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Brianna Allison headshot.jpeg
Bri Allison

The Dangers of Vaping

by Bri Allison

There was a time when almost everyone smoked cigarettes because no one knew that they were bad for you. However, as years went by, the once-loved cigarette soon became known as “the cancer stick.” The cigarette and tobacco companies were losing customers quickly and needed to find a new way to keep their clientele. It wasn’t long before they came up with the solution…vaping.


They claimed that e-cigarettes weren’t bad for you like regular cigarettes - “a vape doesn’t cause the same health problems!” Although we’re all well aware now that’s entirely untrue, but it’s too late. Millions of people, specifically young Americans, are hooked. According to Cross River Therapy in 2021, there were an “estimated 55 million e-cigarette users worldwide in 2021.” And, unfortunately, it’s assumed that the number will just continue to grow. So, let’s take a look at the health risks of vaping.


So what’s in e-cigarettes?

E-cigarettes are not just full of water vapor. The vape heats up the “vape juice” into an aerosol that is then breathed into the user’s lungs. The ingredients of the vape juice are quite harmful. Here is a list from the American Lung Association to warn people about what they’re inhaling every time they take a hit:


  • Nicotine – a highly addictive substance that negatively affects adolescent brain development


  • Propylene glycol – a common additive in food; also used to make things like antifreeze, paint solvent, and artificial smoke in fog machines


  • Carcinogens- chemicals known to cause cancer, including acetaldehyde and formaldehyde


  • Acrolein – a herbicide primarily used to kill weeds, can cause irreversible lung damage


  • Diacetyl – a chemical linked to a lung disease called bronchiolitis obliterans aka "popcorn lung"


  • Diethylene glycol – a toxic chemical used in antifreeze that is linked to lung disease


  • Heavy metals such as nickel, tin, lead


  • Cadmium – a toxic metal found in traditional cigarettes that causes breathing problems and disease


  • Benzene – a volatile organic compound (VOC) found in car exhaust


  • Ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs

Health risks from vaping

There are many reasons people vape. Whether that’s because it’s cheaper than smoking regular cigarettes, it’s more appealing because there isn’t a smell, it tastes better, it’s easier to do anywhere, or because they think it’s a healthier alternative to smoking. Using e-cigarettes still can cause major health problems, such as:


  • Lung cancer and other lung issues- Each time you inhale your vape, you allow all of those harmful chemicals that we talked about earlier to enter your lungs. These chemicals and particles can cause your lungs to become irritated and/or swell. This in turn can lead to your lungs becoming permanently scarred and the tubes that bring air in and out becoming narrowed. All of this damage makes it harder to breathe, creates chest pain, produces an excessive cough, and can cause asthma or COPD. It can even cause nausea and vomiting.


And on top of that, you’re addicted to something that’s causing so much harm to your body. But you can’t stop because of the nicotine, which not only makes you addicted to vaping, but also can cause cancer. Dr. Nadine Cohen, who specializes in internal medicine and adolescent medicine at CareMount Medical said, "In the short term, nicotine can cause sleep problems and restlessness, as well as other symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and mouth and tongue sores. Long term, nicotine—whether you inhale via an e-cigarette or via regular cigarette—causes cancer."


  • Heart issues- Nicotine not only affects your lungs but also can affect your heart. It raises your blood pressure, spikes your adrenaline, and in turn increases your heart rate. When all three of those are increased, you’re at a greater risk of a heart attack. According to recent studies, “E-cigarette users were 56 percent more likely to have a heart attack than non-users.” They’re also at an increased risk of coronary artery disease and blood circulation problems.


  • Mouth or gum disease- The mouth is the first thing that the chemicals and particles from the vape come in contact with. As they enter, they destroy the healthy bacteria and tissue that is found in your mouth. Certain particles, especially nicotine, can also reduce the nutrition and blood flow to your gums causing them to become very unhealthy. Without healthy gums, your entire oral care is completely off and more issues start to arise.


  • Brain damage- Now, we’ve already mentioned how addictive nicotine is and how it can negatively affect an adolescent’s brain, but let’s look at the specifics. The use of nicotine “negatively affects how synapses—connections between brain cells—are formed” causing harm to the parts of the brain that control “mood, learning, attention, and impulse control.” The injury that is caused between the brain cells reduces the brain’s ability to repair the damage for the rest of your life. This could in turn put the brain at an increased risk of neurodegenerative diseases because there is an acceleration of the aging process. Also, many e-cigarette devices contain lead which moves into the vapor and then into our bodies causing damage to the brain.


Tips for quitting

Now, quitting is not easy. It takes time, determination, and self-control. It might take you many tries and you might relapse, but that’s okay. Just keep trying because it’s a process. Vapes were originally designed to be for people who wanted to quit smoking, but what they didn’t tell you is that it’s just as dangerous. So if you’re looking to quit vaping, here are a few tips to help:


  • Set a quit date and then make varying goals for yourself. Maybe you decide to gradually stop vaping, but want to be completely off of it by a certain day. That works!


  • Talk to your healthcare provider or therapist and make a plan together, so you have someone to listen and help hold you accountable. You can also sign up for a free and anonymous text chain run by “The Truth” to receive motivational texts and emails to help you quit and keep you on track.


  • Prepare to quit by having things, like fidget spinners, to occupy your hands and healthier alternatives that will satisfy your cravings. Maybe you could buy gum to have a piece handy to chew when you feel like vaping. If you need to, you can also use nicotine gum, patches, or medication to help with the cravings and withdrawal side effects.


  • Start a journal. Think about the positives and write down reasons you want to quit vaping, why you enjoy vaping, and think of other things that can bring you the same kind of emotions that you feel when you vape.


  • Celebrate your wins– small or large! Go out to eat, buy yourself something you’ve been wanting, or eat some ice cream. Use the rewards to keep going!


It’s important to find what system works best for you! And talk to people about what you’re going through. Many people have been through this too and can be your shoulder to lean on! And if they haven’t been, they can still listen to what you’re experiencing and talk through it with you. Just remember that you got this!

Brianna Allison headshot.jpeg

Brianna Allison graduated from Duquesne University with a Bachelor’s degree in Multiplatform Journalism and one in Public Relations. Brianna has a strong passion for storytelling and loves being a part of a media-enriched environment. She has worked in broadcast journalism, social media, and print journalism in the past. In addition to role as Managing Editor of Today's Patient, Bri is a member of the broadcast team for The Power of the Patient Project, 

February  page 8

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