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Is Vaping Safer Than Smoking?

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A recent report on the risks of e-cigarette use from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) suggests that vaping may be safer than smoking. It should be noted that the report suggests vaping is safer, not “safe.” Because the research is new, the committee suggests that more research needs to be done.

This article explores the pros and cons of vaping. Is it safe? What are the potential dangers? Why do people who abuse substances often take up smoking or vaping as well? Can you get treatment for addiction to nicotine as a co-occurring disorder in drug rehab?

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The NASEM Report and What it Means

There are four big takeaways from the NASEM report, all of them hinging on scientific research of 800 peer-reviewed articles on the effects of vaping on human users. They include:

  1. Inconclusive findings on whether e-cigarettes help people quit traditional cigarettes. In their review of the literature, the committee only found three studies to review. However, their observational study found that “there is moderate evidence that e-cigarettes can help people quit smoking.” However, there is more evidence that people that vape also use traditional cigarettes.
  2. Vaping may serve as the gateway to traditional tobacco use. These findings are especially relevant among youth. The study suggested, “Children using e-cigarettes are at an increased risk of using tobacco cigarettes in the future.” So, while e-cigarettes may help adults quit, it seems they open the door to future tobacco use for young people.
  3. E-cigarettes are less harmful than traditional smoking. That is because traditional smoking causes one in five deaths in the United States. With that grim statistic serving as a baseline, it is almost inevitable that vaping comes in as “better” than traditional smoking. But that leads to the fourth point the study revealed.
  4. No one really knows yet. The final conclusion of the study included a statement saying the reality is that no one really knows yet what long-term effects will be caused by vaping. Period.

What the study did not look at is the medical effects of the chemicals found in e-cigarettes.

Vaping devices contain nicotine, which is undeniably addictive. Numerous studies already show the risks associated with using nicotine. However, that is not the only chemical found in e-cigarettes. Some of the brands sold today include chemicals that can cause cancer, including formaldehyde. The flavoring in e-cigarettes sometimes includes the same substance used in microwavable butter popcorn. Called diacetyl, this chemical is known to cause “popcorn lung,” a life-threatening inflammation of lung tissue.

So, while the door has not been shut yet on e-cigarettes as an alternative to smoking, it is clear that addiction to nicotine remains a serious issue, no matter how you imbibe it. It should be carefully noted that in the 1940s, tobacco ads called cigarettes “safe.” Today, more than 400,000 people die every year from tobacco products.

If you are struggling with an addiction to nicotine along with drugs or alcohol, contact The Recovery Village Ridgefield to learn about treatment options.

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