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Vaping: The dangers of e-cigarettes


In the United States, 98% of all tobacco-related deaths are caused by cigarette smoking. The U.S. tobacco landscape has changed rapidly in recent years, with millions of consumers now using electronic nicotine delivery systems, the most prominent of which are electronic cigarettes. E-cigarette use has recently been associated with serious health effects and some deaths.

What Are E-cigarettes?

E-cigarettes are electronic devices that heat a liquid, usually containing nicotine, flavoring and other chemicals. This produces an aerosol that users inhale into their lungs. E-cigarettes come in many shapes and sizes. Most have a battery, a heating element and a place to hold the liquid.

What is in E-cigarette aerosol?

E-cigarette aerosol is not harmless “water vapor.” The aerosol that users inhale and exhale from e-cigarettes can expose both themselves and bystanders to harmful substances. It is difficult for consumers to know what e-cigarette products contain. The aerosol can contain harmful and potentially harmful substances, including:

- Nicotine, even in e-cigarettes marketed as “nicotine-free”
- Tiny particles that can travel deep into the lungs
- Flavorings, including one chemical linked to serious lung disease
- Cancer-causing chemicals
- Heavy metals such as nickel, tin and lead

Are E-cigarettes Safe?

No, e-cigarettes are not safe.  They contain nicotine, which is addictive and can lead to regular cigarette use. E-cigarettes also contain other ingredients in the aerosol, some of which are harmful. The use of any tobacco product, including e-cigarettes, is unsafe for teens and young adults, and not recommended for anyone.  E-cigarettes are considered safer then cigarettes only because burned cigarettes are extraordinarily dangerous, killing half of all people who smoke long-term according to the American Cancer Society.

As of Oct. 8, 2019, 1,299 lung injury cases associated with the use of vaping products have been reported to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from the United States. There have been 26 confirmed deaths. All patients have reported recent use of e-cigarettes or vaping products. Findings suggest products containing THC play a large role in the outbreak, but no single product or substance has been linked to all lung injury cases. Some lung-injury patients report using e-cigarettes containing only nicotine with no THC.

The CDC recommends “that people consider refraining from using e-cigarette or vaping products.” Further, the CDC recommends that if you have recently used a vaping product and you have these symptoms see a healthcare provider:

- Cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain
- Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
- Fatigue, fever, or abdominal pain

What is the bottom line?

If you don’t smoke now, do not start use of any nicotine containing product. If you use e-cigarettes and have any signs of illness, see your healthcare provider right away. There is still much we don’t know about the long-term risks of use of e-cigarettes.  If you currently use any type of nicotine containing product, there are several Federal Drug Administration approved medications that can help you quit. Contact your health care provider for more information.