Although marketed as a safer alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes, experts have begun to sound the alarm about e-cigarette dangers. The growing popularity of this practice is concerning, especially since there are still no long-term studies on the effects of vaping.
According to a recent study, nearly 1 in 20 U.S. adults use e-cigarettes regularly. That’s about 10.8 million people. But it’s the increase in use by teens that worries health professionals most. A National Institutes of Health survey showed that the number of high school seniors who say they vaped nicotine in the past 30 days doubled since 2017 — from 11 percent to nearly 21 percent.
This unprecedented surge has prompted calls for stronger regulation. On September 12, New York’s Governor Cuomo signed an executive order for the immediate development and deploy of education awareness programs on vaping for school districts to incorporate into their curriculums.
In addition, on September 15, 2019, Governor Cuomo announced an emergency executive action to ban the sale of flavored electronic cigarettes in New York State. As of November 13, 2019, New York will be the 17th state in the country to prohibit the sale of cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, and other tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21.
New regulations will help to stifle this growth, but education is key. Ready to clear away all the hype and get the facts? We’ll cover 5 e-cigarette dangers, so you’re fully informed about their potential health risks and have the resources to quit nicotine of any kind.
Fact #1 – E-cigarettes have fewer toxins than traditional cigarettes, but they still deliver harmful chemicals.
While vaping marketers like to point out that e-cigarettes contain far fewer toxins than combustible cigarettes, they tend to gloss over the fact that they’re not risk-free.
The US Surgeon General warns that the aerosol from e-cigarettes can contain harmful and potentially harmful chemicals, including:
- Ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs
- Flavoring such diacetyl, a chemical linked to a serious lung disease
- Volatile organic compounds such as benzene, which is found in car exhaust
- Heavy metals, such as nickel, tin, and lead
The nonprofit public health organization, Truth Initiative, reports that at least 60 chemical compounds have been found in e-liquids, plus more in the aerosol produced by e-cigarettes.
But let’s talk specifically about nicotine since it’s often presented as harmless.
Fact #2 – Nicotine is a highly addictive drug with health risks.
You’ve probably heard someone say, “it’s not the nicotine that makes smoking unhealthy, it’s the chemicals in tobacco smoke.” But this isn’t true. Nicotine has its own set of health risks which shouldn’t be ignored.
Nicotine also causes health problems in adults. Scientists undertook a comprehensive review of 90 journal articles that focused on how nicotine affects various organ systems. They found that nicotine creates an increased risk of cardiovascular, respiratory, gastrointestinal disorders, as well as a decreased immune response and negative effects on reproductive health.
In addition, although most experts agree that nicotine does not directly cause cancer, some research suggests that nicotine may lead to a type of DNA damage that increases the risk of cancer.
No matter how it’s delivered, nicotine is addictive and harmful. However, it poses special risks for young people.
Fact #3 – Nicotine in e-cigarettes can disrupt important brain development in teens and young adults.
During adolescence, the part of the brain responsible for decision making and impulse control is still forming. Each time a young person creates a new memory or learns a new skill, stronger connections (or synapses) grow between brain cells. Since young people’s brains build synapses faster than adults (and addiction is a form of learning), adolescents can form an addiction more easily.
For this reason, youth and young adults are uniquely at risk for long-term effects when they expose their developing brains to nicotine. According to the US Surgeon General, “these risks include nicotine addiction, mood disorders, and permanent lowering of impulse control.” They also note that nicotine changes the way synapses form, which can harm the parts of the brain that control attention and learning.
Fact #4 – There are still many unknown health risks when it comes to e-cigarettes.
It’s important to remember that e-cigarettes haven’t been on the market long enough to study their long-term effects. And the probability of discovering more health risks is quite possible, given what we know right now. The CDC has reported an “outbreak of lung disease associated with e-cigarette use or vaping.” Patients have reported symptoms that include:
- Cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain,
- Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
- Fatigue, fever, or abdominal pain
Patients have reported that their symptoms developed anywhere between over a few days to over several weeks. A lung infection does not appear to be causing the symptoms. There have been 530 cases of lung illness reported from 38 states and 1 U.S. territory. These have been linked to seven deaths in six different states.
All reported cases have a history of e-cigarette use.
In addition, regulation has just begun. In 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) asserted its authority to regulate the e-cigarette industry. Manufacturers have until 2022 to submit tobacco product review applications to market newly-regulated noncombustible products, including e-cigarettes. So, there are still a few years until full regulation takes effect.
Keep in mind that without standardization across products, there’s considerable variation in the nature and concentration of the ingredients, including nicotine and other known toxins. As a consumer, you’re taking an added risk by using e-cigarettes during this time.
Fact #5 – Using e-cigarettes is not a proven method to quit smoking. It might even make it harder.
The Center on Addiction cautions against using e-cigarettes as your first choice to cut down or quit smoking. These products are not approved by the FDA as a smoking cessation aid.
“While a few studies have found that e-cigarettes can help reduce smoking, most show that e-cigarette use does not significantly reduce cigarette use, and several found that people who use e-cigarettes may be less likely to successfully quit smoking.”
Why is this? You’re still addicted to nicotine, and in some cases, you’re getting more of it by using an e-cigarette. It’s also important to recognize that there are many behavioral and environmental factors associated with your addiction, and using e-cigarettes simply mimics them using a different device.
Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of e-cigarette dangers. If you’re looking for a way to quit smoking, whether it’s a traditional cigarette or a vaping device, our experienced nurse practitioners can guide you through the process. We take a whole-person approach and want to help you achieve and maintain good health.
Make an appointment at one of our two locations in Midtown Manhattan or Washington Heights. You can call 212-326-5705 or make an appointment directly through the website.