With the recent rise in popularity of e-cigarettes, vape pens, and JUULs, a new conversation has started that questions their effects on user health.
“E-cigarettes are relatively new and even though there has been some research done on health effects, there is no objective data on the long-term health effects,” said Health Center Director, Kathy Maloney.
“Adverse health effects of e-cigarettes are related to nicotine exposure and other toxins in the e-cigarette liquid,” she continued.
“There are certainly health risks to vaping and include pain in jaw and throat, mouth irritation, nausea, head pain, increased saliva. Vapes are unregulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so it’s impossible to know exactly what is in it and the effects it may have in the future,” said Suanne Schaad, University Substance Awareness Coordinator.
“Research has shown that vaping may be less addictive than cigarettes, but they are so new I think we are just learning about this,” she said.
As with any nicotine-related product, the substance is still present to do substantial damage to the user.
“Nicotine produces cardiovascular effects of increasing heart rate, oxygen demands, heart muscle work load and coronary artery constriction,” said Maloney.
“Every JUULpod contains the same amount of nicotine as a pack of cigarettes,” said Evan Saini, a junior biology student citing prior knowledge. According to the JUUL website, this is correct, suggesting that they do hold the same nicotine-related implications.
Additives in e-cigarettes can also be extremely damaging and possibly cancerous. “E-cigarette liquid contains propylene glycol and/or glycerol.
These chemicals decompose to form formaldehyde and acetaldehyde, both carcinogens,” said Maloney. She cited two studies done in Hong Kong and California that demonstrated that e-cigarette users ended up with symptoms of chronic bronchitis, including phlegm buildup and coughing.
“I heard that e-cigarettes have certain additives in them that are very harmful to health and cause a phenomenon known as popcorn lung that scars your lungs,” said Brian Mathew, a sophomore biology student, citing an article he read from the American Lung Association.
The article in question points to a chemical called diacetyl that can lead to scarring so bad it can cause Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)-like symptoms.
At the same time, evidence points to e-cigarettes being a less damaging problem than cigarettes, at least in the short-term.
“E-cigarettes do not expose users to some of the harmful substances found in cigarette smoke (tars, oxidant gases, carbon monoxide).
Although current research has found e-cigarette vapors to be less harmful than cigarette smoke in the short term, we do not know the long-term effects of vaping,” Maloney explained.
“Both cause inflammation of the respiratory tract. It stands to reason that chronic use of e-cigarettes can cause long term lung inflammation and a pre-disposition to infection and airway disease,” she added.
E-cigarettes may also hold a negative cultural implication by legitimizing smoking behavior in society once again. Maloney said, “E-cigarettes renormalize smoking behavior. Socially, there has been a reduction in cigarette smoking in the U.S. We have seen a dramatic decrease in cigarette smoking on this campus in the past 15 years. The concern with the increase in vaping is that smoking behavior becomes reinforced.”
Maloney explained that according to one longitudinal study, adolescents and young adults followed over a period of time showed that the use of e-cigarettes results in a higher probability of beginning cigarette smoking.
According to Maloney, this effect will reintroduce and reinforce the smoking behaviors that have been losing momentum over the last twenty years.
Schaad pointed to resources offered by her office to combat issues resulting from nicotine addiction.
“I do work with students on stopping or reducing nicotine and e-cig [use] and we try to focus on the negative effects it has on a person, such as money, smelling like cigs, [and] health, and focus on what life would be like in a positive way if cigs were not a part of their life,” she said.
“More and more research is coming out on the negative effects of e-cigs that I think students are starting to hear this more than they did a couple of years ago.”
IMAGE TAKEN from juulvapor.com