What makes vaping dangerous?

October 02, 2019 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health

As the number of teens and young adults being admitted to hospitals for vaping-related illnesses rises, health officials across the country continue to sound the alarm against vaping.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has kept track of injuries and deaths linked to vaping across the United States.

The most common symptom of vaping-related illness is difficulty breathing. Other symptoms include coughing, chest pain, nausea or vomiting, fatigue, fever and abdominal pain.

E-cigarettes first came on the scene more than a decade ago and were touted as an alternative to cigarettes and a way to stop smoking. With the look and feel of a real cigarette, the devices have three common elements, including a heating device, battery and refillable cartridge which holds a liquid solution nicotine, flavoring and other harmful chemicals.

Even before the recent spate of illnesses, the American Lung Association (ALA) expressed concern over these products.

“To say that something is safer than a product like cigarettes that kills seven million people in the world each year because of tobacco-related disease, and half a million people in this country, is not saying a lot,” Dr. Albert Rizzo, chief medical officer for the ALA, was quoted as saying in a recent New York Times article. “We have no scientific evidence of whether it’s safe at all. There’s just no scientific basis for that.”

Some concerns related to e-cigarette use include:

  • The amount of nicotine found in e-cigarettes. According to the ALA, one vaping pod can contain as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes. Nicotine (the addictive chemical found in cigarettes) can affect your brain, nervous system and heart. Nicotine is especially harmful to young people. Exposure to nicotine during adolescence can harm the developing brain, which is not fully developed until the age of 25 or so.
  • Exposure to toxins. The ALA also highlights a recent study from the University of North Carolina that found that even in small doses, inhaling some of the chemicals found in e-cigarettes, such as propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin, can expose users to a high level of toxins. The study also found the more ingredients the user inhales, the higher the toxicity. Some chemicals found in e-cigarettes, including formaldehyde and acrolein, have been found to cause irreversible lung damage.
  • Reversal of decrease in smoking rates. With candy, fruit and mint flavors, e-cigarettes have grown in popularity among teens and young adults. There is a growing concern that the progress made in recent years to decrease smoking will be unraveled by the popularity of e-cigarettes.

The CDC is urging people not to use e-cigarettes. Smokers who turned to vaping instead of cigarettes are also urged not to return to smoking if they stop vaping.

If you need help to quit smoking, talk to your physician about ways to quit.

Edward-Elmhurst Health also offers a six-week cessation program, Freedom from Smoking, taught by American Lung Association trained instructors. To register, call 630-527-6363.

The Integrative Medicine Clinic at Elmhurst Hospital also offers a four-week smoking cessation program involving hypnosis, one-on-one counseling and acupuncture (if you wish). To register, call 331-221-6135. Learn more.

Join the Great American Smokeout on Nov. 21 and start your journey to kick the habit for good.

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