Vaping is often considered a “safer” alternative to cigarette smoking. But is it really? We’re breaking down some facts in this blog.
Smoking is the single most preventable cause of death, killing 7 million people worldwide each year. Because of that, there has been much excitement and fanfare over what has been presented as a “healthier” method of smoking — e-cigarettes or vaping.
In fact, it’s been a particular hit with teens, who want to look cool without the long-term dangers they’ve heard about smoking cigarettes.
But is vaping actually safe? There’s a lot of information out there, so we’re breaking down fact vs. fiction today.
Vaping myth 1: I’m only inhaling water vapor.
Truth: It’s not water vapor you’re inhaling. In fact, there’s very little water involved. What you think is water vapor is actually an aerosol made up of numerous chemicals.
So rather than inhaling a harmless substance, you’re actually breathing in numerous chemical substances. The chemical that is creating the vapor effect is called “propylene glycol.” And it’s making contact with a lot of parts of your body, including your mouth, airway, throat, esophagus, and stomach, as it makes its way into the lungs. This chemical is a known respiratory irritant that bothers the sensitive lung tissues, causing harm and lung irritation.
Beyond this chemical, vaping also contains other chemicals, including potential toxins and cancerous agents like diacetyl, hidden in seemingly innocent flavors. The coils can often contain heavy metals such as lead, nickel, cadmium, and mercury that are released by the heating elements.
Vaping myth 2: There’s no nicotine involved.
Truth: Yes, nicotine is normally there. While e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco, some teens are under the mistaken impression that they also don’t contain nicotine.
In fact, they do often contain high levels of nicotine, an addictive stimulant. A 2015 study found that 99 percent of the e-cigarettes sold contain nicotine — that includes JUULs, a popular choice for teenagers.
Rather than keeping kids from becoming addicted to nicotine, vaping can actually have the opposite effect. One JUUL pod contains as much nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes.
The effects of nicotine are particularly dangerous for teens, too. Research has shown that the brain is permanently altered among teens who use nicotine, in a way that may cause them to be addicted long-term.
Vaping myth 3: If I vape, I won’t start smoking.
Truth: A study involving high school seniors found that those who began vaping as teens were more than four times as likely to smoke traditional cigarettes within a year.
Vaping can actually become a gateway into smoking, leading to dangerous health effects down the line, in addition to the ones that vaping already causes.
And if you turn to vaping to help “wean” you off cigarette smoking, you may find that doesn’t work either. There’s no actual proof that e-cigarettes help teens quit smoking, and there are plenty of alternatives that don’t require this sort of chemical exposure.
Vaping use among teens is exploding and despite significant reductions in traditional cigarette use, nicotine use among teens has risen due to vaping.
Vaping myth 4: Vaping isn’t dangerous for anyone around me.
Truth: This one might surprise you, but there’s actually something called “secondhand vaping.”
Most of us at this point have been in a restaurant or other public space where someone was vaping. It has been considered “safe” to vape around other people since you supposedly are only letting off ‘water vapor’ into the air. But just as we mentioned earlier, it’s not actually water at all. While you aren’t exposing people to smoke, per se, you are still exposing them to the potential dangers mentioned above.
A study found that vaping decreased indoor air quality by releasing nicotine, particulates, and potentially carcinogenic substances — PAHs and aluminum — into the air.
In addition to potentially inhaling aerosol and other chemicals released by vaping, those around the person vaping are also at risk of having chemicals absorbed through the skin. This can be particularly dangerous for young kids. These particles settle out of the air on the floor where infants crawl and on items they frequently pick up and put in their mouths.
Children exposed to secondhand smoke or secondhand vaping have higher rates of ear infections, more respiratory infections, and more frequent coughs/colds/asthma.
Vaping myth 5: Vaping is a “healthy” option/alternative.
Truth: For all the reasons we’ve stated above and others, vaping is not healthy. The only thing the lungs were designed to inhale is clean, natural air.
While a person who vapes is not exposed to tobacco smoke and its harmful effects, that person and those around them are exposed to any number of potentially harmful chemicals. And the extent of that danger hasn’t been fully studied yet, since vaping is still a relatively young phenomenon.
Keep in that mind that the “juice” found in e-cigarettes contains nicotine and other substances that can lead to a variety of health problems, including asthma, prolonged shortness of breath, sinus infections, and wheezing. Children are being poisoned frequently by getting into these pods that contain concentrated chemicals and nicotine. These chemical side effects are likely worsened by adding other ingredients to the vapor and can lead to pulmonary lung disease with possible hospitalization and death!
Doesn’t sound too healthy to us.
Dr. John Heise specializes in adolescent medicine at Children’s Hospital at Erlanger.
Dr. Matthew Kreth specializes in pediatric pulmonology at Children’s Hospital at Erlanger.
Have a teen who’s vaping and need advice on how to handle the situation or cut the habit/addiction? Talk with your child’s pediatrician about what steps to take. If your child (up to age 21) needs help quitting, please call 778-KIDS and ask for the Smoke B Gone clinic.