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The bottom line on vaping



Q—Are vape devices synonymous with e-cigarettes? Can e-cigarettes really help people like me who wish to quit smoking lick the habit?How safe are e-cigarettes? Why have some people in the US died because of vaping? —george_xx@gmail.com

A—Yes, e-cigarettes or electronic cigarettes are synonymous with vape devices, which are colloquially called vapes. E-cigarettes are portable battery-powered devices that often look like real cigarettes—with their tips lighting up. They were invented to ostensibly help smokers quit smoking. Instead of burning tobacco, vapes heat and vaporize a liquid solution known as e-juice or e-liquid that consists of propylene glycol and/or glycerine and/or polyethylene glycol mixed with flavors and/or liquid nicotine. E-juices come in a variety of flavors including regular tobacco, coffee, vanilla, menthol, and assorted fruits. To mimic cigarette smoking, the smoke-like mist or aerosol that is produced by e-cigarettes is, much like tobacco smoke, inhaled into the lungs. With e-cigarettes, one “vapes” instead of smokes.

Can e-cigarettes help smokers kick their habit? Proponents of e-cigarettes claim that these devices satisfy the craving caused by smoking tobacco because they deliver the experience of smoking while, at the same time, they eliminate the health hazards associated with tobacco smoke. But aside from anecdotal reports from smokers who claim that e-cigarettes help them fight cravings, cope with withdrawal symptoms, and avoid relapses, there is no scientific study that backs the assertion that e-cigarettes help smokers quit their habit.

On the contrary, a recent study found that most people who intended to use e-cigarettes to kick the nicotine habit ended up continuing to smoke both traditional and e-cigarettes. Also telling is the fact that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not granted approval to e-cigarettes as smoking cessation devices.

Hence, although they’ve been marketed as an aid to help you quit smoking, e-cigarettes will probably not help you lick the habit. I therefore do not advise you to take up vaping. You might end up with two bad habits instead of just one.

Incidentally, there is also a growing concern that e-cigarettes undermine smoking prevention and cessation by reinforcing the normalcy of cigarette use in public and workplaces and that they may fuel new cigarette addiction among young people. This concerns are backed by statistics that show that many young people who vape graduate to cigarette smoking after a while.

Are e-cigarettes safe?

The base liquids (i.e., propylene glycol, etc.) in e-cigarettes are evidently safe because they are widely used as food additives and base solution for personal care products. Even the nicotine-containing e-juices are much safer than conventional cigarettes because although they contain the same amount of nicotine, they do not deliver the toxic products of combustion that conventional cigarettes do. Overall, vaping is less harmful than smoking, but it is not safe, it is still harmful.

Nicotine is the primary agent in e-cigarettes, and nicotine is highly addictive aside from being toxic. There are also many chemicals that make up the vapor of e-cigarettes and there is a good chance that some of them are deleterious to health.

In the US this year, there have been more than 450 possible cases (including six deaths) of lung illness associated with using e-cigarettes reported to the Center for Disease Control across 33 states and the US Virgin Islands. Investigation into the link between vaping and these severe lung illnesses is ongoing but the exact cause of the illnesses and deaths has not been identified yet.

Bottom line

Although there are still many unknowns about vaping, including what chemicals make up the vapor and how they affect physical health over the long term, we already know that it is not safe and is potentially dangerous to health. It could also become an addiction.

All told, people will be better off if they heed this advisory issued by the CDC—e-cigarettes should never be used by youth, young adults, pregnant women, or adults who do not currently use tobacco products. The laws that govern the use and sale of e-cigarettes vary widely from country to country. There are countries where they are no longer marketed as smoking cessation aids, or tobacco replacement while a few countries have banned e-cigarettes altogether.

(Note: Email inquiries on health matters to: medical_notes2@yahoo.com)

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