eNewsletter - July 2018
No matter where you look these days—while out and about, on television, or on social media—vaping is hard to miss. Either people are doing it or people are talking about it and there’s good reason for concern. In the U.S., the use of battery-operated devices to heat a substance to create a vapor for inhalation purposes is more popular than ever.
And young people are far more likely than adults to use an e-smoking device. In 2016, more than 2 million U.S. middle and high school students used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days, according to the Centers for Disease Control1. In addition, the Office of the Surgeon General says 6 out of 10 teens believe occasional e-cigarette use is harmless2. Now is the time to debunk the myths surrounding this dangerous and addictive behavior.
- Myth: Vaping is safe.
Fact: Vaping products are unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration.
Thousands of vaping products are available on the market and to date, none are evaluated by the FDA. Despite absence of industry regulation, studies show the aerosol created by e-cigarette and vaporizer products contains harmful toxins, heavy metals and cancer-causing carcinogens, both in first- and second-hand vapor, although less than combustion smoking3. Lack of requirements for ingredient disclosure, user warnings and limitation of youth access is also concerning. In addition, e-cigarette products only arrived in the U.S. in late 20064, so long-term safety research will be unavailable for some time.
It’s important to note that vaping is particularly dangerous for young people, whose brains are still developing and not yet fully adept at decision making. The combination of brain immaturity and nicotine exposure can lead to mood disorders and problems with attention and learning.5
Other safety risks include potential battery malfunctions that can lead to explosion and injury, as well as dangers related to vape juice, the mixture of water, flavoring and chemicals heated by e-smoking devices, which can be toxic to the eyes and skin with direct contact, or even fatal if ingested.6
- Vaping doesn’t contain nicotine.
Fact: Nicotine levels vary.
Vape juice is available in varying levels of nicotine, ranging from none to 36mg per 1 mL of e-liquid, depending on the product purchased. A 2014 study found some products advertised as “nicotine free” did indeed contain the addictive chemical7. Young consumers, who are especially at risk to the impact of nicotine on adolescent brain development8, or smokers looking to quit, may be exposed unintentionally to nicotine and its addictive qualities through vaping.
- Myth: Vaping helps smokers quit.
Fact: Vaping often replaces cigarette smoking.
There is evidence that vaping does eventually lead to quitting completely for some smokers9. In addition, with less toxins and chemicals in vaping compared to combustion smoking, these devices can be considered a harm-reduction apparatus. However, other studies show that some smokers simply switch to vaping, trading one behavior for another. Smoking cessation experts agree that studied and regulated nicotine replacement therapies and medicines used with the guidance of healthcare professionals are more effective at assisting smokers to quit for good10.
Myth: Vaping isn’t marketed to young people.
Fact: Many aspects of the activity and its promotions garner youth interest.
The various devices used for vaping, cigarette-shaped e-cigarettes, vaporizers and pens called “Juuls” appeal to users for different reasons. Young people seem drawn to the smaller devices, which are able to be easily concealed. Juuls resemble a flash drive and can be hidden inside a user’s fist. Additionally the vapor emitted by these devices is tough to detect and easily concealed when exhaled into clothing.
Vape juice or cartridges used in these devices are named after popular flavors or brand name candies or cereals, offering sweet, fruity tastes that appeal to a younger crowd. And finally, vape advertisements typically depict edgy, young, cool subjects taking part in the activity, making it difficult for young people to resist the urge to fit into the vaping subculture.
Myth: Vaping isn’t a gateway activity.
Fact: Vaping can lead to cannabis consumption or traditional cigarette smoking.
According to the Office of the Surgeon General, some studies show that e-smoking may lead to traditional smoking or other tobacco product use11. In addition, vaping devices, by design, allow for consumption of cannabis and cannabis extracts, or can be modified to do so. A quick YouTube search delivers a plethora of how-to videos for modifying vaporizers or Juuls for cannabis. This is puts kids at additional risk, as a recent study in the May 2018 issue of Pediatrics shows e-cigarette use is strongly associated with subsequent marijuana use12.
Only time will determine the long-term effects vaping will have on those who choose to partake in the behavior, but for now, safety and addiction concerns are warranted. Avoidance or cessation should be encouraged in all situations.
1 Smoking & Tobacco Use. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published May 16, 2018.
2, 5, 8, 11 Know the Risks of E-cigarettes for Young People | Know the Risks: E-cigarettes & Young People | U.S. Surgeon General's Report. Know the Risks: E-Cigarettes and Young People | U.S. Surgeon General's Report. Published 2018.
3, 7 Myths and Facts About E-cigarettes. American Lung Association. Published 2018.
4 Historical Timeline of Electronic Cigarettes. CASAA. Accessed 0AD.
6 Porter R. E-Cigs and Toddlers: Beware. Poison Control.
9, 10 Vaping: Does it help people who smoke traditional cigarettes quit? Tobacco Free CA. Published May 18, 2017.
12 Dai H, Catley D, Richter KP, Goggin K, Ellerbeck EF. Electronic Cigarettes and Future Marijuana Use: A Longitudinal Study. Pediatrics. Published April 23, 2018.