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The use of e-cigarettes and “vaping” has emerged as a growing but controversial trend — as many have begun to question whether e-cigarettes are truly a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes and if enough research has been conducted to truly understand their long-term effects on lung and overall health.

This issue is also gaining attention from local and national government officials as well as major corporations.

  • States, like Tennessee — where I am based at Lung Health Institute’s Nashville clinic — are considering bills that would increase the minimum smoking age from 18 to 21.
  • Walmart also recently announced that it has increased the minimum age to purchase any tobacco products to 21. The company will also stop selling fruity and dessert-flavored e-cigarettes.

As this issue continues to evolve, here are the top 3 things you need to know about vaping:

Q: What is vaping?

A: Vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling the aerosol, or vapor, produced by an e-cigarette or other device. Vaping is performed using a battery-operated device that heats e-liquid into vapor.

Q: How does vaping affect your lungs?

A: In some ways, it’s true that vaping is better for your lungs than cigarettes. Vaping liquid doesn’t produce lung-clogging tar like cigarettes do. However, these devices can still have a negative effect on your lung health.

In several studies, e-cigarette vapors have been shown to increase lung inflammation — which is one of the key precursors to chronic lung diseases. Their vapors also disable protective lung cells called alveolar macrophages, which help the lungs remove harmful particles. The impairment and death of these cells may result in a higher risk of lung infections and progressive lung conditions like Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD).

Additionally, many vape liquids still contain high levels of nicotine, which is the addictive chemical found in tobacco that may also contribute to the development of chronic lung diseases.

Vape liquids also often contain several toxic chemicals, such as formaldehyde and benzene.

Other common side effects from vaping include mouth and airway irritation, respiratory system inflammation, high blood pressure, nausea and abdominal pain.

Q: Are e-cigarettes a good option for those looking to quit smoking?

A: You should always consult your doctor as you identify the right option for you — however, I recommend using caution when considering any tobacco substitute. If you put something unnatural into your lungs, there is the potential for permanent harm over time. Additionally, due to the growing body of evidence against using e-cigarettes to help quit smoking, you may want to consider other quitting methods.

  • Nicotine patches and gums can help you slowly ease out of nicotine dependency without exposing your lungs to further damage.
  • There are also prescription medicines available that may increase your ability to stop smoking.
  • At Lung Health Institute, we offer a program called Freedom From Smoking® Plus to help support our patients who want to quit smoking.This flexible, 6-week online program focuses on strategies and support for patients to share their experiences quitting nicotine.The first 3 weeks focus on building up to a planned quit day, and the next 3 weeks focus on staying smoke-free.

Lung Health Institute wants to empower patients to make informed decisions that support their overall lung health. With tobacco and nicotine being major contributors to chronic lung disease, it’s crucial to have the information and support needed to quit. While some patients may feel uncomfortable with discussing vaping habits, it’s important to have an open and honest conversation with your physician so that you can ultimately improve the quality of your life.

If you have a chronic inflammatory lung condition, contact one of our patient coordinators today for more information or to schedule a free consultation.

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