Vaping is the new nicotine trend that’s supposedly safer than smoking. But how harmful is vaping really? Is it actually safer than tobacco? What kinds of harmful effects does it have on the body? And how is our idea of this supposed “safer smoking alternative” changing as we learn more about it? This article will dive into these questions and more as we take a closer look at what was once thought to be a “safer smoking alternative,” and is now appearing to be anything but…
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What Is Vaping?
Vaping is the term used to describe inhaling e-cigarette vapors like you would a regular cigarette. An e-cigarette is basically a device that heats up a liquid and turns it into a vapor that users can then easily inhale. The liquids that people connect to e-cigarettes (which go by brand names like Juul, Vuse, Kangertech, NJOY, Joyetech, and Blu) are usually made up of several different ingredients, such as:
- Propylene glycol
- Differing amounts of contaminants
Can You Get Addicted To Vaping?
Yes, you certainly can. Just as with traditional cigarettes, almost all vaping liquid (also called e-juice) has nicotine in it. And just as with cigarettes, nicotine is the addictive chemical that gets users hooked. This chemical activates the reward center in the brain, giving users a sense of pleasure from inhaling it. However, over time, this reward center gets used to the constant flood of nicotine. And the reward from using becomes smaller and smaller. And eventually, it becomes unable to produce pleasure from other activities like eating or exercise. This is the start of the disease of addiction. When using becomes compulsive (uncontrollable), and you don’t stop despite the negative consequences it’s having on your life (health, relationship, and/or mental problems), that’s when you’ve developed a full-fledged addiction.
Vaping In The News Today
As a new addictive chemical that’s only been used over the past decade, vaping is in the news quite a bit lately. As more and more studies continue to focus on the detrimental effects of this drug, we’re also discovering that it might not be the healthy alternative to cigarettes that we originally thought.
More Dangerous Than We Think
Recent news confirmed by the CDC has shown that within the past month, reports of illnesses from vaping have risen dramatically. As of September 19th, more than 530 people in the United States have been sickened by vaping-related lung disease. Seven people have been killed by similar causes in recent weeks. The news of vaping-related lung diseases seems to be intensifying too. In just one week, more than 150 new cases have been reported – up from 380 patients just a week earlier. Officials are urging people to stop vaping immediately while their investigation continues.
Targeting Minors Specifically
More than half of the victims mentioned above are younger than 25, with 16% being younger than 18. It’s estimated that 1 in 9 high school seniors vape nicotine products nearly every day. And this is no coincidence either. Vaping and e-cigarette companies have been accused of deliberately targeting people below the legal age limit for using their products. And with flavors like “bubble gum,” “cotton candy,” and “sour worms” and colorfully playful e-cigarettes, it’s easy to see why. And with more and more people ending up with serious health problems as a result of vaping, outrage has begun overflowing and affecting public policy.
After the announcement of a flood of new vaping-related lung disease problems, the Trump administration has just announced plans to put an outright ban on all flavored e-cigarettes. This ban, the administration claims, will put a stop to the predatory practices of e-cigarette companies of targeting underage users in particular. The plan is being finalized by the FDA over the next few weeks and will likely go into effect next month.
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What Are The Health Risks Of Vaping?
The research is still out on the mysterious lung diseases that have hit the country recently. But there are other health risks of vaping to consider as well. Below are some of the most important to recognize. According to the 2016 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System from the CDC:
- A 71% increased risk of stroke
- 59% higher risk of heart attack or angina
- 40% higher risk of heart disease
- More than 2x as likely to use traditional tobacco cigarettes
And according to Harvard Health Publishing, some substances found in e-cigarette vapor have been linked to an increased risk of cancer as well. Ultimately though, we still aren’t completely sure what the overall health impacts are when it comes to vaping. But as recent news shows, people are experiencing severe problems related to their vaping and e-cigarette abuse. And more likely than not, we’ll find out that this “safer” tobacco alternative isn’t anywhere near as problem-free as we first thought.
Other Health Risks of Vaping
According to the CDC, there are a few other notable health risks of vaping that apply specifically to e-cigarette use. They may not be as common or necessarily as deadly as the dangers posed by smoking cigarettes. But even still, they are concerns that anyone wondering about the health hazards of vaping should be aware of.
- Lung Damage – some e-cigarettes and vaping products contain a chemical called diacetyl, which is used in microwave popcorn and supposedly can cause a condition called popcorn lung. You may want to research if your e-cigs or vapes have this ingredient and attempt to avoid it.
- Fires and Explosions – E-cigarettes require a battery to operate. When that battery is in proper working order, it’s used to power up the heating element that turns the nicotine liquid into an inhalable vapor.
However, these batteries can also become defective and explode violently. Many times these explosions occur when the batteries are being charged. But they may also explode while being used. One teen suffered from extensive injuries to his mouth and jaw when his e-cigarette exploded. Other people have actually died. A study published in 2018 found that there were more than 2,000 estimated e-cigarette explosion and burn injuries that caused users to seek emergency care from 2015 to 2017. So while it may not be especially common, there is still a substantial risk of physical harm when it comes to using e-cigarettes.
- Acute Nicotine Exposure – While cigarettes are without a doubt incredibly terrible and dangerous, if there’s one good thing about them, it’s that eventually, they hurt to keep on smoking. Vaping, on the other hand, is a bit different.
Thanks to the appealing flavors and pleasant aromas that e-cigarette manufacturers have started putting into vaping liquids, many users will vape for long stretches of time without stopping. This can lead to acute nicotine exposure or nicotine poisoning, a condition that can be both dangerous and deadly.
- Marijuana Vaping – Some people also use e-cigarettes to vape marijuana-infused liquid as well. In most cases, the term vaping refers to nicotine vaping. But there are plenty of THC oil options available these days too.
The debate over the harmfulness of THC continues to rage, even as the drug has been legalized in Colorado. But even still, there are certain dangers that smoking and vaping THC and marijuana have that can be otherwise avoided entirely. One item that appears to be dangerous for THC/marijuana vapers is Vitamin E Acetate. This product is supposedly not found in nicotine vaping products, but in many THC vaping pens and products. This product could be the cause of many recent health claims, but the research isn’t clear.
The Dangers of Nicotine Poisoning
One of the most immediate dangers of heavy vaping and e-cigarette abuse is acute nicotine poisoning. This is when the body has taken in a dangerous level of nicotine far above what most people ingest when using. And the symptoms of nicotine poisoning can be frightening. According to Medical News Today, nicotine poisoning happens in two stages. The first occurs within the first 15 to 60 minutes following exposure. Symptoms include:
- Excess saliva in the mouth
- Feeling nauseous
- Loss of appetite
- Eye irritation
- Anxiety and restlessness
- Rapid breathing
- Increased heart rate
- Elevated blood pressure
The second stage tends to show more depressive symptoms rather than the stimulant ones shown above. These symptoms include:
- Low blood pressure
- Slow heart rate
- Shallow breathing
- Pale skin
In the most severe cases, people suffering from nicotine poisoning can also experience:
- Breathing difficulties
- Respiratory failure
Is Vaping Worse Than Smoking?
No. Vaping is most likely not worse than smoking cigarettes. However, that’s not because vaping is particularly safe. Instead, it’s because smoking is particularly harmful. It’s like dropping half a carton of eggs rather than a full one: just because you didn’t drop the full carton doesn’t mean you’re not still down six eggs. To give you some perspective on the scope of tobacco smoking’s damage, have a look at some of the statistics from the CDC below.
- More than 16 million Americans are living with a disease caused by smoking.
- For every person who dies because of smoking, at least 30 people live with a serious smoking-related illness.
- Smoking causes cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
- Smoking also increases the risk for tuberculosis, certain eye diseases, and problems of the immune system, including rheumatoid arthritis.
- Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death.
- Worldwide, tobacco use causes more than 7 million deaths per year. If the pattern of smoking all over the globe doesn’t change, more than 8 million people a year will die from diseases related to tobacco use by 2030.
- Cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States, including more than 41,000 deaths resulting from secondhand smoke exposure. This is about one in five deaths annually, or 1,300 deaths every day.
- On average, smokers die 10 years earlier than nonsmokers.
- If smoking continues at the current rate among U.S. youth, 5.6 million of today’s Americans younger than 18 years of age are expected to die prematurely from a smoking-related illness. This represents about one in every 13 Americans aged 17 years or younger who are alive today.
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What Does Vaping Do To Your Lungs?
The answer: serious damage. According to the American Lung Association:
- E-cigarettes produce a number of dangerous chemicals including acetaldehyde, acrolein, and formaldehyde. These aldehydes can cause lung disease, as well as cardiovascular disease.
- E-cigarettes also contain acrolein, a herbicide primarily used to kill weeds. It can cause acute lung injury and COPD and may cause asthma and lung cancer.
- Both the U.S. Surgeon General and the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine have warned about the risks of inhaling secondhand e-cigarette emissions, which are created when an e-cigarette user exhales the chemical cocktail created by e-cigarettes.
- In 2016, the Surgeon General concluded that secondhand emissions contain, “nicotine; ultrafine particles; flavorings such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to serious lung disease; volatile organic compounds such as benzene, which is found in car exhaust; and heavy metals, such as nickel, tin, and lead.”
It’s important to remember, however, that there is a lot of research just now being done on the effects that vaping has on the lungs.
What Are The Risks of Vaping for Women?
As we’ve seen, the true health effects of vaping are still being studied. And since vaping has only been around for a short time, it’s difficult to predict the long-term results of regular e-cigarette abuse, let alone the effects on women. That being said, new evidence is emerging of vaping’s ill effects on fertility for women. According to a study published in the Journal of the Endocrine Society, the chemicals in e-cigarettes can actually make it harder for an embryo to implant in the uterus. On top of that, nicotine itself has long been known to be harmful to fetuses of pregnant women. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, nicotine during pregnancy can cause:
- Low birth weight and preterm birth
- Restricted head growth
- Placental problems
- Increased risk of stillbirth
- Increased risk of miscarriage
Women’s Recovery: Your Source for Healing, Recovery, & Support
While vaping certainly isn’t as harmful as smoking tobacco using traditional cigarettes, that doesn’t mean that it’s healthy by any stretch of the imagination. It can have very real impacts on the health of both the body and the mind – and that goes for adults as well as young people too. Obviously vaping addiction doesn’t often result in “rehab”, but any addiction often accompanies or causes other issues with addiction. So if your or someone you love is suffering from the ill effects of vaping along with other kinds of addiction or abuse, Women’s Recovery in Colorado is here to help. Women’s Recovery has two different facilities in the state: one in Denver and one in Dillon. Both are outpatient facilities that provide patients flexibility during their treatment without having to sacrifice the quality of care. We offer a range of treatment services, including:
- Alcohol Rehab
- Drug Addiction Rehab
- Co-Occurring Disorders Treatment
- Trauma Treatment
- Outpatient Services
- Vivitrol Services
Each of our programs is individually tailored to meet the needs of each patient, so you can feel confident knowing you’re getting the level of care that you truly deserve. We also offer case management services to help you integrate back into the community, establish your life skills, and exercise your new coping techniques learned in therapy.
But we also know that there’s no perfect treatment that will meet everyone’s needs. A quick call with one of our addiction specialists can help you determine if you or your loved one is a good fit.
In the end, we’re passionate about recovery. And we’d love to be a part of yours. So please, contact us today to get started.