According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States. Smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths each year in the United States which is approximately one in five deaths. Read on to learn more about e-cigarettes and how their use continues to rapidly escalate in the USA, particularly among youth.
What is Vaping?
Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling the aerosol that is produced by an electronic vapor device when it heats up its liquid ingredients. These products are sometimes referred to as electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, and “vapes.” The contents of most vaping liquids (e-liquids) include nicotine, flavoring chemicals, and other chemicals. Some vaping products are modified to contain marijuana or THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
What is in an E-cigarette?
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not currently have any regulations or standards as to what goes into e-cigarettes. While there is no set ingredients list, what we do know is that they contain several toxins and chemicals like standard cigarettes.
Common e-cigarettes contain:
- Nicotine- found in cigarettes and affects adolescent brain development
- Propylene glycol- used in antifreeze
- Acrolein- used to kill weeds
- Heavy metals- such as nickel, tin, and lead
- Benzene- found in car exhaust
- Various other carcinogen chemicals linked to cancer
What is EVALI?
The effects of cigarette smoke have always been a longstanding health concern, and new conditions have arisen due to the increased amount of people turning to e-cigarettes and vaping. The CDC, along with state and local health departments, is seeing an outbreak of e-cigarette or vaping, product use-associated lung injury (EVALI).
Those reported with EVALI can present with symptoms of dyspnea, which is an uncomfortable sensation or awareness of breathing or needing to breathe, cough, and have an abnormally low concentration of oxygen in the blood.
Other symptoms of EVALI can include:
- Chest pain
- Abdominal pain
- Weight loss
Impact on the Lungs
Smoking of any kind can lead to lung disease due to the damage caused by inhaling irritants contained in cigarettes and e-cigarettes. The small air sacs, called alveoli, in your lungs fill with smoke and debris. Over time, the inhaled smoke destroys your lung tissue and makes it difficult to transport oxygen to your blood vessels, leaving you short of breath.
Inhaled irritants can cause an increase in the amount and thickness of mucus you produce. When you smoke, the cells that produce mucus grow rapidly and your lungs are not able to keep up with the production. The inability to clear the mucus in your airways can lead to infections.
Additionally, nicotine and other chemicals in e-cigarettes are being tied to increasing heart rate and blood pressure and the risk of heart attack and stroke, as well as inflammation, asthma, and wheezing.
There are still many unknowns regarding the use of e-cigarettes, the chemicals they include, and the physical effects that can result from long term use. There is, however, emerging clinical information that suggests a strong link to chronic lung conditions and asthma as well as cardiovascular disease.
A New Generation of Smokers: The Statistics
Among youth, e-cigarettes have become more popular than traditional tobacco products. According to a September 2020 CDC morbidity and mortality report, 19.6% of high school students (3.02 million) and 4.7% of middle school students (550,000) reported current e-cigarette use.
Among current e-cigarette users, 38.9% of high school students and 20.0% of middle school students reported using e-cigarettes on 20 or more of the past 30 days. Daily use of e-cigarettes was reported by 22.5% of high school users and 9.4% of middle school users.
START with a Plan to Quit
As for any current tobacco user, smoking cessation is key to stopping the progressive damage caused using any type of tobacco, e-cigarette, or vaping product. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has developed an acronym to help you kickstart your plans to quit.
S – Set a quit date
T – Tell Family & Friends you plan to quit
A – Anticipate and plan for challenges
R – Remove cigarettes & all tobacco products from your home, work, and car
T – Talk with your healthcare provider
It is very difficult to quit vaping, and youth are especially vulnerable to the addictive pull of nicotine. While some may be able to quit unaided, many young people who try to quit will experience withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety, irritability, difficulty concentrating and loss of appetite. The most effective approach to helping a young person quit is through counseling, family, and peer support. It is also important to address potential underlying mental or emotional problems that might contribute to the desire to vape or use other addictive substances.