Smoking in itself is a very bad habit that can cause multiple body ailments that could be both chronic and terminating too. In the recent past, people switched to electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes thinking that it is a way out of the traditional tobacco smoking and might cause less harm to the body.
Vapes and e-cigarettes; sound very fancy, don’t they? Well, as fancy as they might seem, they are no less harmful than conventional cigarettes. Recent studies and research has shown the occurrence of cancer in people who vape. Let’s take a look as to what they are and what they do to harm the body.
What Are E-cigarettes Or Vapes?
E-cigarettes are known by various other names, including e-cigarettes, alternative nicotine delivery systems (ANDS), electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), mods, e-hookahs, vape pens, vaporizers, tank systems, and vapes. Although e-cigarettes do not actually have any tobacco content, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) terms them as tobacco products itself.
They are available in different shapes and sizes. E-cigarettes can look like cigars, the general cigarettes that you see, pipes, USB flash drives, cigars, and pipes. While these are the general forms they are available in, they may be available in other forms as well.
How Do Vapes Work?
Vapes more or less work like cigarettes, except they operate on a battery. Most e-cigarettes have:
- A mouthpiece, or cartridge
- A rechargeable battery
- A heating element
- Electronic circuits
When you suck on to its mouthpiece, a sensor activates and heals the element. This heat then turns the flavoured e-liquid into vapour. You inhale the aerosol solution and exhale it.
The nicotine content that is used in the e-liquid varies from zero to extra-high, or from 24 to 36 milligrams (mg)/millilitre (ml).
E-liquid, also known as e-juice, is made by extracting nicotine from tobacco and mixing it with a base, generally propylene glycol, and flavouring. Propylene glycol is used in inhalers, for example, for asthma. There are a wide range of flavours available for you to choose from, with names such as traditional, menthol, watermelon, and lava flow.
Certain flavours, such as a combination of tobacco and menthol, try to resemble traditional cigarettes.
With the increased usage of vapes among young people these days, JUUL became the most popular vaping product. It is a small and sleek device which resembles a USB flash drive.
Its subtle design makes it easy to hide, one of the main reasons why it is very popular among middle and high school students. All of the JUUL products come with a high dose of nicotine.
One pod of flavour cartridge has around the same nicotine content as an entire pack of cigarettes. Because JUUL is so popular, some people even refer to vaping as Juuling.
What Are The Risks Involved In Vaping?
It is clear through research that the aerosol in e-cigarettes contains toxic chemicals like those that are found in paints and glue. However, what is not very clear is if the amount of these chemicals are high enough to trigger or cause chronic diseases such as cancer.
With hundreds of flavours used in vapes, it is not so clear as to what does in the making of these flavours. However, there are dangers to vapes, especially when the topic of discussion is nicotine.
Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances that are available. Addiction to nicotine is what leads people, especially kids, to use e-cigarettes and eventually to regular cigarettes.
Nicotine is very harmful, especially for young and developing brains. It can stunt their brain’s ability to learn and grasp information as well as affect their overall behaviour. Further, nicotine also lowers their resistance power which in turn results in more nicotine usage.
- If you are prone to or are patients of depression and anxiety, nicotine worsens their condition.
- If you have asthma, e-cigarettes can irritate their throat and lungs.
- If you are a smoker, Juuling/vaping will only add to your habit and not towards breaking it.
Instead of shifting from cigarettes to e-cigarettes to nothing, some smokers end up smoking both. As a result, instead of de-addiction, the smoker is more likely to get more addicted than they already are.
The liquids in e-cigarettes and devices can be very harmful. They are known to explode, and if the fluid comes in contact with your skin or eyes, or if you drink it be it by accident or by choice, it could be poisonous.
- Nicotine addiction
- Mouth and throat irritation
- Coughing wheezing
- Chest pain
- Raised blood pressure
- Raised heart rate
- Upset stomach
What Are Other Risks To Be Considered?
The risks linked to vaping vary according to the e-juice, device, and the user’s habits.
Some of the potential short-term risks include:
- Increased heart rate
- Decreased air volume in the lungs
- Decreased oxygen saturation in the lungs
- Increased airway resistance
- Some of the potential long-term risks include:
- Exposure to toxic chemicals
- Nicotine addiction
- Increased likelihood of smoking cigarettes
Although there is no current evidence that vaping is associated with increasing the risk of lung or heart diseases, it is still harmful; particularly for those who do not smoke. E-cigarettes also make teens and young adults prone to unique risks.
What Are The Reasons For Concern?
Most e-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is addictive and triggers changes in the brain of adolescents. The aerosol contains flavourings, solvents, and toxicants which are described as potentially harmful or harmful.
E-cigarettes expose your lungs to various substances. One of these substances is diacetyl, which can result in “popcorn lung”. It is a severe lung disease and cannot be reversed. Accidental swallowing and inhaling e-liquid results in potentially fatal poisoning. Chances of people who have used or use vapes stopping are very less.
Teens who use vapes are likely to start using regular tobacco also. Continually using nicotine will make you inclined towards using other drugs such as cocaine. The way vapes are marketed and its flavourings along with the concept that vapes are not harmful is what tempts the teenagers to start juuling.
This is the main concern that arises here is that when kids start vaping a lot, they wouldn’t mind smoking the conventional cigarettes at a later stage.
Vaping releases carcinogenic emissions. Therefore, second-hand smoking cannot be eliminated. E-cigarettes release formaldehyde and other aldehydes which harbour carcinogenic properties. Prolonged exposure of lungs to these chemicals can lead to harmful lung diseases and even lung cancer.
What Ingredients Should You Avoid?
Vaping liquids and devices are regulated by the FDA. Manufacturers are not required to list the e-juice ingredients. However, as of 2018, manufacturers are supposed to submit the list of their ingredients to the FDA.
The juices and e-liquids in vapes contain various types of ingredients. Here is a list of the main ingredients.
The nicotine concentration varies from vape juice to juice. The higher the concentration, the higher is the risk of harmful health effects. If you are someone who depends on nicotine, you should start considering reducing the nicotine quantity per millilitre.
The base is a flavourless suspension that makes up for the most liquid in vape juice. Most manufacturers use a combination of vegetable glycerin (VG) or propylene glycol (PG), which is generally known as glycerin or glycerol.
Both these substances are termed as Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) by the FDA. They appear in food, pharmaceutical, and cosmetic products. Though recognized as safe, it does not mean that they do not have any side effects. However, this doesn’t mean that adverse side effects aren’t possible.
They vary according to the flavour of the juice. Some flavouring chemicals tend to be more toxic than others, while other flavouring chemicals can react with base liquids to create new and possibly toxic chemical compounds.
The E-cigarettes are available in Butter/Popcorn, Cherry, Coffee, Cinnamon, Custard, Fruity, Menthol, Strawberry and Vanilla flavours. This makes it more prone to be tried by teenagers because they are fascinated with the variety of flavours. The fact is, these flavours make the adversity of the problems created by vaping even worse.
Research into both the short- and long-term health effects of flavouring ingredients is ongoing. More research is needed to understand which ingredients to avoid fully. Below is the list includes flavouring chemicals that have been identified as potentially harmful:
- Acetyl Propionyl
- Propylene Oxide
- Pentanedione (2,3-pentanedione)
Since it is difficult to know what ingredients are there in the e-juice you choose, here is a list of flavours that have been associated with the chemicals. You can avoid these flavours to lessen the adversity.
The argument that vaping can help you quit smoking is not certified as a safe and effective method by the FDA. Also, there is no proper evidence that it works in the long term.
According to NIDA, Research so far suggests that e-cigarettes may be less harmful than cigarettes for people who are regular-smokers switch to vapes completely. However, the fact that nicotine in any form is a very highly addictive drug cannot be ignored.
Nicotine patches, nicotine gum and other smoking stopping products are made to help smokers wean off nicotine. Unlike e-cigarettes or vapes, these products are proven to work.
What Are Nicotine Withdrawal Symptoms?
Nicotine has a lot of effects on your body. When you use a nicotine product, you absorb nicotine through your mouth, nose and lungs. The compound enters your bloodstream from here. When it reaches your brain, it activates areas related to feeling pleasure and boosts the levels of dopamine.
Nicotine also affects areas in the brain related to:
- Heart rate
When you use nicotine for a long period, it creates an imbalance of chemical messengers in your brain. When you stop using it, it will disrupt this chemical balance resulting in psychological and physical side effects such as low mood and cravings.
This disruption is described as nicotine addiction and is a part of the reason why it is very difficult for people to reduce to stop smoking altogether.
As mentioned above, nicotine withdrawal has both physical as psychological symptoms. While the physical effects last for some days as the nicotine leaves the body, psychological effects tend to stay for a long time.
However, unpleasant nicotine withdrawal is, it does not pose any health dangers. The psychological symptoms of nicotine withdrawal are:
- A strong desire or craving for nicotine
- Low mood
- Irritability or frustration
- Difficulty concentrating
- Mood swings
- The physical symptoms of nicotine withdrawal are:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Abdominal cramps
- Waking at night
- Increased appetite
- Difficulty concentrating
- Digestive issues, including constipation
How Can Nicotine Withdrawal Be Treated?
Quitting nicotine is difficult as the addiction is both psychological and physical. Most people benefit from different kinds of support during their withdrawal period.
Some of the treatments for this include:
- Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)
- Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is where you will stop using tobacco and use one of the below substances instead. This is because they contain lesser amounts of nicotine.
- Chewing gum
- Skin patches
- Nasal or mouth sprays
It is not really sure that one method is more effective than the other. Therefore, combining different types of treatment tends to have a stronger effect.
Research suggests that using NRT will increase your chances of quitting up to 50 to 60 per cent. At this point, you can slowly reduce the nicotine dosage until you no longer require any treatment.
NRT is a very common and successful treatment for nicotine withdrawal. However, a lot of people still tend to experience a few withdrawal symptoms, which may be more or stronger in some than others.
Like for any other treatment, NRT has a few possible side effects. These side effects include:
- Abdominal discomfort
A lot of types of medicines will help you withdraw from nicotine. A few of them are:
Varenicline: This drug is known to reduce cravings and obstruct the rewarding effects of smoking.
Bupropion: Also sold as Zyban, you can use this as an antidepressant. More recently, it has also been used to help reduce cravings.
Counselling is another way to cope with the physical and psychological side effects. It can be a very effective addition alongside NRT.
It can help you in identifying and addressing triggers which prevent you from quitting vapes.
You can see a therapist or join a support group where a lot of people going through your condition come together and heal.
On the whole, although the talks suggest that vapes or electronic-cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are less harmful than conventional cigarettes, they have their side effects and also long term. It is best to not get into any of these habits. Further, if already using them, the withdrawal treatments will help you quit.