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Vaping: What you need to know

Vaping: What you need to know

If you’re among the millions of U.S. teens and adults who smoke electronic cigarettes, it’s time to consider switching off your vape pen and kicking the habit. “Vaping and e-cigarettes are relatively new,” explains pulmonologist Jeffrey S. Lessar, MD, of Valley Health Pulmonary and Internal Medicine. “They aren’t regulated the way cigarettes are. Prior data suggested they might be safer than cigarettes, but we’re learning more about the risks.”

What you need to know:

E-cigarettes can threaten your health. The aerosol from a vape pen sends nicotine, heavy metals, cancer-causing chemicals, and lung-harming substances deep into your lungs. In recent studies, e-cigarettes doubled the odds for heart attacks and affected cancer-related genes in human mouth tissue. While last fall’s headline-grabbing lung illnesses and deaths from vaping seemed related to marijuana products, the cause was still unknown in late 2019. As a result, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Medical Association, and the American Lung Association recommended avoiding all vape products.

Young vapers face extra risks. For teens and young adults, nicotine from e-cigarettes can harm parts of the brain involved with learning, memory and mood, according to the CDC. Young vapers are more likely to end up smoking regular cigarettes, too. And the sweet, fruity, minty flavors that two-thirds of middle school and high school vapers use contain chemicals like diacetyl that can cause serious lung diseases. “Parents can make a difference by having a serious conversation about vaping with their children,” Dr. Lessar suggests. If you’re among the wave of younger vapers trying to quit, ask your parents or doctor for help.

They won’t help you quit smoking. E-cigarettes have been touted as a great way to kick smoking, but “recent data shows people have as hard a time quitting e-cigarettes as regular cigarettes,” Dr. Lessar says. “They’re just as addictive. If you’re trying to quit smoking, have a plan, get social support, and consider using an FDA-approved quitting method such as nicotine replacement products or the medications Chantix [varenicline tartrate] or Zyban [bupropion hydrochloride],” which can double your odds for success.

Want to kick the vaping (or smoking) habit? Adults can attend Freedom from Smoking classes offered at Valley Health. Visit valleyhealthlink.com/quitnow.

N-O-T: Not On Tobacco is a smoking and vaping cessation program offered for teens by the American Lung Association. Visit lung.org for more information.