E-cigarettes and smokeless nicotine, once regarded as ‘safe,’ carry risks.
In recent years, an increasing number of teens and young adults have turned to smokeless nicotine products, like e-cigarettes and vape devices. In 2022, over 2.5 million U.S. middle and high school students reported using e-cigarettes or vapes. One in four of those teens reported daily use, with over 40% of teens reporting use at least 20 days in a 30-day period.
Marketed as a "safer" alternative to traditional cigarettes, these devices have been the subject of much debate within the healthcare community. However, it is crucial to understand that there are several health risks associated with their use.
One of the most significant concerns related to vaping is its impact on lung health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), e-cigarette aerosol contains harmful substances like nicotine, volatile organic compounds, and ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deeply into the lungs. This can lead to conditions such as bronchitis, pneumonia and, in severe cases, a life-threatening lung injury known as EVALI (E-cigarette, or Vaping, product use-Associated Lung Injury).
Does vaping lead to lung cancer? Since vaping is relatively new and the majority of users are young, it’s too soon to draw a direct link between vaping and lung cancer. It is worth noting that some of the substances found in e-cigarette aerosols, like formaldehyde, are associated with risks of lung, oral and bladder cancer.
The American Heart Association has warned that the nicotine present in e-cigarettes can have several adverse effects on the cardiovascular system. Nicotine increases heart rate, blood pressure, and the risk of having a heart attack. While more long-term studies are needed to fully understand the cardiovascular implications of e-cigarettes, initial research points to significant risks.
Addiction and Brain Development
Nicotine is a highly addictive substance, and its consumption poses a particular threat to adolescents. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, nicotine exposure during adolescence can harm brain development, affecting attention, learning and susceptibility to addiction.
Various harmful chemicals, including diacetyl, have been found in e-cigarette liquids. Diacetyl is associated with a severe respiratory disease known as "popcorn lung" (bronchiolitis obliterans), which damages the small airways in the lungs and causes coughing and shortness of breath.
If you or a loved one uses smokeless tobacco products like vapes or e-cigarettes, stop and reconsider the benefits versus risks to your health. Quitting the use of an addictive substance is never easy, but it may be well worth it to your overall wellbeing.