Thousands of people in America have turned to vaping as an alternative to cigarette smoking. This is due to the belief that it’s safer, or simply because it’s a newer and trendier option. However, the cracks in vaping’s cool, risk-free image are beginning to show, as over a dozen young people have recently been hospitalized for breathing problems.
Reports on vaping, such as one on August 4, 2019 by CNN, revealed that 11 people had been sent to the hospital because of severe lung disease, three more in the state compared to another bout in late July where eight Wisconsin teens became ill. In Illinois, three were hospitalized for serious breathing difficulties after vaping. The eight teens who fell ill in July showed inflammation and swelling throughout their lungs.
Respiratory problems are commonly associated with children and elderly people with chronic illnesses. However, these cases were in healthy, young adults. Some even needed to be placed on ventilators in the intensive care unit. Every test came back negative for infection.
The only link between all cases was vaping. Investigators are still unsure of what they vaped and where they bought the liquids. While they are “generally improving”, it is also unclear as to what long-term effects may come about.
What Is The Problem With Vaping?
Even before these hospitalizations, health experts were asking questions about the long-term safety of vaping. Your average e-cigarette liquid contains a mixture of propylene glycol (PG), vegetable glycerine (VG), nicotine, and a selection of chemical additives included for flavor. Most of the over 7,700 different flavors have not been tested for safety.
A study published in PLOS Biology analyzed the toxicity of multiple vaping liquids, using 384-well high-throughput screening and mass spectroscopy. Although the PG/VG mixture simply acts as a vehicle, this alone negatively affected cell viability – in other words, it killed them off. Many liquids were more toxic than the vehicle alone. In general, a larger list of chemicals was associated with greater toxicity, and so was the use of vanillin. Different flavors had varying effects on the remaining number of live cells. Popcorn slightly reduced cell counts, but Chocolate Fudge destroyed over 80 percent of them.
The belief that vaping is safe originates from the fact that e-cigarettes do not contain the toxic products of tobacco combustion, such as tar-phase substances. However, their use does generate by-products that contribute to oxidative stress. Some flavorings test positive for safety when ingested orally but are toxic on inhalation. A butter-flavored chemical, diacetyl, is in fact recognized as safe for ingestion but causes bronchiolitis obliterans if inhaled. This is when the lungs’ tiny airways become scarred and blocked.
What Can We Do?
We hate to be the bearers of bad news, but the best thing is to not smoke at all. Fortunately, there are safe natural therapies that can combat both the physical and psychological causes of nicotine cravings.
One increasingly popular supplement for relieving cigarette cravings is cannabidiol (CBD), the main phytochemical in non-psychoactive hemp. In a study of 24 smokers who wished to quit, half received a CBD inhaler while the other half were given a placebo, which they were instructed to use whenever they felt the desire to smoke. After one week, there was no difference in the number of cigarettes smoked among the placebo group. However, CBD significantly reduced smoking by 40 percent in the treated half. CBD can help relieve the anxiety and depression that often drive people to smoke, and has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective benefits.
As for psychological causes, Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) may be an effective way to resolve negative emotional and behavioral patterns. EFT is a form of energy psychology which combines tapping on a series of acupressure points initially with re-affirming the problem as a safe form of exposure and eventually pairing it with positive statements to cement changes. When an all-day smoking cessation workshop was held for employees of a nutritional company, participants noted dramatic, sustained relief of cigarette cravings once they uncovered the underlying emotional causes. These ranged from a fear of not fitting into identity issues and avoidance of the expectation to achieve more.
To conclude, the best alternative to smoking is quitting. If you smoke or vape to self-medicate because of depression, anxiety, or stress, there are healthier options out there so you don’t have to rely on a toxic crutch.