Vaping Causes Its Own Health Woes

Health studies are often a mix of good and bad news. The good news is that fewer Americans are smoking cigarettes, but the bad news is that more people – especially tweens, teens and young adults – are turning instead to electronic cigarettes. While smoking’s health dangers are well documented, few know that using e-cigarettes -- or vaping as it’s sometimes called – can also cause health problems.

E-cigarettes are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration so there’s no safety requirements or rules about their contents. They look like a traditional cigarette – the end glows as you inhale and you puff out a cloud of what looks like smoke. That “smoke” is actually water vapor. Inside each cigarette is a battery, a heating element and a cartridge that can hold nicotine, flavorings and liquids. What’s inside the cartridge varies by what the customer wants. Some e-cigs are reusable and come with rechargeable batteries and refillable cartridges while others are disposable.

Nicotine is the key element tying all e-cigs together. A highly addictive drug, nicotine:

  • Causes users’ blood pressure to increase and constrict arteries, which is why smoking of any kind is so bad for the heart.
  • Negatively affects brain development in adolescents, leading to problems with working memory and attention.
  • Causes harm to the fetuses carried by pregnant women. It can also lead to preterm birth, stillbirth and low-birth weights.  

When people stop using nicotine, they go through withdrawal, including becoming irritable, anxious and depressed.

Nicotine isn’t the only harmful substance found in e-cigarettes. Lab tests and studies have uncovered that e-cigarettes contain detectable levels of toxic cancer-causing chemicals, including formaldehyde, and cause lung inflammation since the vaping liquids expose lung cells to carcinogens

While e-cigarette supporters say they are safe since they don’t give off smoke, that’s not true. Vaping raises different health concerns that people need to be aware of. There’s also the concern that using e-cigarettes will lead to traditional smoking, especially among tweens and teens. It’s essential everyone understands the dangers associated with vaping and don’t view it as a harmless alternative to smoking cigarettes.

By Scott Schuldes, certified family nurse practitioner and associate medical director at ThedaCare Physicians-Hilbert. He can be reached at scott.schuldes@thedacare.org.