The Vape Debate: This New Trend May Be Riskier Than You Think

July 11, 2018

The e-cigarette market has been on fire the past few years. With nearly 500 brands and 7,700 flavors of e-cigarettes on the market, according to the American Lung Association, these electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) are sparking renewed interest and debates around the use of tobacco products and the harmful effects of nicotine.

“We feel that it is important to educate the community on the potential harms and risks of vaping,” said Angela Cochran, director of Chronic Disease Prevention & Control for St. Mary’s County Health Department. “As the research evolves we continue to gain more knowledge on how e-cigarette use affects our health.”

In 2015, the Health Department created the VapeAware awareness campaign to help provide the latest information on this trendy smoking alternative. It also works with the Tobacco Free Living Action Team of the Healthy St. Mary’s Partnership to improve tobacco-related health outcomes in the county.

“The Health Department works on reducing the use of all forms of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes,” Angela said. “We try to focus on population-level strategies such as including e-cigarettes into smoke-free indoor air policies and restricting youth access to e-cigarettes in retail settings.”

What is particularly disturbing is the trend among adolescents and teens. According to the Maryland 2016 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 42 percent of teen respondents in St. Mary’s County had tried electronic vapor products within the 30 days prior to taking the survey. 

“Recent reports are showing substantial evidence that e-cigarette use increases the likelihood youth and young adults will eventually begin using combustible tobacco cigarettes,” Angela said. “Despite the popularity of e-cigarettes, we continue to promote awareness through a comprehensive tobacco control program that focuses on prevention and cessation of all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, among youth.”

Know the Health Risks

New studies are also showing that e-cigarettes are not as harmless as many would like to believe. Although not as toxic as smoking regular cigarettes, use of ENDS still comes with many risks including exposure to nicotine and other aerosols which are known cancer causers.

“Research on this is still pending in a few areas because long-term effects haven’t had a chance to be studied,” said Pam Laigle, BSN, RN, PCCN, clinical leader of the Grace Anne Dorney Pulmonary & Cardiac Rehab Center. However, research has discovered other effects on the cardiovascular system as well as new evidence of what is called ‘popcorn’ lung, a serious and irreversible lung disease. “Anything other than breathing oxygen,” said Pam, “essentially is not good.”

Visit MedStarStMarys.org/Tobacco for more information on the Grace Anne Dorney Pulmonary & Cardiac Rehabilitation Center, the risks of tobacco use, and smoking cessation resources.

What is Vaping?

Electronic nicotine delivery systems, which include e-cigarettes, vape pens, e-hookahs, e-cigars, personal vaporizers, and electronic pipes, use a battery to heat liquid that contains nicotine, flavorings, and additives, which are inhaled into the lungs.

Know the Risks

► Exposure to Nicotine: Nicotine is highly addictive and adversely affects the heart, reproductive system, lungs, kidneys, etc., and may increase the risk of certain cancers.

► Exposure to Aerosols: Aerosols may contain harmful substances including cancer-causing chemicals and tiny particles that reach deep inside the lungs.

► Increases Risk of Using Other Tobacco Products: For teens and adolescents, serves as a gateway to using combustible cigarettes.

► Poisoning: Accidental exposure to even small amounts of liquid nicotine – as little as a teaspoon - can be fatal to children and a slightly larger amount could kill an adult.

► Burns: Batteries can explode causing severe injury.