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What Makes Vaping So Harmful?

09-21-2020

Once touted as a “harmless” way to smoke, the dangers of vape pens—also known as e-cigarettes—are becoming more widely recognized. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), e-cigarettes are not quite as harmful as regular cigarettes, which contain a deadly mix of 7,000 chemicals, but this doesn’t mean that vaping is safe. Experts say that those who switch from cigarettes to vapes are still exposing themselves to serious health risks.

One of the reasons vape pens are so dangerous is their contents. Contrary to their name, vape pens don’t just release vapor; they can release toxic substances into the lungs, including:

Additionally, defective e-cigarette batteries have caused fires and explosions, some of which have caused severe injuries. Many of these accidents have happened while the e-cigarette battery was being charged. Also, children and adults have been poisoned after swallowing, breathing, or absorbing e-cigarette liquid through their skin or eyes.

Addressing Nicotine Withdrawal

Why is it so difficult to quit smoking? The drug nicotine, commonly associated with tobacco and now found in vape pens, is what makes smoking so addictive. In fact, nicotine can be as addictive as other substances like alcohol, cocaine, and morphine. Nicotine’s effects on the brain include:

  • A boosted mood
  • Reduced depression
  • Reduced irritability
  • Enhanced concentration and short-term memory
  • A sense of well-being
  • A reduced appetite

These short-lived effects can make it even more challenging to quit. Nicotine withdrawal symptoms can begin within half an hour of your last vape hit or cigarette, and the severity of your symptoms depends on your level of addiction. You might have nicotine withdrawal if you experience:

  • Intense cravings for nicotine
  • Tingling in your hands and feet
  • Excessive sweating
  • Nausea and abdominal cramping
  • Constipation and gas
  • Irritability
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Coughing or sore throat
  • Weight gain

These symptoms usually peak within two or three days. As you ignore them, they begin to disappear. If you stop using nicotine products, your withdrawal symptoms will usually go away within two to four weeks. Still, some may experience withdrawal for several months, depending on their level of addiction.

Quitting vaping may feel impossible at first, but it’s important to remember how much healthier your lungs will be if you stop. If you’re looking to quit, here are some tips:

  • First, identify the reason you want to quit. Knowing your ‘why’ can help you change a pattern or habit. You may be concerned about the negative health effects of vaping, but you may also want to save money, protect loved ones and pets from secondhand smoke, or stop feeling agitated when you go through withdrawal.
  • Plan ahead. Identify alternative coping skills, get rid of your vaping products, and enlist support from loved ones.
  • Consider a nicotine replacement. Patches, gums, lozenges, sprays, and inhalers can deliver a consistent dose of nicotine to help wean you off your addiction. Talk to your healthcare provider to see if nicotine replacements are appropriate for you.
  • Identify your triggers. What makes you want to vape? Is it stress or boredom? Do you only do it when you’re with a particular group of people? Or is it when you start to experience withdrawal symptoms? Taking note of these triggers can help you develop a strategy that allows you to stop vaping for good.
  • Have a strategy for cravings. The first couple of weeks after quitting might be a little rough. Come up with a list of activities you can do to help curb your urge to vape when the withdrawal symptoms hit. Activities include meditation, taking a walk, exercising, doing breathing exercises, playing a game, or solving a puzzle. You can also manage cravings by eating balanced meals and staying hydrated.
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself. Everyone makes mistakes. If you slip up when you’re trying to quit, you’re not alone. The American Cancer Society reports that only 4 to 7 percent of people successfully quit on their first attempt. If you start vaping again, remind yourself how far you’ve come. Whether it’s one day or 40 days without vaping, you’re on the path to success. Commit to quitting right away so you can keep your motivation strong and remind yourself of the reasons you decided to stop in the first place.
  • See a professional. You don’t have to quit alone. If you’re considering nicotine replacement therapy, your doctor can help you find the right dosage. Frederick Health offers a Freedom from Smoking program that provides a supportive step-by-step process to quit. This free program includes six sessions over the course of six weeks, helping you work through the process individually while being supported in a small group setting.

The future health effects of vaping aren’t fully known. There is increasing evidence that young people who use e-cigarettes may be more inclined to smoke cigarettes in the future. It’s also worth noting that since e-cigarettes are still a relatively new technology, there is still much research to be done. We likely won’t know the full list of adverse health effects from vaping for years.

If you or a loved one needs help quitting tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, contact your healthcare professional today. Whether your doctor recommends nicotine replacement therapy, behavioral therapy, or the Freedom from Smoking program, we’re here to help you quit for good—because we want you healthy, Frederick!