Drugs & MedicationsPreventive MedicineRespiratory


I don’t know who invented electronic cigarettes and I don’t care, but I do know a huge ruse has been perpetrated upon the American public. What a surprise! We get hoodwinked or mislead  by someone or something every day. Under the false impression these devices were healthier for us, people have flocked to the stores to buy them instead of regular cigarettes. You see them being used all the time. Naively, people (especially teens and young adults) are using them to stop smoking and think they are safer. Nothing could further from the truth.

E-cigarettes were introduced in the U.S. in 2006. Their use increased so dramatically that by 2014, rates of use surpassed those of traditional cigarettes. Use by teens and young adults is particularly worrisome. The term for their use is called “vaping” because one inhales a heated liquid solution which is transformed into a vapor by the reusable device. Insertable cartridges  containing different flavors and fragrances are the source of the “vapor.” The contents of the cartridge are heated by the device, converted to vapor, and the user inhales and exhales the vapor just like cigarette smoke.

The problem is the individual believes he is inhaling harmless vapor when in reality the vapor contains nicotine, toxic chemicals like heavy metals, and other toxic substances that can cause cancer. All of these toxins are going directly into the person’s bronchial tubes, air sacs, and ultimately into the bloodstream. When the harms of cigarette smoking are common knowledge, why would anyone want to do that? It’s beyond me.

The long-term effects of e-cigarettes are unknown, but if their current popularity continues, we’ll know sooner rather than later. Although concentrations of these toxins are lower than cigarettes, harm is still being done. Anything you inhale into your lungs, regardless of what it is, is eventually going to cause a problem. It’s like breathing smoggy air; it makes you cough, it makes you wheeze, and it can cause infection of the lungs or bronchial tubes. There’s no redeeming value to it.

Young people who have never smoked are taking up vaping. Youth e-cigarette use is associated with increased risk of subsequent cigarette and marijuana use. All of this is due to mis-information about vaping and ignorance on the part of teens and young adults. Education and intervention programs to prevent e-cigarette use should be provided to all youths in schools or by whatever means. When I see kids using vaping devices I want to say something, but they’re supposed to be smart enough to know better.

I think it’s very interesting that the liquid in the vaping cartridges contains nicotine, the very chemical that makes people become addicted to cigarettes. Why would manufacturers put nicotine, the toxic chemical in cigarettes, in e-cigarette cartridges unless they wanted people to become addicted? If you’re selling a product supposedly healthier than cigarettes, why would you put the same toxic substance in that product? Why tell people they’re safer when they are not? “They are not FDA-approved smoking cessation devices,” but people believe they are.**

I sincerely hope a concerted effort to expose the scam this is takes a foothold. Juul, the largest manufacturer of vaping devices was recently sued to alter their marketing practices. There have been 1500 cases of serious lung disease and 33 deaths directly attributable to vaping. The CDC has warned the public of the dangers of vaping with little effect, but a lawsuit by environment groups forcing Juul to stop marketing e-cigarettes to teens may have a significant impact. I certainly hope so.

Dr. G’s Opinion: My opinion on e-cigarettes is scattered throughout this blog. Vaping devices are a cruel scam against vulnerable people who should know better. Any thought that these devices are safer than cigarettes is misleading and truly a lie. Hopefully, public service announcements against, education programs about its dangers, and future lawsuits will put an end to this ruse called e-cigarettes. Yes, cigarette smoking is more harmful and causes more deaths than7 vaping, but ANY DEATHS from a device that claims to be “safer” is an obvious sign something is wrong. Public education and media scrutiny should be stepped up to discourage acceptance and use of vaping devices. Cigarette smoking is now a taboo. Vaping should be, too.

** See post titled “Electronic Cigarettes and the FDA.”

Reference: Klein MD, Sokol NA, Stroud LR. Electronic Cigarettes: Common Questions and Asnwers. Am Fam Phys 2019 Aug 15;100(4):227-234.

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