Safer than cigarettes? No vaping way

By Kimberly Nelson

It’s touted as a safe alternative to cigarettes. But is vaping really that harmless?

The short answer, says pediatrician Dr. Ryan Van Ramshorst, is no.

Vaping is the inhalation of aerosol produced by an electronic cigarette when it heats nicotine and other chemicals. It differs from traditional cigarettes in that there is no smoke inhaled, only water vapor.

While cigarettes contain over 7,000 chemicals, including nicotine, it is unknown how many chemicals are in an e-cigarette.

“The ‘vapor’ released from an electronic nicotine delivery system, or E.N.D.S., is not actually a vapor, but an aerosol that contains numerous airway irritants and some potential cancer-causing chemicals, known as carcinogens,” said Dr. Ramshorst, an assistant professor of pediatrics at UT Health San Antonio. “While traditional cigarettes arguably contain more harmful chemicals, the chemicals contained in and released by E.N.D.S. are still concerning.”

How is vaping harmful?

While vaping contains less chemicals than cigarettes, e-cigarettes can still have negative health consequences including:

  • Coughing
  • Headaches/dizziness
  • Asthma
  • High blood pressure
  • Nausea

Additionally, some studies indicate that long-term use of e-cigarettes could cause cancer as well as heart disease.

Finally, other studies show the link between diacetyl, a chemical found in e-cigarettes, and bronchiolitis obliterans or popcorn lung, which is a scarring in the lungs which results in the narrowing of airways.

Can vaping help me quit smoking?

One of the reasons most people take up vaping is to help them quit smoking. However, there is little evidence that it actually helps people kick the nicotine habit, and in fact, may make it more difficult for them to quit smoking.

Vaping can also especially be harmful to adolescents since it is often considered a gateway drug to traditional cigarette use.

“Vaping is particularly dangerous to children and adolescents as it has been linked with traditional cigarette use,” Dr. Van Ramshorst said. “Furthermore, the child/adolescent brain is still developing and is uniquely susceptible to the dangerous addictive potential of nicotine.”

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