We originally published this in December 2018 and updated it in November 2020.
E-cigarettes or vape pens are marketed as a better alternative to smoking cigarettes. Although it’s true they don’t contain the same harmful carcinogens found in combustible cigarettes, they do contain nicotine. And this highly addictive stimulant can greatly impact your health.
The Problem with Nicotine
Every time nicotine enters the body, it constricts the blood vessels, raising blood pressure and increasing the risk for coronary artery disease and stroke. The more nicotine you take in, the longer it remains active in the body.
With e-cigs, there’s a lot of gray area in determining just how much nicotine you’re getting with each vape. These devices use a liquid nicotine solution that comes in varying strengths, from zero to around 48 mg.
Selecting the equivalent that will satisfy your cravings without getting too much nicotine can be a challenge. Inhale too much and you put yourself at risk for a vascular event, such as a heart attack, or even nicotine poisoning.
Complicating matters is the lack of regulation on labeling for e-cigarette components. A cartridge of “juice” or liquid nicotine and flavoring may say it has 30 mg. of nicotine on the label, but the actual amount may be more like 300 mg. In addition, there are other chemicals besides nicotine that go into the mix, so users never truly know what they’re inhaling.
Trying to Quit Vaping?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that e-cigarettes, also known as vape pens, are less harmful than regular cigarettes due to fewer toxic chemicals. It's important to remember: E-cigarettes may be less harmful than regular cigarettes due to fewer toxic chemicals, but they aren't completely harmless. E-cigarette aerosol still contains cancer-causing agents with nicotine and heavy metals. Researchers are still learning about the long-term effects.
Researchers are still learning about the long-term effects. But studies are starting to show vaping nicotine and THC leads to a higher chance of having serious lung disease, called popcorn lung.
E-cigarettes also haven't been approved by the FDA for help with quitting smoking, but there are other ways to help. A recent CDC study found that people using e-cigarettes to quit smoking ended up using both products. Also, tobacco specialists noticed that some people may start smoking cigarettes after starting with vaping.
The Problem with Smoking & COVID
According to the World Health Organization, there are no studies yet evaluating how smoking impacts your COVID-19 risk. However, smokers using cigarettes, cigars, or heated tobacco products may be at a higher risk of catching the virus. Healthcare experts believe this is because smoking involves touching your fingers to your lips. Similarly, chewing tobacco may also increase your risk of getting COVID-19.
Since the COVID-19 virus primarily attacks the lungs, you want your lungs to be in good shape.
Ready to Quit?
Get support and coaching through the Virginia Department of Health.
Ways to Quit Smoking or Vaping
These are the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved nicotine replacement therapy to help quit smoking cigarettes or vaping:
- Nicotine patches
- Nicotine gum
- Nicotine lozenges
- Prescription medicine (Chantix & Zyban)
- Nicotine inhaler (Nicotrol most popular brand)
- Nicotine nasal spray (Nicotrol most popular brand)
Need help? You can:
- Call 800-QUITNOW for a national program for all tobacco users in the United States.
- Use a great online resource such as smokefree.gov
- Get a custom treatment plan through UVA Cancer Center
- Reach out to the Thomas Jefferson Health District for upcoming free events
How to Support Someone Trying to Quit Smoking
The best thing you can do to support someone trying to quit? Continue to praise them. Don’t nag them when they do smoke. Keep reminding them of their goal to be smoke-free in a positive way. Never make them feel guilty if they slip up.