Alternative Smoking? Not as Safe as It Seems.

By Satesh Bidaisee, Associate Professor of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, St. George's University
May 1, 2018

E-cigarette companies tout their products as a tool to help people quit smoking. They’re misleading people.

New research shows that e-cigs are a gateway drug to traditional tobacco products, not a safe tool to wean people off tobacco. A University of Pittsburgh study reveals that folks aged 18 to 30 who vaped were four times more likely to take up traditional smoking within 18 months than non-vapers.[1]

This is just the latest proof that e-cigarettes aren’t as safe as many Americans believe. While these alternatives don’t contain all the same chemicals as traditional cigarettes, they’re still filled with harmful toxins that endanger health. People shouldn’t delude themselves into thinking e-cigarettes are safe.

Plenty of evidence suggests that e-cigarettes are dangerous. Frequent e-cigarette users have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease than those who don’t vape, according to a recent JAMA study.[2] Another study by University of Connecticut researchers revealed that e-cigarettes damage DNA just as much as conventional cigarettes do.[3] These devices have also been linked to mouth and throat sores, lung problems, and cancer.[4] 

People frequently use e-cigarettes to supplement their traditional tobacco habit — not to replace it. Nearly 60 percent of all e-cigarette users still regularly smoke normal cigarettes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.[5]

E-cigarettes threaten to set back decades of progress in the battle against youth smoking. From 2011 to 2015, high school students’ use of e-cigs surged 900 percent, according to a report from the U.S. Surgeon General.[6] The nicotine in e-cigs can impair teens’ brain development and cognition.[7] Teens who get hooked on these devices are more likely to smoke tobacco products later on.[8]

Whether people use a cigarette or e-cigarette, altering that behavior is critical to prevent the health burdens of smoking. That requires our medical professionals treat behavioral health as a key part of preventative medicine.

Here at St. George’s our medical students learn, research, and practice preventive medicine throughout their studies — and most certainly as part of their professional careers. So we equip our students with the tools to guide patients to healthy lifestyles. We hope that all medical professionals help their patients pursue healthy choices — including dodging e-cigarettes.

 

[1] https://www.cnbc.com/2017/12/11/young-adults-who-use-e-cigarettes-more-likely-to-switch-to-real-tobacco.html

[2] https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamacardiology/article-abstract/2600166?redirect=true

[3] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/06/170612094027.htm

[4] https://www.sciencenewsforstudents.org/article/concerns-explode-over-new-health-risks-vaping; https://www.nbcnews.com/better/health/better-cigarettes-vaping-comes-its-own-set-health-risks-ncna819716

[5] https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/wr/mm6542a7.htm

[6] http://www.lung.org/stop-smoking/smoking-facts/e-cigarettes-and-lung-health.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/

[7] http://www.lung.org/stop-smoking/smoking-facts/e-cigarettes-and-lung-health.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/

[8] http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/e-cigarettes-youth-1.4377940

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