The hidden dangers of e-cigarettes

November 16, 2016 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health

Those new pieces of technology people are using to smoke? They aren’t cool and they aren’t a statement. Known as electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) or electronic cigarettes, e-cigs, hookah pens or vapes, e-cigarettes look like new fancy pieces of technology, but they are just another way of putting nicotine in your body.

With a look and feel similar to a cigarette, most e-cigs contain three elements:

  • A refillable cartridge which holds a liquid solution nicotine, flavoring and other harmful chemicals
  • A heating device or vaporizer
  • A battery

Designed to simulate the act of smoking by producing a flavored aerosol, people don’t inhale the same amounts of tar and carbon monoxide using an e-cigarette as they would with a regular cigarette, but the nicotine still has a lasting effect. The use of any amount of nicotine can:

  • Affect your brain, nervous system and heart
  • Increase your blood pressure and heart rate
  • Harm a developing fetus and cause lasting consequences for the developing brain and lung function in newborns
  • Cause lasting cognitive and behavioral impairments in adolescent children and young adults

According to the American Lung Association, almost all e-cigs contain nicotine. Even some products that claim not to have any nicotine in them may still contain it. A 2014 study found that the amount of nicotine in e-liquid refills is often substantially different from the amount listed on the package.  

The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) recently required all manufactures of e-cigarettes to register and report their products to the FDA and to report the product’s ingredients, with the hope of regulating tobacco-related products. Before the August 2016 regulation, manufactures of e-cigs weren’t required to list the harmful chemicals included in them.

The use of e-cigs is also so new that researchers are still exploring whether or not they are a safe way to help smokers quit. As the FDA works to evaluate these claims, researchers continue to study the effects of vaping and tobacco on the body.

You can follow many other safe and effective methods to quit smoking besides using an e-cigarette. If you’re ready to quit, contact the Illinois Tobacco Quitline at 1-866-QUIT-YES. The Quitline is a free resource for tobacco users who want to quit for good. Registered nurses, respiratory therapists and certified tobacco-treatment counselors are on call seven days a week. You can also discuss your options with your doctor or contact the American Lung Association to find a program that is right for you.

Still struggling? Edward-Elmhurst Health offers a six-week smoking cessation program, Freedom from Smoking, taught by American Lung Association trained instructors. The program can give you the support you need to quit for good. Learn more or call 630-527-6363 to register.

Want to detect a lung problem early to breathe easier? Take our free, 5-minute Lung Aware Risk Assessment.

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