People have turned to electronic cigarettes and vapes as a “safer” alternative to smoking cigarettes and tobacco products.
Scientists have now linked e-cig products to a host of new health risks, according to a recent study done by researchers at the University of Carolina at Chapel Hill. New data suggest vaping may pose immune systems risks, plaque buildup in the lungs and possible behavioral and reproductive risks for the children of women who vape during pregnancy.
Plattsburgh State Alcohol and Other Drugs Educator Janis Krug said there is a misconception that people are not getting dangerous chemicals into their system when they use e-cigs or vapes.
“You still are getting those chemicals in your body,” Krug said. “It’s different kinds and there might be not as many, but it is still bad for you.”
Though she said she sees the potential hazards of these products, Krug understands why young people gravitate toward them.
“Most college students know cigarettes are bad, so they would choose e-cigarettes because it’s ‘healthier,’” Krug said. “It’s interesting to me how fast e-cigarettes have caught on the way it did.”
Krug said the marketing campaigns of these products have a big impact.
“They are marketed in a certain way to get a target population,” she said. “You could see in their ads that they were skewing the facts when these products first hit the market.”
Krug said it’s no secret the success of e-cigarettes and vapes were quickly followed by the re-discovery of hookah products.
A high number of “never-users,” among both youths and adults are experimenting and using electronic smoking devices as an introductory product, according to data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
PSUC Health Educator and Outreach Coordinator Rhema Lewis said not all e-cigarettes and vapes are created equally.
“Some might have one that does include nicotine, or you might have one that does not have a filter,” Lewis said. “Some might use the devices for other illegal drugs.”
Lewis said the FDA hasn’t approved these products safe yet. She also said when a federal entity cannot confirm a product’s safety that should be enough to keep people away from purchasing or using them.
“Unfortunately, for some people, they are probably thinking no one’s got cancer yet,” Lewis said. “There hasn’t been enough long term research, so that’s my fear.”
Lewis said that in a social justice perspective, people need to look at who these companies are and why they are focusing on a certain age group.
“Why are they are making it so attractive for young people?” Lewis said. “If we don’t start questioning why these big companies are targeting our children we can potentially end up with cases of addiction down the road.”
Krug said there are many flavored e-liquids out there today that she compares it to energy drinks and how there are so many choices.
“In general, I think it’s a phase,” Krug said. “I think you’ll see more research come out over time about the safety regulations and health concerns.”
The campus policy puts e-cigarettes in line with actual cigarettes, so that means they can be used in only designated areas around campus.
“Be mindful of what you’re putting in your body and do your research,” Lewis said. “You have to remember that nicotine is addictive, and you can’t really downplay the effects of it.”
Lewis said some people have been smoking for years and can’t break the habit.
“E-cigs and vapes may seem or look less risky, but there’s no proof in saying that is not as harmful as cigarettes,” she said.
Krug said time will be a factor in seeing just how hazardous e-cigarettes and vapes become.
“There is still not a lot of research out there so you might not see long term impacts until 30 years from now,” she said.
“People who smoked back in the day didn’t know the effects. The health risks will still exist and we won’t have a clear picture really of what those might be until more research is done. “
Email David Luces at firstname.lastname@example.org