Ask the Doc: E-Cigarettes Edition

Ask the Doc: E-Cigarettes Edition

Trey Chandler, MD    

It’s hard to ignore the fact that vaping and e-cigarettes have been all over the headlines.  From vaping related deaths to the CDC’s warning about e-cigarette use, it’s becoming clear this “alternative” to traditional cigarettes poses grave health risks to our community and our youth.  We asked Dr. Trey Chandler, Upstate AHA Board Member and Chief Division of Cardiology with Prisma Health-Upstate to shed some light on the e-cigarette epidemic.  Here’s what he had to say.

How are e-cigarettes different than cigarettes?

E-cigarettes contain a liquid that is heated up which makes it turn into an aerosol that is then inhaled. The truth is, we don’t know exactly what is in e-cigarette liquid. The liquid usually contains nicotine, flavoring, and a number of other chemicals that vary from product to product.  It can be practically odorless and the flavoring and marketing can make it particularly appealing to young people.

Some perceive e-cigarettes as a “better” or “safer” alternative to cigarettes.  Can you shed some light on why this is not the case?

Although some people will contend that e-cigarettes are a safer alternative to cigarettes there is little evidence to support this claim. E-cigarettes have been found in some cases to contain heavy metals and flavorings linked to an increased risk of cancer and profound lung disease. Several deaths have been reported in the news recently that have ties back to e-cigarette use. Much more study is needed to fully assess the risks of this product. The bottom line is smoking in all forms has significant health risks and should be avoided.

From your perspective, what is the biggest long-term health concern with e-cigarettes?

The biggest long-term health risks related to e-cigarettes are the risk of chronic lung disease and the risk of heart disease. Nicotine increases the risk of heart attacks and heart rhythm issues no matter what the delivery method is for the drug.

Our state Senate is considering legislation that would continue to protect the tobacco and e-cigarette industry by preventing towns and cities from passing local laws that would regulate e-cigarettes and other tobacco products.  From a provider perspective, why is it important we advocate against this?  

The American Heart Association has a great tradition of advocacy to improve the health of all citizens. I think the e-cigarette industry has introduced a product that has led to a whole new generation of users that likely would not have used traditional cigarettes. These young people are putting themselves at great risk for future health issues and need education and guidance to abstain from using these products. Our state government should help protect the welfare of South Carolinians particularly our children who may not fully grasp the seriousness of their choices in regards to e-cigarette use. In a time of soaring health care costs, we need to focus on prevention and wellness. Abstaining from e-cigarettes and all tobacco products should be at the front of this effort.

Aside from advocating with local officials, what can we do as a community to fight this growing epidemic?

The key to overcoming any issue often starts with education. We should as a community educate our young people on the potential dangers of this product. I think education efforts should be aimed at local schools and colleges too. Talk to your children, relatives and neighbors about this issue to make sure everyone is aware of the risks. It all comes back to education and awareness. Together we can make a difference. Let’s get started!

 

For resources on how to quit vaping, visit www.heart.org/smoking