New developments on the health effects of vaping

Recent findings on e-cigarette use

In recent years, several studies have mentioned the potential harms of vape use, but a recent landmark study found evidence that vaping could be as bad for your heart as traditional cigarettes. These findings cast considerable doubt on the claim that e-cigarettes are “safer” than traditional cigarettes; a claim commonly made by proponents of vaping as a means of quitting smoking.

The Heart and Lung E-Cigarette Smoking Study (CLUES) followed 395 participants (164 long-term e-cigarette users, 117 long-term cigarette users, and 114 non-vapes and non-smokers). Those who used e-cigarettes and traditional cigarettes had greater increases in heart rate and blood pressure; however, regular vaping users had worse measures of heart rate variability, narrowed brachial artery (which is the main blood vessel that supplies blood to the arms and hands), and had an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Additionally, participants were subjected to a stress test, and those who smoked or drank performed significantly worse on all measures. Compared to nonsmokers, participants’ heart rates took longer to recover after exercise and their hearts had to work harder at peak levels.

Long-term health effects of vaping

While these recent studies highlight the direct impact of vaping on the heart, numerous past studies have highlighted the additional damage that vaping can cause. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports how vaping can cause serious lung damage. As of February 2020, the CDC reported that 2,800 e-cigarette users required hospitalization for e-cigarette use-related lung injury (EVALI), and 68 of these cases resulted in death.

Additionally, multiple studies have revealed troubling links between e-cigarette use, nicotine and mental health. According to a 2019 JAMA study, current e-cigarette users are twice as likely to receive a diagnosis depression compared to non-nicotine users. Another study found that frequent use of e-cigarettes was associated with higher levels of depression and ADHD symptoms. In addition, nicotine use was associated with more significant anxiety symptoms. Overall, numerous studies over the past few years have provided quantifiable data on the adverse effects of vaping on people’s mental, lung, and heart health.

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How addictive is vaping?

According to the CDC, approximately 8.1 million Americans currently use e-cigarettes, which contain the highly addictive substance nicotine. Many who use nicotine products develop physical dependence, which involves physical and psychological factors that make it difficult to stop using them. Within minutes of inhaling nicotine vapor from an e-cigarette, the brain releases dopamine, which is a chemical that plays a role in pleasure, motivation and learning. Over time, the brain craves the feeling caused by the release of dopamine, leading to more nicotine use, which can lead to Nicotine addiction.

Nicotine use is widespread in the US, so it can be difficult to spot when it has become addictive. some signs of nicotine addiction include:

  • Withdrawal symptoms when a person stops using nicotine
  • Ability to stop using nicotine products
  • Desire to continue using nicotine products despite adverse effects
  • You need more nicotine to feel “satisfied”
  • Experiencing hunger and intense cravings for tobacco use.

Who is most affected by the adverse health effects of vaping?

While anyone can experience adverse health effects from vaping, certain communities face additional health risks. For example, the use of e-cigarettes or the use of any nicotine product is particularly dangerous for pregnant women and their developing babies. Nicotine can expose mother and child to toxic chemicals and can damage a developing baby’s brain and lungs.

The term “epidemic” has been used in regards to vaping among young people, and with over 2 million middle and high school students using e-cigarettes every day, it’s hard not to. Young people are particularly susceptible to vaporization damage because their brains and bodies are still developing. Nicotine can harm young people’s memory and ability to concentrate, alter their brain development and reduce their ability to control their impulses. Additionally, teens who vape are 3 times more likely to smoke cigarettes than their peers who have never smoked.

Quitting e-cigarettes

It is common for those trying to quit nicotine products, such as e-cigarettes, traditional cigarettes and chewing tobacco, to try several times before it sticks. Trying to quit e-cigarettes repeatedly can lead to feelings of discouragement, but recovery is possible and can improve quality of life. Quitting nicotine products can directly reduce the health risks associated with use and improve mental health symptoms, and treatment is available.

Smoking cessation therapy is a tool that many people find helpful. A licensed therapist can help with goal setting and cessation support. Contact a therapist today to get started.

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