SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — As medical experts and users try to determine the extent of the long-term health impacts of vaping and e-cigarettes, many misconceptions continue to swirl around the products.
In an effort to dispel some of those misconceptions, News 3 spoke with an expert from the Georgia Department of Public Health’s Coastal District to shed light on the reality behind these vaping-related myths.
Myth 1: There’s no nicotine in vaping products.
“E-liquid and e-juice, which are the products used with e-cigarettes and vaping devices, contain varying amounts of nicotine, flavorings and other chemicals,” said Coastal Health District Public Health Analyst Sean Bear.
Bear says that one Juul pod is known to contain as much nicotine as a single pack of cigarettes.
“I can’t say that all products contain nicotine, however, it is a possibility that it’s in there,” Bear told News 3.
The American Lung Association says even the e-cigarettes labeled “nicotine free” contain nicotine, because there aren’t any rules about how e-cigarettes or e-juice are made — meaning there’s no way to tell exactly what is in the products.
Bear says it’s concerning because nicotine is absorbed into a person’s bloodstream through the lungs, which produces a response in the body that produces epinephrine.
“That can increase your heart rate, breath rate and blood pressure,” he said.
There’s a Johns Hopkins study that provides evidence suggesting that individuals who smoke electronic cigarettes and vaping products are more likely to go on to utilizing illicit drugs or other tobacco-based products, such as cigarettes.”Sean Bear, Georgia Department of Public Health/Coastal Health District Public Health Analyst
Myth 2: Secondhand vaping exposure isn’t as harmful as traditional secondhand smoke, because vape products don’t emit smoke.
“I think there’s a misconception out there that what is exhaled from a vaping process is just some sort of a vapor,” Bear said. “I’ve heard water vapors, things like that; that’s incorrect, and frankly, the term of vapor is really not that accurate.”
Bear explained that instead of what’s widely thought of as harmless water vapor, what’s emitted from vape products should actually be called aerosols.
“What you’re seeing in that secondhand aerosol, what people are breathing in, still contains nicotine and toxic chemicals, including carcinogens,” Bear told News 3.
Early studies have shown that one of those carcinogens is formaldehyde, according to the American Lung Association.
The American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation says that at least 10 chemicals found in electronic smoking devices are listed on California’s Proposition 65 list of carcinogens and reproductive toxins, which is also known as the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986.
The Foundation also noted that those vaping and e-cigarette aerosols comprise a high concentration of “ultrafine particles” — and that those particle concentrations are higher than what’s found in tobacco cigarette smoke.
Exposure could cause problems for people with asthma, the Foundation also says.
Myth 3: Vaping is a healthy alternative to cigarettes.
“I think that this myth really comes from the misconception that vaping is an appropriate tool for smoking cessation, to help people stop smoking,” Bear said.
“Currently, there really isn’t enough evidence out there to support the idea that e-cigarettes can be a useful smoking cessation aid.”
Bear added that e-cigarettes may encourage people to move on to tobacco cigarette smoking at some point in their lives.
“There’s a Johns Hopkins study that provides evidence suggesting that individuals who smoke electronic cigarettes and vaping products are more likely to go on to utilizing illicit drugs or other tobacco-based products, such as cigarettes,” Bear said.
The American Lung Association says that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration hasn’t found e-cigarettes or vaping to be a safe or effective way to help traditional smokers kick the habit, and some users continue to vape while they also use tobacco cigarettes.
Myth 4: There aren’t any real health risks to vaping.
Given the vast amount of information coming out over the past year that points to the potentially negative impacts of vaping and e-cigarettes, and the number of vaping-related lung injuries reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it’s becoming increasingly evident that there are health risks to vaping.
“What we do know is that people who are vaping are exposed to varying levels of chemicals through the aerosols released through the vaping process,” Bear said.
A recent study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that people who both smoked and vaped had a 3.3-times higher chance of developing a respiratory disease in their lifetime.
Myth 5: Vaping is not as addictive as cigarettes.
Given the large amount of nicotine found in some vape and e-cigarette products, Bear says people can still get hooked on them, especially with the ability to purchase extra-strength cartridges with higher concentrations of nicotine.
“Nicotine is known to be very addictive for individuals,” he said. “Nicotine triggers an epinephrine response in the body, which leads to addictive behaviors.”