Are You Ready to Quit Vaping?
Since 2007, millions of people have transitioned from cigarette smoking to vaping in an effort to quit an unhealthy habit. Thousands of others who never smoked — including adolescents — are now using vape pens every day. Many users assume that e-cigs contain sweet-flavored water vapor. But, vaping isn’t harmless.
“E-cigarettes have been linked to thousands of cases of serious lung injury, some resulting in death,” says Asma Aftab, M.D., M.P.H., CTTS, director of the University of Miami Health System’s Tobacco Training and Cessation program. “While the exact cause is still not confirmed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people not use e-cigarettes.”
What’s in a vape pen?
Some vaping products don’t include a health warning label like cigarette packs. It’s difficult to know exactly what’s in a particular vape and how dangerous those ingredients can be. For example, the CDC reports that some e-cigarettes marketed as nicotine-free contain some nicotine.
E-cigarettes may contain:
- nicotine, the addictive stimulant in tobacco products
- chemical flavorings like diacetyl, which is linked to “popcorn lung” (a severe and chronic lung disease called bronchiolitis obliterans)
- acrolein (herbicide used to kill weeds)
- formaldehyde and acetaldehyde, chemicals that can damage the lungs and contribute to cardiovascular disease risk
- propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin, which are toxic to cells
- other additives that create aerosol
- ultrafine particles
- volatile organic compounds, such as benzene
- cancer-causing chemicals and heavy metals (such as nickel, tin, and lead)
“The liquid used in e-cigarette pens can be dangerous, even apart from its intended use,” Dr. Aftab says. “Children and adults have been poisoned by swallowing, breathing or absorbing the liquid through their skin or eyes.”
Vape users pull these potentially dangerous substances deep into their lungs, and bystanders can inhale the aerosol compounds as secondhand vapor.
Some vape products do not include nicotine and instead deliver THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Many of these types of vapes include vitamin E acetate as an additive. This vitamin is known to be safe as a dietary supplement or when applied to the skin. However, research suggests that when vitamin E is inhaled, it may interfere with normal lung functioning and permanently injure the lungs.
The use of THC-containing vaping devices contributed to 2,807 hospitalizations and 68 deaths in the U.S. (as of February 2020) from a lung injury called EVALI (which stands for e-cigarette or vaping use-associated lung injury).
Vaping isn’t the same thing as quitting smoking.
There’s not much difference between smoking and vaping. The morbidity of smoking and vaping is about the same.Dr. Aftab
“Smoking was thought to be more harmful because the product is being burnt and smoke inhaled into the lungs. But, we’re finding very similar damage from heating up vaping solutions and inhaling that vapor into the lungs.”
When you quit smoking tobacco (cigarettes, cigars and pipes), your risk for chronic and life-threatening diseases drops over time.
If you stop smoking today:
- A year from now, your excess risk for heart disease will be half that of those who still smoke.
- Within two years, you can have the stroke risk of a non-smoker.
- Five years from now, your risk for cancers of the mouth, bladder, throat and esophagus will be cut in half.
- A decade after you quit for good, your risk of dying from lung cancer will be about half that of those who continue to smoke.
If you give up smoking and pick up vaping, you won’t reap the same health benefits.
The Food and Drug Administration has not found any e-cigarette to be safe and effective in helping smokers quit. This federal oversight organization, which regulates the manufacture, distribution and marketing of vaping devices in the U.S., states, “While certain e-cigarettes may help adults who smoke to transition completely away from, or significantly reduce their use of, more harmful cigarettes, no e-cigarette product has been approved by FDA as a smoking cessation device. More research is needed to determine the safety and effectiveness of e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation aid.”
The CDC warns that “e-cigarettes are not safe for youth, young adults, and pregnant women, as well as adults who do not currently use tobacco products.”
“The long-term health effects of e-cigarettes are not well understood yet,” Dr. Aftab adds. “But the science clearly indicates vaping is not a safe nor healthy alternative to smoking. The CDC continues to support research into the health consequences of this and other tobacco product trends that aim to appeal to a new generation of users.”
Quit for life. Your life.
Giving up smoking or vaping is challenging, but you can do it! If you’ve tried to quit cold turkey before, now’s the time to live nicotine-free with the right support and a personalized smoking cessation plan.
The University of Miami’s Department of Family Medicine offers two types of programs to improve your odds of quitting for good. Choose from virtual and in-person sessions, plus access to support groups led by certified tobacco treatment specialists. Our program also provides four weeks of nicotine replacement therapy (patches, lozenges and gums). To enroll, call (305) 243-2847.
You can also take advantage of UHealth Clinic at Walgreens smoking cessation services. This program includes an individualized plan and one-on-one consultations with a nurse practitioner. Call 1-888-689-UM4U (8648) to schedule a consultation.
Ask your doctor about FDA-approved smoking cessation medications.
Try a smoking cessation tracker like Clickotine, a mobile app that provides a personalized curriculum to help you quit and monitor your progress using scientifically backed strategies for overcoming cravings and staying on track.
Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW for free resources, including coaching, a quit plan, educational materials, and local referrals.
How to Observe the Great American Smokeout
Make a plan.
Learn about options to curb cravings and get your support system ready. If you’re trying to help someone else quit, check out some ways to ensure you’re doing it the right way.
Get rid of anything related to smoking and vaping.
This is the perfect day to remove all of this stuff from your home, car and workplace. Consider stocking up on substitutes like gum and crunchy snacks.
Reflect on your past attempts to quit.
If you’ve tried to quit before, this is a good time to reflect on your efforts, why they didn’t work for you, and come up with a new strategy this time around.
Join thousands around the country this November 16 for Great American Smokeout, a day dedicated to helping every tobacco smoker quit for good.
Dana Kantrowitz is a contributing writer for UHealth’s news service.