Are they really safe? Can they be used as a tool to quit for regular smokers? Is secondhand vapor harmful?

The use of e-cigarettes has skyrocketed in recent years, with many Americans seeing it as a safer alternative to smoking cigarettes. Even though e-cigarettes have been on the market for years, there is still a lot that’s unknown about them. Are they really safe? Can they be used as a tool to quit for regular smokers? Is secondhand vapor harmful? Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center has compiled the top five things you should know about e-cigarettes:

E-cigarettes contain nicotine, which has several negative side effects.
In addition to being highly addictive, it’s believed that one of the primary reasons smoking traditional cigarettes causes heart disease is because of the nicotine they contain. Nicotine damages vascular tissue, and when tissue is damaged, plaque and inflammation can follow.

Nicotine is not the only chemical they contain.
Some e-cigarette brands contain formaldehyde and diacetyl. Formaldehyde is most commonly used in household products and building materials, and is known to cause cancer. Diacetyl is actually a key ingredient in microwavable popcorn due to its buttery flavor. And although there’s no documented risk in eating diacetyl, over-exposure to the vapors it gives off has been known to cause a rare form of lung disease called bronchiolitis obliterans or “popcorn lung.”

Most experts agree that e-cigarettes are still less harmful than traditional cigarettes.
The exact percentage is highly debated among experts—some say it’s as low as 50% better while others have said 85% better—but most agree that e-cigarettes are significantly better for your health than traditional cigarettes. The lack of tar in e-cigarettes has a lot to do with this, since that’s where most of the carcinogens in traditional cigarettes reside.

Studies on the effectiveness of using e-cigarettes to quit smoking have shown conflicting results.
There are groups of people who have reported being able to quit smoking traditional cigarettes by using e-cigarettes as a substitute, but there is no clinical data to support this as a proven method of smoking cessation. In fact, the American Heart Association has stated that using e-cigarettes to help you quit smoking should be used only as a last resort.

Your teenage children aren’t the only ones you should worry about accessing your e-cigarettes.
Nicotine poisoning among young children has increased significantly in recent years as e-cigarettes have become more popular. Generally, this occurs when the e-cigarettes are left within reach and the child consumes the nicotine liquid inside. This can cause severe illness and even death, so if you do choose to use e-cigarettes, they should be kept out-of-reach of children.

Whether or not you choose to use e-cigarettes, one thing is certain—studies have shown that traditional cigarettes are harmful for your health and are the only known consumer product that will kill you if used as directed. To get help in quitting today, sign up online for Our Lady of the Lake’s free Smoking Cessation Program or call 225-757-2474.

Contributed by Our Lady of the Lake