We are all familiar with the dangers of cigarette smoking-gum disease, oral cancer, and other serious health conditions. Do e-cigarettes and vaping pose similar health threats?
A recent article from the Massachusetts Dental Society offers some information on this topic. Studies show that smoking rates are at historic lows. According to the CDC, approximately 14% of adults said they were smokers in 2017. This is the lowest rate recorded since 1965. And a 2018 survey of 45,000 8th, 10th and 12th graders reported that 3.6% of high school seniors reported smoking daily compared to 22% just 20 years ago. This decline in traditional smoking rates is a victory for public health.
However, the rise in e-cigarettes is now becoming a huge concern. E-cigarettes are designed to deliver nicotine, flavorings and other additives via an inhaled aerosol. The kid-friendly flavors, reduced odor, and small size make this very appealing for teens. Many products look like a USB flash drive, with a typical cartridge (pod) containing as much nicotine as a pack of 20 regular cigarettes. In a 2019 report, the CDC found e-cigarette use increased 77% among high schoolers and 48% among middle schoolers. In Massachusetts, almost half of high school students reported having vaped at least once.
E-cigarettes still contain nicotine and many include flavoring agents that may cause a chronic lung disease. The aerosol that is inhale and exhaled can potentially expose users and by-standers to harmful substances, including heavy metals, volatile organic compounds, and ultrafine particles that can be inhaled into the lungs.
In January of this year, the legal age to purchase any tobacco product in Massachusetts was raised to 21 in an effort to curb this dangerous trend. Nicotine exposure during adolescence can impact learning, memory and attention making it very harmful as the brain continues to develop (until around age 25).
Bottom line-Be smart and don’t start! And if you have, there is no time like the present to quit!