Cloud chasing has become quite common among teenagers and young adults, even among a few of my own not-so-little ones unfortunately, and their argument is that it is better than smoking cigarettes or that it can help individuals wean from cigarettes. That may hold some truth, but here's the thing, there are also significant risks. The ultrafine particles and toxins #vaping exposes you to do pose risk to your heart and lungs. While this may not lead to cancer, it may send your bum to the emergency room with fairly significant pain and certainly questioning your vaping habits. Here's what you need to know.
A study at the Boston University School of Medicine published a few years ago evaluating the effects of nine #flavorings common in e-cigarettes and other tobacco products on a type of cell that lines the walls of blood vessels, including the ones in the heart. Five of those flavorings - menthol, acetylpyridine (a burnt flavor), vanilla, cinnamon, and clove - demonstrated an ability to block cardiac cells of their ability to produce an important gas that reduces inflammation and prevents blood clots from forming in blood vessels. This gas, nitric oxide, works to prevent damage to your blood vessels. As you can imagine, reductions in nitric oxide leads to heart attacks and strokes.
Other studies have evaluated e-cigarette flavorings, including one presented at the American Thoracic Society's annual meeting finding cinnamon as a cause of increased infection in the lungs. There are more than 460 brands of e-cigarettes now though, and more than 7,700 flavors so testing all of these is likely never going to happen. What we do know is that compared to nonusers, e-cigarette users are 56 percent more likely to have a heart attack and 30 percent more likely to suffer a #stroke.
Coronary artery disease and circulatory problems, including blood clots, were also much higher among those who vape - 10 percent and 44 percent higher, respectfully. This group is also twice as likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, and other emotional problems. Interestingly, the research has shown that regardless of how frequently someone uses e-cigarettes, daily or just on some days, they are still more likely to have a heart attack or coronary artery disease.
Sometimes called e-sigs or vape pens, electronic nicotine delivery systems are battery-operated, handheld devices that mimic the experience of smoking a cigarette. They work by heating the e-liquid, which may contain a combination of #nicotine, solvent carriers (glycerol, propylene, or ethylene glycol) and a number of flavors and other chemicals, to a high enough temperature to create an aerosol, or vapor, that is inhaled and exhaled.
Nicotine immediately affects the heart and blood vessels. It increases blood pressure and stiffens arteries. Over time, nicotine can lead to life-threatening heart problems. Nicotine also increases adrenaline, the chemical our body makes to help fight or flee in life-threatening situations. Constant adrenaline taxes the body as our nervous and endocrine, even gut, can't work in fight-mode all the time. We weren't equipped to run from saber tooth tigers for extended periods of time. Someone is falling off a cliff or getting eaten.
Nicotine can be just as addictive as heroin or cocaine, and many e-cigarettes can flood the body with more nicotine than a traditional cigarette. There are even higher concentration cartridges to increase nicotine levels intentionally. Because e-cigarettes are increasingly used by teenagers, cheaper and more readily available than standard cigarettes, they are turning to this modality without fully appreciating the risks - a big one being that like other drugs, vaping can help teens self-medicate for stress and untreated mental health disorders. Parents may not even recognize this as their attempt to help themselves maybe from something they don't even understand or can't articulate. When we are healthy, we don't tend to choose habits that cause ourselves harm.
Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, injury to the lungs including popcorn lung or shortness of breath are all potential side effects as well. Headaches, high blood pressure, seizures, even heart attack, lung cancer and stroke are additional risks. Be aware as well, that when teens are vaping, the research continues to demonstrate that other drug use and addictive behaviors are quite common.
If your teen vapes or smokes, consider this as a potential indicator of underlying concerns, whether a mental health issue or an addition trigger. We can help each of you identify this underlying cause - without judgement - and without simply offering weaning techniques. What is the root of the problem? We do have unique approaches. Give us a try.