With the current advent of COVID-19 and the resulting respiratory distress that it can cause, all types of smoking and particularly vaping can add a dramatic risk factor to the viral disease. Smoking has been well documented as a long known health risk since the Surgeon General’s warning in 1962, strongly correlated with cancer, respiratory diseases and heart disease. Vaping in the U.S. only became available since 2006, so the long-term health effects are relatively unknown. However, serious health problems began to be reported in 2019 after vaping use. These included hospitalization for seizures and serious lung damage with many deaths. By January 10, 2020, over 2,600 vaping hospital cases had been reported with 57 confirmed deaths in the United States, all since mid-2019.
What is vaping?
E-cigarettes, also know as vape pens, are used to heat up a liquid, creating a fine vapor that is inhaled, much like smoking regular cigarettes. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes and can look like a real cigarette or pipe. The liquid varies greatly causing many unknown vapor products. The vapor typically contains nicotine, which is extremely addictive. Some studies have shown that these vapors contain chemicals that are known to cause cancer or serious lung diseases, like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Since their introduction in 2006, there have been over 460 brands of e-cigarettes and more than 7,000 flavors. Until their federal mandatory ban in the fall of 2019, numerous sweet flavors were available, including bubble gum and cotton candy.
Until recently, there had been no regulations of e-cigarettes. Aggressively targeted-young-age marketing strategies inspired by prior cigarette advertising, along with false claims of safety, have contributed to a large increase in vaping, particularly among teenagers. A survey in February of 2020 found e-cigarette use in 10.5 percent of middle school students and 27.5 percent in high school students. About 37 percent of 12th-graders in the United States reported vaping over the past year in a survey released in December — nearly a 10 percentage-point increase from 2017.
Adolescent and young adults can be particularly vulnerable to the effects of a vaping. Nicotine causes irreversible changes in the developing brain, and predisposes users to addictive behaviors. As a result adolescent e-cigarette users are four times more likely to convert to traditional tobacco cigarette users.
Switch from smoking to vaping?
Also vaping use has been marketed to smokers as a safe alternative to stop traditional tobacco use. Research on whether vaping is a good step towards stopping smoking is mixed. Professional health care groups, including the CDC, AMA and ADA, recommend stopping vaping and smoking. But if an individual has begun vaping to stop smoking, then they should not start smoking again to stop vaping. Smokers, both traditional tobacco use and vaping, are urged to quit their habit through methods approved by the FDA, including counseling, nicotine patches, and nicotine gum.
Symptoms caused by vaping
Patients typically experienced coughing, chest pain or shortness of breath before their health deteriorated to the point that they needed to be hospitalized, according to the CDC. Other reported symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, fever and weight loss.
Many victims have ended up with acute respiratory distress syndrome, which occurs with COVID-19 as well. This is a life-threatening condition in which fluid builds up in the lungs and prevents the oxygen from diffusing into the bloodstream from the lungs.
The long-term effects of vaping are unclear, but more than likely vaping is a health hazard long-term and probably short-term with certain vapor products. With COVID-19, the risk is much greater still. So the bottom line is don’t pick up the habit! And if already started, stop!
Enjoy Life and Keep Smiling! Stay Safe!
George Malkemus has had a family and cosmetic dental practice in Rohnert Park for more than 27 years. He can be reached at 585-8595 or e-mail info@ malkemusdds.com. Visit www.malkemusdds.com for more information.