Working on Wellness: Vaping: Friend or foe?

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Photo courtesy of Rist Art via Upsplash

By: Malinda Scannell, Nurse Practitioner

The use of e-cigarettes (e-cigs) has become increasingly widespread among youth and young adults.

The addictive nature of nicotine has been an ongoing concern since its introduction.

Recently e-cigs have been in the news due to concerns over vaping related sickness and deaths.

As of October 2nd, 805 vaping related illnesses and 16 deaths have been reported to the Center of Disease Control (CDC).

E-cigs were introduced into the U.S. market in 2007. In 2011, the National Youth Tobacco
Survey reported past-30-day prevalence of e-cig use among high school students was 1.5%.

By 2015 this rate had climbed to 16%, surpassing the rate of conventional cigarette use. In
2018, over 21% of high school students reported current e-cig use.

This rise in e-cig use among youth is staggering and continues to climb.

Significant factors contributing to this growth include the addition of flavorings and the use of e-cigs to vape THC-containing products.

E-cigs came out of a desire to remove some of the harm related to elements in conventional cigarettes.

However, blood nicotine levels in e-cig users are comparable, or higher, than levels
in smokers of cigarettes.

Given the increased sensitivity to nicotine and subsequent addiction risk among youth, many end up using nicotine into adulthood.

Nicotine is a highly addictive stimulant drug, with addictive properties similar to drugs such as heroin and cocaine.

Nicotine addiction is associated with craving and withdrawal symptoms
such as irritability, anger, anxiety, depressed mood, restlessness, sleep disturbance, increased appetite and difficulty concentrating.

Nicotine creates a dependence that can lead to long-term use.

Today’s e-cigs users are at risk of becoming tomorrow’s cigarette smokers.
Recent events have highlighted the dangers of heating and aerosolizing a variety of
components in e-cig liquids.

These components include solvents, flavorants, and toxicants
whose health effects are not completely understood. The aerosols generated by e-cigs contain compounds of known cancer-causing agents, powerful irritants and metals (e.g. lead and cadmium).

Some liquids intended for use in e-cigs contain adulterants not named on the ingredient
list. The amount of chemicals found in e-cig varies substantially, with high levels often found in bootleg products.

Current investigation into recent vaping related lung illnesses suggest products containing
tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)-the psychoactive mind-altering compound of marijuana, have
contributed to these sicknesses.

Vitamin E acetate has also been implicated. Current evidence from examination of actual tissue samples point to a direct chemical injury.

No single substance or product type has been linked to all cases.

Additionally, users who drip e-liquid directly onto exposed heater coils of devices for greater aerosol production and “throat hit” may receive even greater exposure to the harmful chemicals in products due to the higher temperatures reached by the coil.

Symptoms of these vaping related illnesses include cough, shortness of breath, chest pain,
nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, fever and/or abdominal pain, which develop over a few
days to weeks.

The CDC recommends refraining from vaping, especially products containing THC; if you are using e-cigs containing nicotine to quit cigarette smoking, do not return to
cigarette use; do not buy vaping products off the street, nor modify or add any substances to these products that are not intended by the manufacturer.

If you are using e-cigs to quit smoking, the evidence supporting their effectiveness as an aid for quitting tobacco has been mixed. E-cigs are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a quit smoking aid.

Proven, safe and effective methods for quitting include nicotine replacement therapy such as the patch or gum, and medications such as Chantix and Zyban.

Your providers at Health Services are here to address your vaping related questions and
concerns. Please call 207-780-5411 to make an appointment.
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Malinda Scannell
Nurse Practitioner
University Health and Counseling Services
156 Upton Hall
Gorham, Maine 04038
Office: 207-780-5411
Fax: 207-780-4911
Email: [email protected]

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