine
Youth especially find e-cigarettes more popular than traditional tobacco products. There are three reasons, Blaha says: 1) many teens believe that vaping is less harmful. 2) E-cigarettes are cheaper. And 3) Flavored vape cartridges appeal to younger users.

“What I find most concerning about the rise of vaping is that people who would’ve never smoked otherwise, especially youth, are taking up the habit,” Blaha says. “It’s one thing if you convert from cigarette smoking to vaping. It’s quite another thing to start up nicotine use with vaping. And, it often leads to using traditional tobacco products down the road.”

Teens are particularly vulnerable because advertising targets children, promoting the products as safe and uses the term “e-juice” to make it sound healthy. In Utah, vaping has increased by 540 percent among youth ages 18-24 since 2011 when the state began collecting data, surpassing the use of vape products of adults 25 years of age and older. Youth are at higher risk of the harmful effects because their brains are still developing and nicotine rewires the brain and stunts the growth of the prefrontal cortex responsible for self-control, attention span, learning and more.

Though no cause for the lung illnesses has been determined, the most popular theory is that Vitamin E is responsible. Extremely high levels of the chemical Vitamin E acetate tested in nearly all the vaping products containing cannabis, and it is now a “key focus” in the investigation. Perhaps worse is that it has also been found in candy-flavored vapes. But the culprit could be other ingredients commonly used, such as THC and other thickeners.

The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has released anti-vaping TV ads aimed at teens and is aggressively enforcing laws. The Trump administration recently announced plans to remove all flavored e-cigarettes from the market. In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants an all-out ban on flavored e-cigarettes and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has launched a $160 million campaign through Bloomberg Philanthropies to curb e-cigarette use among young people.

There are better ways to quit smoking than to take up e-cigarettes, which are not approved by the FDA as a quit smoking aid. Proven, safe and effective methods include having a conversation with your doctor, nurse or a trained Quit-Line counselor to determine the best strategies for you.

Medication, such as a nicotine replacement found in patches and gums, are helpful, according to doctors and others invested in helping people quit smoking. And you can get free help and support from a quit-line counselor by calling 800-QUIT-NOW, or by enrolling in a Smokefree.gov smartphone app to receive supportive texts.

The combination of medication and support is known to help smoking cessation efforts for good, but it’s up to you to find the best method for you.  

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