Once advertised as a safer alternative to smoking, vaping is now being blamed for deaths across the country.
Vaping refers to inhaling vapor as opposed to smoke and is done using devices that heat up cartridges and generate vapor that people can inhale.
Those cartridges can contain different juices containing nicotine or marijuana products.
They also contain other chemicals that Dr. Randy Young, chief of the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care for Penn State Health, says can be highly toxic to the lungs.
“The dangers result not only from the nicotine addiction that they cause and perpetuate but the direct toxicities of other things in some of these vaping solutions that have the potential to cause fatal lung injury,” Young said.
But when first advertised, vaping was promoted as a safer alternative to smoking.
Jonathan Foulds, Ph.D., a researcher at Penn State College of Medicine whose work is mostly dedicated to helping people quit smoking, says that is still true.
“Nicotine electronic cigarettes are much less harmful to your health than tobacco cigarettes,” Foulds said, “but the evidence is stronger for prescribed cessation products.”
Foulds says you can call 1-800-QUIT NOW for nicotine addiction counseling and nicotine patches. He also suggests visiting your family doctor for prescription smoking cessation products that have FDA approval.
While nicotine e-cigarettes are safer than tobacco products, the long-term health impacts of nicotine e-cigarettes is unknown.
“We suspect there will be other forms of lung injury, scarring, pulmonary fibrosis, asthma and COPD-like conditions as a result of vaping and even total body toxicity from some of the chemicals that are in these cartridges,” Young said.
As for vaping products containing THC, Young and Foulds agree they are both illegal and deadly.
“Vaping THC products, particularly bought off the streets — a lot of them seem to be contaminated and that can kill you,” Foulds said.
“Nobody who is not an addicted smoker should start using e-cigarettes. They’re not good for you. Putting anything into your lunges that is not supposed to be there is not good for your health,” Founds said.