The Dangers of Vaping
What You Need to Know About Vaping
E-cigarettes represent a $26 million industry. While not approved by the FDA as a smoking cessation tool, many individuals began using e-cigarettes as a “safe” way to quit smoking. The evolution of the industry has seen an expansion in audience, with teens and preteens obtaining access to vaping devices.
Unfortunately, as the recent news of illness and death due to vaping proves, these devices are anything but safe.
“Vaping, as the name suggests, is misleading. It’s not as benign as it sounds. It’s converting e-liquids, which are solvents, into aerosols to heat,” explains Dr. Roselle Almeida, a pulmonologist with Riverside Medical Group. “The e-liquids involve substances and solvents like propylene glycol, alcohols, and nicotine in very high amounts. There are 15,000 kinds of flavors available, and they are extremely toxic to the lungs and other organs of the body.”
The Teen Epidemic
Many of the current vaping devices don’t look anything like the previous generations of e-cigarette models. Some resemble a USB drive, making it easier for teens to hide their vaping behaviors at home and school—a marketing tactic e-cigarette brands have used to sell more product.
Another significant harm of e-cigarette companies marketing to youth is that young adults and teenagers have key brain receptors that are much more sensitive to nicotine. “The nicotine attaches to these receptors and the habit becomes much more addictive,” notes Dr. Almeida. “It also attracts them to other substances and behavioral issues. Anxiety, depression, other drug abuse, it is all part of this.”
The nicotine level in many of the e-liquids on the market equals an entire pack of cigarettes.
Regulatory Measures: Too Little Too Late?
In response to the recent spike in vaping-related illness and death, a number of states have implemented their own regulations to prevent the sale of e-cigarette devices and liquids. Is that enough?
“We still don’t know what’s causing the specific illnesses. So, now is a time for action. Now is the time to make these regulations,” avers Dr. Almeida. “States have already starting banning flavored e-cigarettes, and the CDC, in the interim, has put out recommendations to avoid all forms of e-cigarettes and vaping, especially in young adults and pregnant women, who are most at risk.”
The CDC also provides resources such as vaping statistics, what to avoid, and ways parents can bring up this topic with their children.
Physician and Patient Responsibility
Dr. Almeida and her colleagues have witnessed many patients resort to e-cigarette use as a way to quit smoking, but she believes there are better, more effective ways to help individuals eliminate this dangerous habit. Riverside Medical Group offers smoking cessation programs and counseling services as an alternative.
“We need to learn from our mistakes. We were not aware of all of this when traditional cigarettes came out initially, and we are heading towards an epidemic where we’re making the same mistake again,” she cautions. “There are going to be new technologies—a new thing for weight loss, for sleeping, for smoking. We need to just be more critical and more aware of the need to tackle every new thing with a curious eye, put it under a lens, and identify its potential danger before it becomes an epidemic.”