Back in the 1970s and ‘80s, you’d be hard-pressed to drive along any highway in America and not see a billboard advertising cigarettes. Camel Joe was one of the more notable figures. Yet, due to his cartoonish characteristics, industry leaders made changes to the way they promoted their products so kids wouldn’t be tempted to smoke. Fast forward to 2019, and while cigarette ads are at a minimum, there’s no shortage of people smoking.
Vaping Becoming More Popular
However, traditional cigarettes are becoming less and less popular, and being replaced with more high-tech versions called e-cigarettes. You see them described as vapes, e-pens, or e-cigs. But the products are all the same and touted as a far healthier alternative to smoking cigarettes. But is that really true? If smoking is known to cause a range of health concerns, why would this method be any better? In fact, the truth around vaping might surprise you. It’s far more dangerous than you realize.
The Low Down on Vaping
To a non-smoker, the idea of an e-cigarette may seem a little bit confusing. Sure, they may look fancier and emit less odor than a traditional cigarette, but what really makes these devices so popular? E-cigs made their way onto the market as an alternative to cigarette smoking. Some brands even make claims that their product helps smokers to quit. Essentially, there are a few distinct features that make a vape pen unique:
- E-cigs don’t burn tobacco but instead heat up a cartridge full of solution. This liquid typically contains nicotine and a host of other chemicals. The idea is that inhaling the smoke mimics the sensation you get when smoking a cigarette.
- Some e-cig cartridges don’t contain any nicotine at all. They’re often thought to be even more effective at helping someone quit smoking. Smokers can wean themselves off nicotine’s addictive properties while still engaging in the ritual of smoking.
- Many of these products are flavored, and vaping has become a lifestyle in a sense with 3.2% of US adults using them as of 2016. Today, nearly one in 20 adults use e-cigarettes. Often their portability and ease of use is cited as a top reason to switch from traditional cigarettes.
While they sound great in theory, the use of e-cigarettes may not be as straightforward in their so-called benefits. For example, it appears that the idea of not smoking tobacco is likely one of the prime reasons to make the switch to these products. But many consumers don’t actually know what they’re signing up for. One of the more popular vaping brands, Juul, was called out by U.S. Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams in 2018. Juul’s sales are phenomenal and the contained nicotine might be a big reason why. E-cig cartridges contains as much nicotine as 20 traditional cigarettes. For those who are trying to quit smoking altogether, consuming that much of an addictive substance works against them.
The Dangers of Nicotine
So often when people think about smoking, they tend to lump tobacco and nicotine into one category. In reality, though, while nicotine is a part of tobacco as a whole, these attributes found within a cigarette are incredibly different. Tobacco has been used in medicinal capacities for thousands of years. However, nicotine itself was first recognized as a poison by Dr. Wilhelm Heinrich Posselt and chemist, Karl Ludwig Reinmann, in 1828. It was this important discovery that revealed tobacco itself was not really a problem, it was the nicotine.
More and more research was conducted, and in 1890s, the harmful effects of nicotine were so apparent that the sale of tobacco to minors was prohibited in 26 states. In 1964, some of the first studies linking smoking with lung cancer and heart disease were published. Yet, it wasn’t until 1994 that the Food and Drug Administration recognized nicotine as a drug that created dependency.
While some laugh at the issue of dependency and believe that smoking is something that can be stopped with ease, experts beg to differ. As soon as someone stops smoking, they experience a range of symptoms including anxiety and depression, cravings, irritability, and more. The American Heart Association says that quitting smoking is one of the most difficult things one can do. They compare it with the same level of challenge as quitting heroin.
Nicotine and Your Health
Becoming addicted to a substance sounds frightening on its own. But many cigarette smokers don’t realize what introducing nicotine into their system actually does on a cellular level. In 2015, a group of oncologists conducted an in-depth analysis that explored just how this substance affects various parts of the body. Their results were shocking and demonstrated that nicotine is far more dangerous than originally thought.
By reviewing 90 different scholarly articles surrounding nicotine use, the team compiled an overview of how the chemical affects our internal organs. For example, it’s fairly common knowledge that nicotine promotes lung cancer. But if a patient continues to smoke during cancer treatment, specifically chemotherapy, the effects of the drugs are far weaker. By continuing to smoke, they may even promote the growth of cancer rather than help to stop it. Both pancreatic cancer and breast cancer were also cited as two of the strongest concerns associated with continued nicotine use.
Smoking also affects the cardiovascular system as well. Nicotine, for example, increases heart rate and blood pressure while simultaneously reducing blood flow to certain parts of the body. The respiratory, gastrointestinal, and immune systems of a smoker are also strongly compromised, as well as ocular, reproductive, and renal functions. All in all, nicotine has the potential to damage every part of your body, not just your lungs.
Where Does Vaping Stand?
Now that we know just how damaging nicotine use can be, it makes the idea of vaping far less attractive. Some argue that nicotine-free vape cartridges are a safer alternative. But the problem with these various products is that the people who consume them aren’t always aware of what they’re purchasing. The idea of vaping is strongly linked to smoking as a whole. Unfortunately, it is adolescents who are most attracted to this behavior.
In November 2018, the Food and Drug Administration announced their findings in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in their 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey. The data exemplified exactly what many believed was happening as a result of the introduction to vaping across consumer markets. Between 2017 and 2018, there was a 78% increase in e-cigarette use among high school students, with 48% more middle schoolers using a vape pen than in previous years. In total, 3.6 million middle school and high school students said that they use e-cigs. Many of them noted that they use their vape regularly and nearly 68% of them purchase flavored cartridges.
The nicotine found in e-cigarettes is disturbing enough for these young users. Unfortunately, the effects on their brains and bodies are frightening, especially when you consider just how addictive vaping can be. Beyond what we’ve already uncovered about vaping, there’s even more data to consider, as nicotine isn’t the only thing found in these cartridges.
A range of studies dating back at least a decade found immense amounts of carcinogens within popular vape products. Products labeled as “tobacco-free” contain anti-freeze as well as tobacco-specific impurities that are linked to cancer. Another analysis across 42 different cartridge brands noted the presence of formaldehyde. Some registered higher levels of formaldehyde than what the Environmental Protection Agency recommends for human use.
Consider Your Options
It’s easy for a non-smoker to make the blanket statement that smoking anything, whether traditional cigarettes or vaping, is a risky behavior that should cease immediately. But those addicted to nicotine have a much harder time making the change. While it’s admirable that people who smoke make the switch to vaping with the intention of eventually quitting or simply just opting for a “healthier” choice, we’ve seen that in many ways, the use of an e-cig is actually far more dangerous.
Adults who opt to vape need to take the time to carefully choose the products that they use. They should make sure that their favorite cartridges are tobacco-free or nicotine-free, and that they are fully aware of the other ingredients they’re inhaling. Anyone under the age of 18, and in many states under age 21, should not be allowed to smoke or vape. The effects of these compounds can have permanent effects on brain function and other bodily systems.
Ultimately, if you use a vape rather than smoking cigarettes, consider what the long-term use of this product does to your body. Rather than being fooled into an option that seems better for you, take the steps to get support around quitting smoking for good. While it’s very difficult initially, your overall health and well-being are worth it in the long run.
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About Slingshot Health
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