I am 15 years old, and my friends are using e-cigarettes, arguing that it’s safe. Cool kids are vaping, and I feel left out. Is vaping really harmful?
Thank you for this important question. You’re at a vulnerable age. Peer pressure and the desire to be part of the popular group are huge challenges to making wise and best choices. The short answer is “yes”: vaping is really harmful to health.
Electronic cigarettes were developed in 2003 by a Chinese pharmacist. E-cigarettes deliver a vapor, not smoke, that contains nicotine, flavorings, and other chemicals that infiltrate the lungs. Hundreds of brands are on the market, and they may resemble cigarettes, cigars, pipes, pens, and even USB memory sticks. They use cartridges filled with nicotine, flavoring, and other chemicals, as well as a battery-powered heating device called a vaporizer. Puffing on the device activates the process, heat is produced, the liquid in the cartridge is vaporized, and the vapor is inhaled through the lungs. This is the process of vaping.
Much has been in the news and media following serious outcomes related to vaping. These include numerous deaths from severe lung damage attributed to vaping, which have been reported around the world.
Here are some important facts to consider:
Most e-cigarettes contain the chemical nicotine, which is addictive. Nicotine may trigger harmful changes in the adolescent brain. It’s also hazardous during pregnancy and can affect fetal development.
The aerosol contains potentially harmful solvents, flavorings, and toxins that can cause serious lung problems.
E-cigarettes expose the lungs to different substances, including diacetyl, which is used to give a buttery flavor and can cause “popcorn lung,” a severe and irreversible lung disease.
Potentially fatal poisoning has resulted from accidentally swallowing and/or inhaling e-cigarette liquid.
Although e-cigarettes are promoted as helping people to quit smoking, those who use or who have used e-cigarettes are less likely to stop smoking altogether.
Teens who use e-cigarette products are more likely to start using regular tobacco as well.
Continued use of nicotine can make other drugs, such as cocaine, more pleasurable to the user.
The flavorings, the marketing, and the erroneous concept that it’s not harmful to vape tempt teenagers to begin vaping. There’s concern that this increases the chance that they will smoke conventional cigarettes later, and current evidence points to this.
Vaping tobacco/nicotine products is the most common form of use by young people, but vaping of marijuana has become more common in middle and high school students. Both forms of use are known to be harmful to academic performance and the psychological well-being of young people.
Nicotine is a dangerous and highly addictive drug. It increases blood pressure, narrows arteries, raises the heart rate, adds to hardening of the arteries, and contributes to heart attacks. E-cigarettes and tobacco products of all kinds contain nicotine and other dangerous toxins. The best choice is not to use these products in any form. God will honor and strengthen your decision to stay healthy.
Peter N. Landless, a board-certified nuclear cardiologist, is director of Adventist Health Ministries at the General Conference.
Zeno L. Charles-Marcel, a board-certified internist, is an associate director of Adventist Health Ministries at the General Conference.