Today is World No Tobacco Day, a time to encourage people around the world to give up all forms of tobacco. In recent years, many have turned to vaping as a “safe alternative” to smoking, with an estimated 9 million Americans regularly partaking in the habit. But while vaping may be less harmful than cigarettes, it’s certainly not harmless. Sushil Jain, MD, PPG — Oncology and Jan Moore, RRT-NPS, community respirator educator and care navigator, Freedom from Smoking lead, Parkview Community Nursing, explain what we do and don’t know about vaping.
Vaping is done through electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes). E-cigarettes are battery operated and have containers filled with liquid, usually containing nicotine, chemicals, and sometimes flavoring. The liquid is heated up and turns into a vapor that the user can inhale. It’s a fairly new device, originating in the 1960s and only being commercialized in the last 10 years. There haven’t been many reliable studies on the long-term health effects of vaping, partially because it’s a relatively new phenomenon, but there are a few things we do know that can help us determine the safety of the e-cigarettes.
E-cigarettes contain volatile organic substances and metals.
While there aren’t any long-term studies of the health effects of vapor from e-cigarettes, we know that inhaling volatile organic substances and metals such as tin, lead, and nickel (all of which have been found in e-cigarettes) can be harmful. In fact, these substances can potentially cause lung disease and increase the risk of cancer.
There is risk in secondhand exposure.
Because many people believe e-cigarettes to be relatively safe, vaping devices are more likely than normal cigarettes to be used in confined areas, such as inside the house or in the car. Children who are present while an adult is vaping are exposed to the same potentially harmful chemicals as the user. This can be especially hazardous to children who already have a respiratory condition like asthma.
There are safer, more effective ways to quit smoking.
Vaping is definitely less harmful than cigarettes, and using e-cigarettes may help you quit smoking altogether if coupled with discipline and a plan, but there are still better ways to kick your smoking habit. Talk to your physician about prescription medication to help you quit, or ask them to help you develop a plan of action using nicotine gum or a patch. A nicotine inhaler is another resource available to individuals trying to quit smoking, and there are many classes and support groups available to help you on your journey.
if you’re interested in quitting smoking, Parkview is offering the American Lung Association’s Freedom from Smoking course. This seven-week program is designed to help individuals become smoke-free in a structured, systematic approach to quitting. You can register for the next series here.