Question: I am in my early 20s. I have been smoking about two packs of cigarettes daily for several years now. I have tried to quit smoking. But it is awfully hard. My buddy is encouraging me to switch to e-cigarettes. Is that better than regular cigarettes? — Ron, Wapakoneta
You have asked a particularly good question. It is truly relevant these days.
People start smoking because they think it is “cool.” They are looking to get relaxation and reduce the anxiety. Unfortunately, the nicotine cigarettes have more than 7,000 toxic chemicals, and to make it worse, are addictive. They are very toxic and cause ill effects on every system in your body. It may cause damage to the lungs, heart, cause cancer and altered mental alertness.
I can understand your difficulty in quitting to smoke. It is hard.
There are so many nicotine-containing products available to help quit smoking. Recently, e-cigarettes/vaping was developed. Their use was combined with behavior modification practices to help quit smoking. Initially it appeared promising but lately seems not to be safe. The Centers for Disease Control saw the cigarettes with a potential role in quitting nicotine-containing cigarettes. The last four years’ experience has caused the CDC to reverse this position and is not recommending vaping anymore. It may cause serious medical problems and sometimes leads to death. More than 2,800 people have been reported to have died due to vaping.
What is vaping? Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling the aerosol, often referred to as vapor, which is produced by an e-cigarette or a similar device. The term is used because e-cigarettes do not produce tobacco smoke, but rather an aerosol, often mistaken for water vapor, that consists of fine particles.
Vaping is less harmful than smoking, but it’s still not safe. Research suggests vaping is bad for your heart and lungs.
Electronic cigarettes are not the best smoking cessation tool, although they have been marketed as such. Electronic cigarettes are just as addictive as traditional ones.
There are many varieties of vaping tools like e-cigarettes looking like cigarettes, vapor pens and also advanced personal vaporizers known as MODS like JUULS.
The devices usually contain a mouthpiece, a battery and a cartridge containing either liquid nicotine or some other juice. Heat is generated by an atomizer with the help of the battery. When used, the battery heats up a heating component which turns the content of the e-liquid into an aerosol that is inhaled into the lung and then exhaled.
The liquid in the device contains propylene glycol or vegetable glycerin-based liquids. These liquids have nicotine or THC containing products.
The e-cigarettes have nicotine and the toxins that can affect our body, causing severe lung injuries. Most of the people who died are young, and the CDC identified the culprit as a vitamin E acetate which is often used in THC vaping products. Once the people suffer the lung injury it is very difficult to heal. There may be other toxic products as well which we do not know.
In 2015, the Surgeon General reported that e-cigarette uses among high school students increased by 900%, and 40% are young e-cigarette users who never smoked regular tobacco. Many people who wanted to quit regular cigarettes start with e-cigarettes but ended up smoking e-cigarettes all the time. The people who started the e-cigarettes became addicted.
Once you are hooked up to smoking, it is not that easy to quit smoking. That does not mean that you cannot try to quit smoking and should give up. Average smokers try to quit smoking about 3-5 times before they finally quit.
Based on the toxicities and the effects of e-cigarettes, many states have banned them.
The CDC recommends:
1. E-cigarette, or vaping, products (nicotine- or THC-containing) should never be used by youths, young adults or women who are pregnant.
2. Adults who do not currently use tobacco products should not start using an e-cigarette, or vaping, products.
3. THC use has been associated with a wide range of health effects, particularly with prolonged frequent use. The best way to avoid potentially harmful effects is to not use THC-containing e-cigarette, or vaping, products.
4. Persons engaging in ongoing cannabis use that leads to significant impairment of the body or distress to the body should seek treatment by a healthcare provider.
5. Avoid using informal sources such as friends, family or online dealers to obtain a vaping device.
6. Do not modify or add any substance to your vaping device that is not intended by the manufacturer.
If you are serious and decide to quit smoking, there are many methods to quit smoking. Please check with your physician for further advice.
Sarat B. Kuchipudi, MD., FCCP., FASSM, Department of Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine, Lima Memorial Professional Corp., Lima