For more than a decade, battery-powered electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) have been pushed to consumers as a safer alternative to tobacco smoking. Instead of smoke, the device releases aerosol mist that can be laced with nicotine and other chemicals and flavorings. The vapor-like aerosol they emit is where the term “vaping” comes from.
Almost 70% of smokers in the United States want to quit. So, when something is marketed as a safe and effective smoking-cessation device or method, people take an interest. But marketing can be deceiving.
E-cigarette manufacturers say their devices are safer than tobacco cigarettes and can help people stop smoking.
But the research does not conclusively support these claims. Studies show that e-cigarettes pose serious health risks. Here are some common myths about e-cigarettes.
MYTH: E-cigarettes are a harmless alternative to tobacco cigarettes
The modern e-cigarette has only been marketed in the United States since 2007, so researchers do not have long-term data on the effects of vaping. However, the short-term data is in, and it’s not good. E-cigarettes are harmful to your health.
E-cigarette use increases blood clots, blood pressure and heart rate and damages arteries and veins. Some people who vape report difficulty breathing, coughing, mouth irritation, nausea and vomiting. In 2016, the American Lung Association reported that vaping contributes to an irreversible lung disease called bronchiolitis obliterans (popcorn lung), which scars and thickens the smallest airways in the lungs. Symptoms include a dry cough, fatigue, shortness of breath and wheezing.
The disorder originally was linked to a chemical: diacetyl. It was commonly used as butter flavoring in microwave popcorn until factory workers who inhaled it began showing those symptoms. Popcorn manufacturers stopped using the chemical. However, today 75% of flavored e-cigarettes test positive for diacetyl.
Tobacco smoke has been around for hundreds of years, and we have decades of data on it. It contains more than 7,000 chemicals, 250 of which are known to be harmful to our health. We have much less data about vaping, but already, we can see it is not a harmless alternative to tobacco smoking.
MYTH: I can’t get addicted to e-cigarettes
Nicotine is a highly addictive chemical present in virtually all e-cigarettes. According to a 2015 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 99% of e-cigarettes sold in U.S. convenience stores and supermarkets contained nicotine. Some e-cigarettes marketed as nicotine-free actually contained nicotine. A few labels didn’t disclose how much nicotine was in the product. Nicotine is added to the liquid that creates the vapor.
MYTH: E-cigarettes will help me quit smoking
The research does not support this belief. Unfortunately, many people switch to vaping because they believe it will help them quit smoking. A 2020 report from the U.S. Surgeon General showed that roughly half of the adult smokers who used e-cigarette products continued to smoke tobacco. They are called dual-users. Studies also show that roughly 1.9 million young adults, ages 18-24, have taken up vaping. They are four times more likely than their non-vaping peers to become regular tobacco smokers.
TRUTH: You CAN quit
It’s difficult to quit smoking – it’s one of the tougher habits to break. But if you want to stop smoking (or vaping), your health plan can assist you. Just call the customer service phone number on the back of your member ID card to explore the options available to you.