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Understanding the Risks of Vaping

smoke from vaping

It’s well known that cigarette smoking causes breathing problems and lung cancer. According to the Cleveland Clinic, smoking is also linked to “about one-fifth of all deaths from heart disease in the United States”, which translates to almost 130,000 people per year!

In late 2006, vaping was introduced in the U.S., marketed as a healthy alternative to cigarettes and as an effective way to quit smoking. While vaping has been shown to be as effective as nicotine gum in kicking the cigarette habit, studies are also finding that vaping carries many serious health risks.

What is Vaping?

Vaping is the process of using an electronic cigarette, also called an e-cigarette or vape pen, to inhale vapor rather than tobacco smoke. E-cigarettes contain a battery-powered heating element that vaporizes a liquid solution, called an e-liquid, which then releases a vapor that is inhaled.

Although it’s possible to buy an e-liquid that doesn’t contain nicotine, most e-liquids do contain the chemical, as well as propylene glycol, glycerin, flavorings, and other additives. When the e-liquids are heated and inhaled, the lungs are exposed to the chemicals in the liquid, as well as chemicals that leech from the metal components of the device.

Dangers Associated with Vaping

The American Lung Association warns that when cigarette tobacco burns, it produces more than 7,000 chemicals, many of which are toxic. Close to 70 of those chemicals are known to cause cancer. E-cigarettes contain some of the same chemicals. One of these is formaldehyde, which the Department of Health and Human Services’ National Toxicology Program warns increases the risk of cancer in humans.

Harmful trace metals, including lead, nickel, chromium, cadmium, aluminum, and others have also been found in e-cigarettes. Researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found the metal heating coils of vaping units may introduce contamination into the liquid. Their study concluded, “findings indicate that e-cigarettes are a potential source of exposure to toxic metals (Cr, Ni, and Pb), and to metals that are toxic when inhaled (Mn and Zn).” Toxicity from these trace metals has been linked to lung cancer, nasal tumors, and oral cancer.

Research also supports a connection between vaping and an increased risk of heart disease. A study recently published by the American Heart Association found several popular e-liquid flavorings may cause cardiovascular damage, even when used short-term. According to a study published in the journal Frontiers in Physiology, inhaling e-liquids can cause “significant inflammation” to white blood cells. They also warn that certain flavorings, including cinnamon and vanilla, are especially toxic. Further, researchers found that mixing e-cigarette flavors presents the most toxic effects.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) agrees that vaping causes multiple health risks, including the potential for severe lung damage.

The CDC, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and other agencies are currently investigating a national uptick in e-cigarette-associated lung injury (EVALI). The CDC website states, “As of February 18, 2020, a total of 2,807 hospitalized e-cigarette, or vaping, product use-associated lung injury (EVALI) cases or deaths have been reported to CDC from 50 states, the District of Columbia, and two U.S. territories (Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands).”

While studies into the dangers of vaping are ongoing, it’s clear that vaping carries serious health risks. It’s important that all consumers have a clear picture of the risks if they choose e-cigarettes as an alternative to traditional tobacco products.

Turning Point of Tampa’s goal is to always provide a safe environment and a solid foundation in 12-Step recovery, in tandem with quality individual therapy and groups. We have been offering Licensed Residential Treatment for Addiction, Eating Disorders and Dual Diagnosis in Tampa since 1987.

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