It is a commonly-held belief that vaping is a safer alternative to cigarette usage, but emerging evidence indicates that the issue may not be as cut and dry as was once thought.
E-cigarettes have been promoted as a harm-reduction method to help people quit smoking. More young people than ever before have started vaping with no previous history of smoking, causing immense concern among public health officials.
Recent cases of lung injury related to vaping in the United States and Canada have increased concern beyond the experts and into the conscious of the general public. With this in mind, we would like to share some common myths about vaping, along with the facts to dispel them.
Myth: Vaping is safe and doesn’t cause any side effects.
Fact: E-cigarettes often contain nicotine. Aside from developing a long-term addiction to the drug, the negative health effects of vaping with nicotine can include heart palpitations and chest pain.
Nicotine is particularly harmful for adolescents and young adults since it can alter brain development, affect memory and significantly influence concentration skills.
E-cigarettes present unique issues since they can deliver much higher doses of nicotine in a shorter amount of time than conventional cigarettes.
Myth: Vaping without nicotine is totally safe.
Fact: Nicotine-free vaping means that you will not become immediately addicted to the drug but the truth is that e-cigarettes still contain many chemicals that may lead to an addiction.
Several flavouring agents have been identified as harmful. For example, menthol or mint flavours have been found to facilitate nicotine dependence, making it more difficult to quit smoking or could even introduce a non-smoker to cigarettes.
The long-term health effects of vaping are unknown, but we do know that cancer-causing agents can be produced in the vaporization process through the production of chemicals like formaldehyde hemiacetals.
Myth: Vaping is better for your lungs than conventional cigarettes.
Fact: The process of vaping does not involve combustion like a conventional cigarette, but it does involve aerosolizing e-juice which can result in just as damaging lung injury.
Symptoms can include shortness of breath, bad cough attacks and chest pain. Cases of vaping-related lung injury have recently been reported in the US and Canada.
Myth: Vaping with cannabis is safe.
Fact: There has not been much research completed on vaping with cannabis. However, many vape-related lung injury cases are linked to the use of THC in vape products. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests cannabis has had a major role in the outbreak.
Ultimately, the Government of Canada still suggests vaping as a valid means to quit smoking, however, they do emphasize that young people and those who do not smoke should not start vaping.
This emerging societal habit requires further research with regards to its health effects. Nevertheless, it is critically important to provide reliable and valid information to the public in ensuring we can all make informed choices about our smoking habits.
For more information, and for tips for harm reduction, visit: www.students.usask.ca/ articles/vaping.
Zoe Bye, Meghana Cheekireddy, Katie Oldford and Allison Sama
Graphic: Cole Chretien