Special to Iredell Free News

While vaping may seem like a harmless, safer alternative to smoking, research shows that’s not the case.

Vaping has become increasingly popular, especially among younger age groups and among those who wish to quit smoking cigarettes. However, vaping products, such as e-cigarettes, are not a safe alternative to cigarettes and still contain highly addictive nicotine.

“There is a common misconception that vaping is safer than smoking, but this is not true. Vaping still delivers nicotine, and its vapors include toxic chemicals, the same as cigarettes,” said Lisa Warren, director of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation at Iredell Health System.

“Vaping is extremely prevalent in our society. There has been a huge spike in teens using e-cigarettes as they inaccurately believe vaping is less harmful than smoking. The various vape cartridge flavorings appeal to these younger groups,” added Bob Noble, director of Respiratory Care at Iredell Health System.

What is an e-cigarette?

An electronic cigarette, or e-cigarette, is an electronic device that delivers nicotine through vapor instead of smoke.

The terms surrounding vaping may be confusing to some; however, e-cigs, vapes, vape pens, and vape mods are all types of e-cigarettes. The term “vaping” refers to the use of the product.

E-cigarettes come in many different shapes, sizes, and go by many different names. They can also come in a variety of unique flavors.

In recent years, a widely recognized vaping product company has been at the center of attention. This manufacturer has had to add warning labels, cut down on flavors, and has desperately tried to remarket its products to previous long-term cigarette smokers instead of making it look “cool” and “trendy” for younger crowds.

One company’s refillable nicotine containers, called “pods,” resemble a USB flash drive. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just one of those pods contains as much nicotine as a pack of 20 cigarettes.

Other e-cigarette companies are also to blame for the widespread vaping epidemic. While some e-cigarettes are rechargeable, many are switching to disposable vapes.

E-cigarettes heat liquid and produce aerosols that contain potentially harmful chemicals and particles. People often mislabel the aerosol that is released from an e-cigarette as “vapor.”

Unfortunately, though, this aerosol mist is no harmless water vapor.

Why are e-cigarettes dangerous?

People may think that vaping is better than smoking a cigarette. After all, it’s not the same thing as inhaling burned tobacco, right? That’s true, but vaping is not without health risks.

While e-cigarettes do not burn tobacco, they still contain nicotine, perhaps even more amounts of nicotine than a traditional cigarette. So even if someone quits smoking and turns to e-cigarettes, they can still end up getting hooked on vaping.

“Nicotine is not only highly addictive but also increases your chances of having a heart attack,” said Noble.

The aerosols that e-cigarette users breathe in from the device and exhale contain harmful substances and particles, including:

• Diacetyl, a flavoring that has been linked to a serious lung disease called popcorn lung;
• Ultrafine particles that may be inhaled deep into the lungs;
• Volatile organic compounds;
• Cancer-causing chemicals; and
• Heavy metals, such as nickel, tin, and lead

“Vapors from e-cigarettes are toxic to the person’s lungs, causing acute lung injury, irreversible lung damage, and can lead to lung cancer and asthma,” said Warren.

“The chemicals in the liquid can lead to heart disease and are poisonous if swallowed or absorbed through the skin. The chemicals in e-cigarette vapors have been proven for many years to be toxic to the body,” she added.

Quitting Without Vaping

“Making the decision to quit is half the battle,” said Warren. “To help you on your journey, consider all the benefits of not smoking.”

According to Warren, there are several benefits to quitting smoking. These include:

• Your overall health improves within 15-20 minutes after quitting;
• You save money;
• It’s more convenient not to smoke;
• Smoking harms not just yourself, but everyone else around you; and
• You increase your quality of life

“I once had a patient who quit smoking and decided to start a motorcycle fund with the money he would have used for cigarettes. Within one year, he had a brand new motorcycle,” said Warren.

If you are thinking about quitting smoking, try to skip the vaping route. Since switching to vaping is risky to your health, you may want to try other strategies to kick a tobacco habit.

Here are a few ideas for quitting cigarettes or vaping:

• Pick a quit date and add it to your calendar.
• Consider how you want to quit. For example, do you want to stop smoking or vaping all at once? Or, would it be easier to cut back, between now and your quit date, on the number of cigarettes you smoke or how much you vape?
• Talk to your primary care provider about medicines that may make quitting easier.
• Stock up on healthy, lower-calorie smoking substitutes — like carrots, celery, nuts and seeds, or sugarless gum — to munch on or chew when the urge to smoke or vape occurs.
• Think about other things you can do to handle the need to smoke or vape. For example, do you usually smoke after a meal? Instead, take a short walk, sip a soothing tea, or brush your teeth.
• If you’re having a tough time quitting, call a trusted friend who will support you. You can also call a tobacco quit-line, such as 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).

About Iredell Health System

Iredell Health System includes Iredell Memorial Hospital; Iredell Mooresville; Iredell Home Health; Iredell Wound Care & Hyperbaric Center; Community and Corporate Wellness; Occupational Medicine; the Iredell Physician Network and more. Iredell Memorial Hospital is the largest and only nonprofit hospital in Iredell County. The comprehensive healthcare facility has 247 beds; more than 1,700 employees; and has 260 physicians representing various specialties. Centers of excellence include Women’s and Children’s; Cardiovascular; Cancer; Surgical Services and Wellness & Prevention. The Health System’s newest campus, Iredell Mooresville, is home to the area’s only 24-hour urgent care facility, as well as an ambulatory surgery center, imaging center, rehabilitation services, and physician practices. The mission of Iredell Health System is to inspire wellbeing. For a comprehensive list of services and programs, visit www.iredellhealth.org.