Making Healthy Choices

Vaping: Understanding the Rise Of E-Cigarettes

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By Kimberlydawn Wisdom, M.D.

You may not have heard the term “vaping” before – slang for smoking an e-cigarette – but you’ve probably seen people doing it in everyday life. And if you haven’t, that will surely change. But what’s all the buzz about, and is vaping actually better for you than regular cigarettes? Let’s break down the ins, outs, pros and cons of the new e-cigarette craze.

What Are E-cigarettes?
They are battery operated inhalers that contain a cartridge filled with a nicotine solution that is often flavored. When inhaled, there is usually a light at the end of the device. Users exhale a cloud of vapor that resembles smoke but minus the strong odor.

What Is Vaping?
Vaping is when you inhale water vapor through a vaporizer device. When you inhale, the battery or a heating element heats the liquid in the replaceable nicotine cartridge so that it turns into an inhalable vapor. It doesn’t release smoke like a traditional cigarette does. This has made vaping more socially acceptable in and around public spaces, which are usually non-smoking nowadays.

Is Vaping Safer Than Traditional Smoking?
This is a complicated question to answer for many reasons. E-cigarettes are not currently regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). No government oversight means there is no way for experts or the public to know the long- and short-term health effects of vaping. Health officials like the U.S. Surgeon General have expressed the desperate need for clarity and oversight in this area to help guide policy and protect the public. What we do know is that vaping is on the rise – big time.

How Popular Is Vaping?
E-cigarettes are a billion dollar industry, and their use more than doubled among adults and tripled among teens from 2013-2014 alone. There are now more than 2 million high schoolers and 450,000 middle schoolers using e-cigarettes, and it’s expected that they will outsell tobacco products within a decade. Current smokers make up the group with the biggest rise in e-cigarette usage, but the growth of the habit is outpacing our understanding of it.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Vaping?

Pros:

  • Traditional cigarettes contain more than 7,000 chemicals. Nearly 70 of them have been proven to cause cancer. E-cigarettes contain fewer chemicals, but how many exactly is still unknown.
  • E-cigarettes don’t produce secondhand (or thirdhand) smoke, which kills around 42,000 people in the U.S. each year.
  • You can smoke e-cigarettes in more public places than you can tobacco products.

Cons:

  • Users still inhale carcinogens, which are also found in those liquid nicotine cartridges.
  • Research has suggested that vaping may release toxic chemicals into the user’s body when the metal of the e-cigarette is heated.
  • Vaping hasn’t been proven to be more effective in helping users quit smoking than the nicotine patch, lozenges, gum or cessation medications.
  • Vaping is addictive since you’re still giving your body nicotine.
  • It’s a proven gateway to smoking, according to recent surveys.
  • Some e-cigarette manufacturers specifically target kids through cartridges that come in candy flavors and brightly-colored packaging. And it’s working: 50 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds who vape have admitted that the advertising helped hook them on the habit.
  • Vaping is unregulated. This means the industry can grow and continue to attract users before we have the evidence needed to help people make a truly informed decision. The lack of knowledge about the trend is – and should be – of huge concern.

Tobacco and nicotine usage is harmful to your health in any form, so enlisting help to kick the habit is an important step. If you’re looking to quit smoking, visit Henry Ford Health System’s Tobacco Treatment Services, which offer programs to help patients quit any type of smoking.

If your history of smoking has you concerned about lung health, be sure to talk to your doctor about available lung cancer screenings. Need to find a doctor? Visit henryford.com or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936).