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Vaping and Lung Health

November 18, 2019 | Dr. Bassel Al-Alao

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Vaping has been in the news a lot lately because of its connection to lung disease and its popularity among teenagers and young adults. Although it is often positioned as a healthy alternative to smoking cigarettes, this is not always the case.

E-cigarettes work by heating a liquid usually containing, nicotine, flavorings, and other chemicals to produce an aerosol. The aerosol is then inhaled into the person’s lungs. Just like bystanders can inhale second-hand smoke from cigarettes, aerosol from e-cigarettes can also be inhaled second-hand.

E-cigarettes can potentially benefit adult smokers looking to quit by using it as a complete substitution for regular cigarettes and other smoked tobacco products. However, there is still a lot scientists do not know about whether e-cigarettes are truly effective for quitting smoking. E-cigarettes should not be used by youth, young adults, pregnant women, or anyone who does not currently use tobacco products.

Scientists are still learning about the long-term health effects of e-cigarettes but the effects of some of their ingredients are well known.

  • Nicotine is highly addictive
  • Nicotine is toxic to developing fetuses
  • Nicotine harms adolescent brain development into the early 20s
  • Cancer-causing chemicals and tiny particles—although fewer than in smoke from burned tobacco products—can reach deep in a person’s lungs

So far, the CDC has reported 2,051 cases of e-cigarette-related lung injury from 49 states. 39 deaths have been confirmed in 24 states. While they continue to investigate the exact cause of this outbreak, the CDC recommends you do not use e-cigarette products that contain THC, buy any type of e-cigarette product off the street (especially those containing THC), or modify or add substances to e-cigarette products. If you do continue to use e-cigarette products, it is important you monitor yourself for symptoms and see your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, or diarrhea
  • Fever or chills
  • Weight loss

Caring for Your Lung Health

Lung health is important and we often take it for granted. In addition to avoiding e-cigarette products and following the recommendations above, here are some things you can do to reduce your risk of lung disease:

  • Don’t smoke. Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer and COPD. It can narrow your air passages and make breathing more difficult, cause chronic inflammation in your lungs, and destroy lung tissues over time and cause cancer.
  • Avoid exposure to indoor pollutants. Secondhand smoke, chemicals at home and work, and radon can all cause or worsen lung disease. Avoid second-hand smoke and e-cigarette vapor as much as possible, test your home for radon, and talk to your doctor if you are worried that something in your home, school, or work may be making you sick.
  • Minimize your exposure to outdoor pollution. Air quality varies greatly depending on your location and the day. Follow the Air Quality Index (AQI) day by day and avoid going outside and especially exercising outside on bad air days.
  • Prevent respiratory infections. A cold, the flu, or other infections can become serious and harm your lungs. Take precautions like washing your hands, avoiding crowds, and getting vaccinated to avoid getting sick.
  • Visit your doctor regularly. Regular check-ups prevent all kids of diseases including lung disease. Your doctor can often detect issues before you are even feeling sick.
  • Exercise. Physical activity helps strengthen your lungs and keep them healthy!

Dr. Bassel Al-Alao is a Cardiothoracic Surgeon with Fisher-Titus. He specializes in thoracic oncology, minimally invasive lung cancer surgery, and cardiac surgery. For more information, visit fishertitus.org.