The use of e-cigarettes, or vaping, has become a common alternative to smoking traditional tobacco. However, its long-term health effects are not yet fully known. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, teens using vaping devices dramatically increased last year with high school seniors reporting use of vaping nicotine nearly doubling from 11 percent in 2017 to 20.9 percent in 2018.
“We show concern for teen’s vaping because, in the history of NIDA surveys, 2018 reported the largest one-year increase of any substance in history,” says board-certified cardiologist John F. Best, M.D., FACP, FACC, FSCAI, in practice at CMH Heart Institute Clinic in Bolivar.
“1.3 million adolescents started to vape last year. The perception is that vaping is harmless because it doesn’t involve tobacco. However, the evidence is mounting that vaping can be harmful to the respiratory system, potentially contributing to long-term respiratory problems as observed with tobacco cigarettes,” Best says.
Here are some common questions about vaping and how it compares to smoking regular tobacco.
Q: How does vaping work?
A: Vaping refers to the use of electronic cigarettes, which are also known as a Juul, vaporizers, vape pens, e-cigarettes, mods or electronic nicotine delivery systems, also known as ENDS. E-cigarettes vary in shape and size, but they all contain a liquid that is heated until it turns into a vapor and then inhaled.
Q: Is vaping addictive?
A: Vapor from e-cigarettes usually contains nicotine, a highly addictive chemical. Studies have also shown that some e-liquids contain other cancer-causing chemicals and toxins, heavy metals and other addictive compounds.
Q: What other health concerns are there?
A: Another major concern is the number of young people who use e-cigarettes. Multiple studies suggest that teenagers who smoke e-cigarettes are more likely to move on to tobacco or other drugs. This is because of the effect nicotine has on the brain's reward system. Nicotine is also dangerous for a teen's developing brain — it can cause problems with attention span and learning, and raise risks for mood disorders and long-term problems with impulse control.
Q: Is vaping healthier than traditional smoking?
A: Vaping is not good for your health. However, it is less harmful for you than smoking if used as a complete tobacco replacement. Because vaping can encourage the brain to become more easily addicted to other drugs, experts recommend that you don't start using e-cigarettes if you have never smoked before.
Q: Can vaping help you quit smoking regular cigarettes?
A: There is currently no sufficient evidence that e-cigarettes help smokers quit. In fact, some studies have found that people who tried to use e-cigarettes as a quit aid were less likely to quit smoking than those who didn't. There are seven other smoking cessation methods approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that can help smokers quit effectively and safely. CMH offers free smoking cessation classes and counseling sessions throughout the year. Using e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation tool should be a conversation you have with your healthcare team.
“At CMH, we encourage families to talk about these things,” Best adds. “Help your kids understand the effects of vaping on their health, how it effects brain development and the potential for addiction.”
For more information about cardiovascular services at CMH, call the CMH Information Center at 328-6010 or citizensmemorial.com.