Holy smoke! There’s no smoke involved in vaping, but there sure has been a firestorm of controversy about the safety of vaping in recent days. CDC is investigating 450+ cases of severe lung illness linked to vaping. Moreover, six deaths have been reported from vaping-related severe lung illness. Wow! Good thing vaping is so much safer than smoking cigarettes–not!
What exactly is vaping? Well, in the first place, if you don’t know and haven’t tried it–DON’T. Vaping is the inhaling of vapor produced by an electronic cigarette. These cigarettes heat liquid into an aerosol that the user inhales.
You can’t “smoke” an e-cigarette since there’s no smoke, only vapor. Rather than producing tobacco smoke, an e-cigarette produces an aerosol that consists of fine particles which quickly enter the lungs and then go into the bloodstream. And by “fine” particles, I am referring to size and not desirability. These particles contain varying amounts of toxic chemicals.
E-cigarettes are relatively new having been introduced to the mass market here in the U.S. in 2007. Their popularity has exploded; currently it is estimated that 10.8 million adults and 3.6 million teens use them in this country. In fact, e-cigarettes are more popular among youth than any traditional tobacco product, and their use is higher among high school students than adults. Between 2011 and 2015, e-cigarette use grew 900% (yes, that is 100% X 9) among high school students.
So what’s the big deal with youth or even adults using e-cigarettes? I mean they are advertised as being healthier than smoking traditional cigarettes. But, in actuality, e-cigarettes are not healthy period. Saying that they are healthier than traditional cigarettes is like saying arsenic is healthier than strychnine. The fact is BOTH E-CIGARETTES AND TRADITIONAL CIGARETTES ARE BAD FOR YOU.
In the first place, e-cigarettes have not undergone strict FDA testing. Therefore, any claim that they are a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes is unsubstantiated. Secondly, vaping may not put a user on the highway to hell, but it is likely to put him on the street to smoking. According to Yale health researchers, vaping increases the risk that a teen will smoke regular cigarettes later. Third, e-cigarettes may have fewer toxins in them than traditional cigarettes, but they still put harmful matter and chemicals directly into one’s lungs.
E-cigarettes are considered tobacco products because most contain nicotine which comes from tobacco. Nicotine is the primary agent in both regular cigarettes and in e-cigarettes, and it is highly addictive. Not only is it addictive, but it is toxic. It can raise blood pressure and spike adrenaline.
Currently, the most popular vaping device by far is the JUUL, a small device that looks like a USB flash drive.This product, which only came out in 2015, commands a whopping 72% of the market for vaping products. Not only is its market share high, but so is the product’s nicotine content. One pod or flavor cartridge contains the same amount of nicotine as a whole pack of cigarettes.
And nicotine is not the only substance about which to be concerned. Scientists have found harmful chemicals such as formaldehyde in e-cigarette vapors. Formaldehyde? Wasn’t that the horrendous smelling substance used to preserve that frog you dissected way back in high school biology? Yup! Want some of that stuff in your lungs? Not me! And if you do get it in your lungs, you might end up like that poor, lifeless frog.
The substance e-cigarette users breathe in and then exhale can contain harmful or potentially harmful substances like chemicals and heavy metals in addition to nicotine. A study from Johns Hopkins University found that e-cigarettes can potentially release significant amounts of toxic metals in its vapors which users inhale. Discovered in the vapors released by e-cigarettes were potentially unsafe levels of lead, chromium, manganese, and/or nickel. Yes, the word “potentially” has been used several times in this paragraph, but are you willing to risk such “potential” harm to your body?
The recently reported lung illnesses related to vaping are believed to be associated with chemical exposure from vaping. Vaping leads to inflammation within the lungs, and the chemicals in e-cigarettes can cause permanent lung damage. Accordingly, CDC has urged Americans to stop using e-cigarettes while investigations are ongoing.
Need specific case examples? A 17 year old Texas boy who had been vaping since 8th grade nearly died. An x-ray of his lungs showed a complete blockage. He was placed in a medically induced coma, and his parents were not sure he would live. Happily the boy did recover, and even more happily, he pitched all his e-cigarettes and swore off vaping when he got out of the hospital. In another case, which lead to death, a female in her 50’s died in Kansas a week after starting to use e-cigarettes.
Obviously people get to make their own life choices. One may choose to abuse alcohol, drugs, and nicotine. Adults can and do make poor decisions which have adverse health consequences; people can choose to use e-cigarettes despite the health risks. But should we allow youth to be targeted to make poor decisions along these lines? Unfortunately, that is exactly what is occurring with vaping.
According to the U.S. Surgeon General, the number one reason young people give for using vaping devices is because of the flavors offered. It isn’t stinky tobacco like regular cigarettes. Want crème brulee? Mango? There are over 7,000 flavors of e-cigarettes on the market, including cotton candy and gummy bear. Tell me that such flavors aren’t aimed at appealing to kids.
Clearly not appealing to me as an adult is the popular “unicorn puke” flavor. It is advertised as a “delicious and refreshing rainbow sherbet vapor that will remind you of a summer day.” I’m sorry, but delicious and refreshing are not adjectives I connect with puke, unicorn or otherwise.
To me what would be refreshing is Americans engaging in behaviors that are smoke free and toxin free, i.e., no cigarette smoking OR vaping. Sure the vape flavors are enticing. But eat creme brulee, don’t inhale it. If you want a refreshing taste, buy an Icee or some fruit-flavored hard candy. OK, these purchases involve the risk of consuming additional calories, but isn’t that better than putting toxic chemicals and heavy metals directly into your lungs? If you care about your health, then blow off any suggestion of vaping.
Have you, or anyone you know, tried vaping? Before reading this post, was it your impression that vaping was a healthy alternative to smoking? If so, has reading this post altered that impression? How do you feel about young people being targeted to indulge in unhealthy activities such as vaping?