Lets review what we know about the vaping industry. The tobacco industry has been forced to fess up about the dangers of smoking by slapping grisly warnings on cigarette packs, but it hasn’t yet been cornered into giving such disclaimers on e-cigarettes and other vaping products. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), our kids are now more likely to use e-cig or vape mods than any other form of tobacco. In 2016, more than 2,000,000 middle and high school students used e-cigarettes each month.
We’ve already discussed in the last two blogs that there’s a perception that e-cigarettes are harmless. And while vaping is less harmful than smoking regular cigarettes, these products don’t come without risks. E-cigarettes are fairly new and we’re still learning about their long-term effects, but some of science is clear, and some of it is emerging over time.
We know Nicotine has proven damaging effects. It’s addictive, toxic to developing fetuses and can harm brain development in children and young adults up to the age of 20, and it is found in many vape liquids. The substance that e-cigarette users breathe in and exhale can contain harmful and potentially harmful substances like nicotine, but also chemicals and heavy metals. Because these products aren’t regulated, it’s impossible to know what’s in the e-cigarette or vape liquid your kids may be using.
A recent study by UNC School of Medicine published in the American Thoracic Society’s American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, found that not only do e-cigarettes trigger the same immune responses that normal cigarettes do; they spur unique immune responses, too. It comes down to how our bodies process foreign substances.
Dr, Pushan Jani, a pulmonologist at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center and UTHealth, explains that when our lungs sense something not quite right is going on, our immune system rushes in to attack.
“Common sense would tell you [that vaping] leads to inflammation within the lung,” says Dr. Cedric Rutland, a pulmonary and critical care physician and assistant clinical professor at University of California at Riverside School of Medicine. This reaction can happen “even if you’re smoking just pure water vapor with no nicotine,” says Jani.
The lure for youth to use e-cigs and vape is the flavoring. “The flavoring industry is huge and these are chemicals that are known to have reasonable safety when eaten and exposed to the GI tract, but the lungs are very different,” says Dr. Robert Jackler, chair of otolaryngology and a professor of otorhinolaryngology at Stanford. “We know in certain industrial settings where people are producing them, they’re quite dangerous to breathe in.”
But unknown health risks aren’t the only reason Dr. Jackler takes issue with the flavoring of e-cigarettes, he’s also troubled because he understands that part of the tobacco industry’s purpose in advertising fun flavors is to draw in young people.
E-cigarette usage has been increasing among teens over the past five years, and flavoring is a huge appeal, with a 2016 study finding that some adolescents perceive the fruit flavored e-cigarettes to be less harmful than those that are tobacco-flavored. “The tobacco industry wants people to start young and knows that what really attracts them are sweet and fruity flavors,” says Jackler. “If all that were available was bitter tobacco that could be revolting.”
The American Lung Association (ALA) has been keeping a close eye on the teenage attraction to vaping and is campaigning for the same federal regulations for e-cigarettes that exist for other tobacco products. “We're trying hard to encourage the FDA to promulgate regulations of vaping,” says Norman Edelman senior scientific advisor at the ALA. “Right now it’s all local jurisdiction.”
If you or your partner smokes e-cigarettes at home with young kids, know that e-cigarettes pose some of the same risks as regular tobacco cigarettes, including:
· Secondhand exposure: There’s not much research yet looking specifically at how secondhand nicotine exposure from e-cigarettes affects kids — no researcher would willingly put a child in harm’s way in the name of science. That said, there is plenty of data showing that secondhand exposure to nicotine and regular cigarettes can harm a child’s health: Kids exposed to secondhand smoke are more likely to be sick more often with ear infections, colds, bronchitis, pneumonia asthma and breathing problems.
· Accidental ingestion: Another danger that parents may overlook is accidental exposure from improper e-cigarette storage. In 2011, poison control centers across the country received 271 exposure calls attributed to liquid nicotine and e-cigarettes. By the end of November 2015, the number had jumped to 2,890.
Children exposed to e-cigarettes were 5.2 times more likely to be admitted to the hospital and 2.6 times more likely to have a severe health outcome than kids exposed to regular cigarettes.
While it may be impossible to protect your kids from all exposure to e-cigarettes, there are a number of steps you can take right now to protect your kids’ health:
Get the help you need to quit
If you smoke or vape, one of the best steps that you and your partner can take is to quit for good. Hoping that e-cigarettes could help? No studies have proven that they can help smokers stop using nicotine. In fact, some research has shown that e-cigarettes make smokers significantly less likely to quit.
There’s no doubt that for many people, kicking a nicotine habit can be incredibly hard — but it is possible. Remember: Smoking and vaping not only expose your child to secondhand smoke, they increase the odds your child will smoke himself later in life.
The good news is you’re not alone. In addition to getting help from your practitioner, family and friends, a number of other resources can support your efforts:
· A “quit plan”: Create one that includes your reasons for quitting, smoking triggers to avoid and strategies to deal with cravings (check out the National Cancer Institute’s Smokefree.gov for more info)
· 1-800-QUIT-NOW hotline: Get free counseling, advice to create a quit plan and information on local cessation resources
· The Smokefree Women website: Offers judgement-free information and resources to help mothers quit all nicotine products, including e-cigarettes
· Support groups: Nicotine Anonymous, online support groups and local smoking cessation programs can help
· One-on-one or group counseling: Studies have found that moms who get counseling are 80 percent more likely to quit and less likely to start smoking again later
You can also talk to your doctor about other aids to help you quit, including:
· Nicotine replacement therapy: Over-the-counter gums, patches and lozenges, as well as prescription nasal sprays and inhalers
· Prescription medications: The nicotine-free medications Zyban and Chantix (just keep in mind these aren’t safe to use if you’re pregnant)
Adopt a smoke-free home and car policy
Make smoking off-limits in your home and vehicle — that means no smoking in the house or car by anyone, even when kids aren’t present.
Keep smoking gear stored safely
If you or someone else in your home vapes, always keep the e-cigarettes and liquids locked up and out of reach of children, and be sure to follow the label’s disposal instructions.
Look for “no smoking” signs
Skip restaurants and other facilities that allow smoking or have smoking sections. Even if you and your children in the “non-smoking” section, secondhand smoke is still in the air.
Stick with smoke-free childcare
Choose a babysitter or nanny who doesn’t smoke — and if that’s not possible, make sure your childcare provider doesn’t smoke in the house, car or around your child.
Tell your kids to stay away from smoke
If your child is old enough, tell her to avoid being around someone who is smoking whenever possible.
If you live in an apartment or condo that shares a HVAC heating or cooling system VentMask filters are a economical way to keep the air in your unit clean and breathable. We want you to have healthy and happy homes and are honored to be able to help you provide a clean indoor air environment for your family. Don’t start vaping or quit if you do, the evidence shows you will lead a healthier and longer life.