Sex and Health

Ong: Vaping is not a healthy alternative to smoking cigarettes

When cigarettes were banned from my high school campus many students turned to electronic cigarettes to swerve around the system. While I wasn’t a fan of someone blowing a vanilla or strawberry scented cloud in my face, it did smell far better than burning tobacco.

According to the American Lung Association, the main ingredient in e-cigarettes is the e-liquid contained in cartridges. Nicotine is extracted from tobacco and usually mixed with a propylene glycol base. It may also include flavorings, colorings and other chemicals.

In the eyes of many adolescents, these e-cigarettes almost seemed cooler and definitely healthier than traditional cigarettes. However, since there is no government supervision of these products, about 500 brands and 7,700 flavors of e-cigarettes are on the market, all without a Food and Drug Administration assessment determining what’s actually in them.

Initially there was no definitive way for anyone, healthcare professionals or consumers, to know what chemicals are in e-liquids, or how e-cigarettes might affect its user in both the short and long term. Originally introduced as a tool to wean people off cigarettes, new studies of these e-cigs, vaping or hookah pens have shown to have many potential health consequences for its users.

At the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting, toxicologists Ilona Jaspers, Judith Zelikoff and Daniel Conklin discussed how e-cigs are hosts to new health risks.

Jaspers examined 594 genes linked to fighting infections. Compared to people who didn’t smoke or vape, the activity of 53 genes substantially diminished in active smokers. Jaspers also reported among vapers those same 53 genes and 305 others showed drastically reduced activity.

This suggests that lung and nasal tissue of smokers, and especially vapers, “may be more susceptible to any kind of infection,” according to Jaspers.

Early studies show that e-cigarettes contain other harmful chemicals such as cancer-causing carcinogens and nicotine.

Nicotine is an addictive ingredient almost all e-cigarettes contain. The amount of nicotine in e-liquid refills is often considerably different from the amount listed on the package. Newer vaping devices, especially those with higher voltage, also produce a greater concentration of nicotine. This is significant because the more nicotine used, the greater the potential for addiction.

With the use of e-cigarettes comes the decrease of a healthy immune system and the possibility of a nicotine addiction. While there are still many tests to be done, it’s safe to say that one must use caution when deciding to use vaping pens.

Isabella Ong is a sophomore television, radio and film major. Her column appears weekly in Pulp. She can be reached on Twitter @isabella_ong.

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