The Truth About Vaping
E-cigarettes are not as safe as you think
Vaping, the term used for smoking e-cigarettes or similar devices, has become a popular form of nicotine delivery, especially among teenagers and young adults. E-cigarettes and vaping devices work by heating up a liquid that contains nicotine, which creates a water vapor (or aerosol) that the user breathes in.
While inhaling these vapors may not be as harmful as traditional smoking, vaping is still bad for your health, says Dr. Sharon Marable, an Internal Medicine Physician at Southcoast Health in Lakeville.
“The industry gets nicotine for vaping devices from the same tobacco leaves they use in regular cigarettes, chew tobacco or pipes,” she says. Nicotine is addictive no matter how it’s delivered to the body, and it can negatively affect the brain, heart, lungs and other parts of the body.
In addition to nicotine, says Dr. Marable, “the aerosol contains ultra-fine particles that can cause damage to the lungs, cancer-causing chemicals, and heavy metals such as nickel, tin and lead. The artificial flavorings in the liquid can also cause serious lung diseases.”
Teens at Risk
Because the liquid for e-cigarettes can contain different flavorings, vaping is more palatable than smoking and, therefore, more tempting for teens and young adults. “In Massachusetts, almost half of all high school students have tried vaping at one point,” says Dr. Marable. “Teens already aren’t associating these devices with tobacco products because of their design; it doesn’t look or smell like a traditional cigarette. Add in flavoring like cherry or bubblegum, and they think they’re just inhaling something that tastes good.”
This is particularly dangerous, because the nicotine and other dangerous chemicals that teens are inhaling can cause damage to and have long-term effects on their developing brains. “And, when teens get used to having nicotine in their systems through vaping devices, it puts them at higher risk of transitioning to other tobacco products,” adds Dr. Marable.
Kick the Habit
Teens aren’t the only people vaping, however; many adults are using e-cigarettes as a way to quit traditional smoking without giving up nicotine. But the jury is out on whether vaping is an effective method of smoking cessation, says Dr. Marable.
Teens and young adults who aren’t vaping regularly may be able to kick the habit on their own, but if they’re experiencing peer pressure or a stronger nicotine addiction, formal intervention may be needed.
Adults who want to quit vaping can also benefit from outside help. “I recognize vaping as a form of tobacco use,” says Dr. Marable. “It’s not an end point — it’s a transition — and I still urge them to try other methods of smoking cessation, like the patch or Chantix (varenicline).” ￼
If you have concerns about vaping or smoking, a Southcoast Health primary care physician can help. Find a doctor at southcoast.org/doctors or by downloading the Southcoast Health app.