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The Growing Concern over Vaping

History of Electronic Cigarettes and Vaping Practices
For as long as nicotine has existed people have devised inventive methods to capture the euphoria that can be achieved from it. It can be difficult to imagine but vaping has not been in existence for that long. Of course, the first electronic cigarette was patented in 1963 by Herbert A. Gilbert, but the idea of an electronic cigarette that was battery powered to deliver vapors was developed by the medical researcher, Hon Lik in 2003.Lik’s idea led to the creation of the first electronic cigarette that had a battery, plastic cartridge that contained a nicotine solution suspended in propylene glycol, and an ultrasonic atomizer.1 The component of the propylene glycol and glycerin is believed to be less toxic than cigarettes but if kept at high temperatures the safe compounds can begin to decompose to create more harmful compounds such as formaldehyde. By definition, vaping is the process of inhaling and exhaling an aerosol, that can be called a vapor that is produced by an electronic cigarette or a comparable device.3 Compared to cigarettes, the appeal is that the electronic cigarettes do not produce smoke but rather aerosol with fine particles.3 While the smokeless appeal has drawn many users, there can be varying degrees of toxic chemicals that can exist within the particles which people may be unaware of.

Use of Vaping Devices
With the growth of electronic cigarettes, a similar growth has been observed with the use of a number of vaping devices in the form of pens and advanced personal vaporizers (MODS). Regardless of the appearance of these devices, they typically function in the same manner as they can be made with the same elements. Some of the more commonly recognized names for electronic cigarettes include e-cigs, e-hookahs, hookah pens, or vapes to name a few.4 The puffing aspect that can be associated with these devices can lead to the activation of the heating device that leads to the vaporization of the liquid in the cartridge and then an individual can inhale the vapor.4

The Appeal of Vaping
Even though there is limited research on the long-term effects of vaping devices, use continues to grow in popularity, particularly among teenagers and it was found that they believe it to be novel, high-tech, has a variety of flavors, and is perceived to be less harmful than cigarette smoking.5 However, this cannot be further from the truth. When compared to traditional cigarette smoking, many can start vaping even at a younger age and while laws have been enacted to prohibit the sale to those under 18 years of age, it has been reported that nearly 10% of eight-graders and 14% of 10th graders have indicated the use of these products.5 In a dramatic effort to curtail use by minors, The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) launched a high level undercover assignment in 2018 to crack down on e-cigarette sales to minors. The intent was to strongly regulate who these products were being sold to and prevent the intentional sale to minors.

Harmful Effects
The myriad of flavors that were once available with electronic cigarettes and vaping significantly contributed to the increased use among teenagers and adults. However, these flavors can prove to be more toxic than others. Additionally, the harmful and long-term effect of prolonged vaping is not always brought into the forefront of conversation or to the attention of many users. Even though electronic cigarettes have been around for more than 10 years, there is a lack of robust studies to determine the lifelong risks associated with use.6 On the other hand, nicotine is an aspect that has garnered more information and it is believed that it can negatively impact the developing brain of a teenager. Additionally, the addictive nature of nicotine has the potential to propel the use and abuse of other substances. Overall, while research on the health effects of vaping is ongoing, preliminary data indicates that it can pose risks to the heart as well as impair the normal lung function in those who were previously considered to be healthy.6

Future Direction
For those who are engaged in the use of electronic cigarettes and vaping, it is important to be fully informed of the potential risks that can be associated with continued use. While it is touted as healthier, alternative options to traditional cigarettes, electronic cigarettes do not release toxins into the air like traditional cigarettes so they can come with potentially serious health issues. Ultimately, the continued use of electronic cigarettes will be determined by the ability of healthcare professionals to appropriately educate the public concerning its use and possible long-term effects.

References

  1. Puffco. A history of vaping. 2020. Retrieved from  https://www.puffco.com/blogs/puffco-news/84833156-a-history-of-vaping
  2. OnVaping. Beginners guide to vaping: Ch.1 History of vaping. 2020 Retrieved from https://onvaping.com/guide/beginners-guide-to-vaping/ch-1-history-of-vaping/
  3. Center on Addiction. What is vaping. 2018 Oct. Retrieved from https://www.centeronaddiction.org/e-cigarettes/recreational-vaping/what-vaping
  4. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Vaping devices (Electronic cigarettes). 2020 Jan. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/vaping-devices-electronic-cigarettes
  5. Watson S. Dangers don’t deter vaping’s appeal to teens. WebMD. 2020. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/smoking-cessation/news/20180411/dangers-dont-deter-vapings-appeal-to-teens
  6. Cattamanchi A. Is vaping bad for you? and 12 other FAQs. Healthline. 2020 Jan 3. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/is-vaping-bad-for-you

Abimbola Farinde, PhD, PharmD
Professor, Columbia Southern University, College of Business
Orange Beach, AL

Published on 5/6/2020

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