Guest Comment: Yes, e-cigarettes are bad for your health
Although I have studied e-cigarettes for several years, I sometimes feel that the same questions keep coming up: are e-cigarettes safe? What are the health effects of vaping e-cigarettes? Is vaping better than smoking?
These questions come from parents, policy makers, journalists, patients and healthcare workers. However, many parents here in La Jolla could tell you firsthand that e-cigarettes are addictive and dangerous. These parents learned about the dangers of vaping e-cigarettes when their own children became addicted.
A La Jolla parent found empty e-cigarette pods in his ninth-grade student’s backpack, then had to witness his child’s nicotine withdrawal over the weekend, followed by a period of several months of work to break this powerful addiction.
We have a lot more data on the health impact of vaping e-cigarettes now, compared to when they skyrocketed in popularity in 2017. I can say with confidence, without a shadow of a doubt that e-cigarettes are harmful to your health. Specifically, based on my own research here at UC San Diego and the Veterans Health System, I can say that inhaling e-cigarette aerosols has negative effects on the lungs, brain, the heart, kidneys, liver, colon and immune system.
It has been empowering to conduct research at UCSD in collaboration with several powerful researchers focused on determining the real risks of these electronic devices. Studies published to date have shown that e-cigarettes promote tumorigenesis, are toxic to cells throughout the body, and cause inflammation. Knowing this key piece of information, I wholeheartedly support the movement to ban all flavored tobacco, including e-cigarettes.
E-cigarette flavors such as Banana Strawberry, Lush Ice and Cotton Candy appeal to children and women. These fruity and sweet e-cigarettes work as a gateway to hook kids and adults alike as 99% contain high levels of nicotine, which is one of the five most addictive substances of all time.
Once addicted to nicotine, they are ready to buy any flavor, including tobacco, and have increased rates of adding or switching to conventional tobacco cigarettes. Meanwhile, menthol-flavored e-cigarettes are harmful, especially to black Americans, who have suffered greatly from the tobacco industry‘s relentless targeting of their community. Menthol makes nicotine-containing aerosols from e-cigarettes and conventional tobacco smoke smoother while making it more difficult to quit smoking in general.
A particularly disheartening trend emerging now is that indirect exposure to e-cigarette aerosols (commonly known as vapour) causes respiratory symptoms such as shortness of breath and wheezing. This alone demonstrates that vaping e-cigarettes should not be allowed in public places and that people should be especially careful not to vape in the presence of children and pregnant women.
With the San Diego City Council voting on April 25 to approve a ban on flavored e-cigarettes and flavored tobacco, including menthol cigarettes, the next step is a second council reading. This will go a long way in preventing children and young adults from picking up these e-cigarettes in the first place and thus protect our community.
And we need to do this quickly because flavored e-cigarette use is expected to continue to increase in our middle and high schools now that our children are once again learning in person (and are able to share and purchase e-cigarettes in person). nobody).
Dr. Laura Crotty Alexander is Associate Professor of Medicine in the Division of Pulmonary Critical Care and Sleep at UC San Diego in La Jolla and Section Chief of Pulmonary Critical Care Medicine for the VA San Diego Health System. ◆