People who smoke have much higher rates of infertility. Short-term smoking can increase the risk of infertility for several months, while long-term smoking can make a person permanently unable to have children. Frequently, infertility is not diagnosed until the person is trying to have a child; while a teenager may not be concerned about the long-term effect of infertility when he or she first picks up a cigarette, the news of infertility may be heart-breaking a decade later.
Smoking harms just about every aspect of the reproductive system. Women who smoke are more likely to develop cervical cancer and also to experience early menopause. With early menopause can come an increased risk of osteoporosis and other diseases associated with the drop-off in estrogen.
15. Children Exposed To Cigarette Smoke May Develop Asthma
Children who grow up breathing dirty air are much more likely to develop asthma. Studies in the Bronx borough of New York City showed that the emissions from car exhaust, heating pipes, and other air-polluting sources were causing far higher numbers of children to become asthmatic.
Children whose parents smoke, or who spend much time with a friend whose parents smoke, are much more likely to develop asthma than children whose parents do not smoke. Having asthma can keep them from playing sports in school and can inhibit their overall quality of life.
A Chinese pharmacist named Hon Lik developed the first device that can be classified as an “e-cigarette.” After his father, a lifelong smoker, died from lung cancer, Lik wanted to create a product that could help people kick the habit for good. He named his product Ruyan, which means “like smoke” and became the name of a parent company for many e-cig products.
The first e-cigarette hit the market in the United States in the year 2003 and was available for sale in China the next year. The device that Lik patented in 2003 underwent numerous technological changes over the next decade or so, changes that increased its appeal and popularity across lifelong smokers.
The most significant appeal of e-cigarettes, among both smokers and public health officials, is that they contain the nicotine that smokers crave but without the cacophony of harmful chemicals. In a laboratory test by British American Tobacco, researchers showed that e-cigarettes are up to 95% cleaner than traditional cigarettes.
This led to many people quickly assuming the e-cigarettes were safer than traditional cigarettes. People with nicotine additions could satisfy their cravings without inhaling the tar, and other carcinogenic compounds find in traditional cigarettes. E-cigarettes began to be marketed as healthy alternatives. And sometimes, not even as alternatives. Just plain healthy.
18. Health Officials In The United Kingdom Promoted The Use Of E-Cigarettes
The tobacco industry has its roots in the United Kingdom. Many parts of the British Empire, including the American colonies, were colonized so that tobacco could be grown. Tobacco companies in the UK long had a cozy relationship with the government until the public health dangers over smoking became apparent.
In the UK, cigarette packs have large labels about the dangers of smoking. Eager to embrace an alternative that could help even more people kick the habit, the government adopted a platform that promoted the use of e-cigarettes and vaping, as they could help people stop smoking. In fact, doctors on the National Health Service could issue prescriptions for e-cigarettes.
When Americans jump on a fad, they do so wholeheartedly. Think about the Atkins craze and keto diets. When “the next big thing” comes to America, it comes all the way. So that’s precisely what happened with vaping. Companies like Blu and Juul took to Instagram and other social media platforms to amass followers. What they got was a whole new generation of smokers.
By 2015, there seemed to be a vape store in just about every city. Whereas there are restrictions on tobacco companies promoting their products, such as through product placement in movies and television shows, those restrictions don’t apply to e-cigarettes. So celebrities appeared on late-night television shows and endorsed vaping products.
It was almost like we had a new Marlboro man to bring smoking to a whole new generation. Smoking, er, vaping, was healthy, fun, and sexy.
20. But The Long-Term Effects Of Vaping Had Not Been Studied
Yes, e-cigarettes don’t have the same toxic sludge inside of them that traditional cigarettes have. However, that does not make them safe. It does not even make them a safe alternative. For one, nicotine may be the red herring in addiction – it takes the blame for a behavior that is very complicated and multi-dimensional.
E-cigarettes have nicotine in them, but nicotine is not the culprit in addiction. Furthermore, nicotine is advocated, especially by e-cigarette fans, as not being dangerous, just addictive. However, that is simply untrue. Nicotine itself, even when unaccompanied by other substances, causes damage to the brain and spinal cord. Finding a safer way to deliver nicotine may not be the solution. Moreover, as it turns out, this “safer” method is not all that safe.
The most ardent supporters of e-cigarettes are people who managed to stop smoking when they turned to vaping. However, statistically, as many as 90% of people who vape also use traditional cigarettes. This fact raises the concern that vaping keeps people smoking longer than if they had looked towards another means to quit.
There is no denying that a puff of e-liquid – the substance that fills an e-cigarette – is less dangerous than a drag of a traditional cigarette. However, that doesn’t make e-cigarettes safe, or even a safer alternative, primarily when they are used with conventional cigarettes.
Nicotine is harmful in and of itself. It is a stimulant, meaning that it increases nerve activity and cardiovascular function. So does caffeine, leading some e-cigarette advocates to claim that e-cigarettes have the same effect on the body as coffee. However, that is not true. Nicotine is far more dangerous than caffeine.
While e-liquids may have fewer chemicals than traditional cigarettes, they have much higher concentrations of nicotine, often to levels that are poisonous. Vaping affects people’s blood vessels and can cause an increased risk of heart disease, especially in people who are already genetically predisposed.
23. E-Cigarettes Being Marketed As Healthy Is A Public Health Concern
Back in the heyday of tobacco advertising, when Lucy and Ricky smoked in their apartment and appeared in cigarette commercials, smoking was advocated as more than socially appealing. It was explicitly marketed as healthy. So who doesn’t want to improve their health?
The same thing is happening now with e-cigarettes. They are not just being marketed to people who are habitual smokers like the nicotine patch was. They are being marketed to everyone. Moreover, to today’s health-conscious generation, they are being sold as healthy. People are jumping on the vaping train because they want to be healthy, too.
24. Especially When They Get In The Hands Of Children
Claims that e-cigarettes are “healthy” has made them very accessible. So accessible that teenagers don’t seem to have much difficulty getting them. E-cigarettes are particularly appealing to the “smartphone generation” of kids who want to try the latest and greatest technology.
Some e-cigarettes are designed to look like USB devices and even charge in USB ports. This means that today’s tech-savvy kids can use them without anyone knowing what they are doing. It is not unheard of for high school students to vape in class when the teacher’s back is turned.
25. One Myth About Vaping Is That It Produces Vapors
“Vaping” is so named because of the idea that inhaling the e-liquid produces “vapors.” And what could be harmful about breathing in water vapor that is laced with some healthy additives? Well, the fact is that vaping actually produces aerosols, not vapors. Aerosols are dangerous, indeed.
These aerosols are not laced with healthy additives but with heavy metals like cadmium and lead, as well as arsenic and chromium. While the e-liquids themselves may not contain heavy metals, they are found in the coils that heat up when the person inhales. Even if the e-liquid is safe, the cigarette is not.
26. The E-Liquids Are Not As Safe As It Claims To Be
The term “vaping” has been replaced by words like “Juuling,” referring to the popular brand of e-cigarettes and e-liquids. The company produces some of the – get this – 15,000 flavors of e-liquids available on the market today. Also, with names like “Skittles,” “Dragon Blood,” and “Unicorn Puke,” the name alone is appealing to children. Many contain nicotine that is concentrated to toxic levels, as well as other harmful chemicals.
While e-cigarettes may have been created as an alternative to tobacco smoking, they have turned into an industry that is creating a whole new generation of smokers. Cigarette smokers don’t need 15,000 flavors to stop using tobacco. E-cigarettes are now their own industry.
We know that people die from smoking cigarettes. What people didn’t anticipate when e-cigarettes came onto the scene was that people would die from vaping. After all, vaping was a safer alternative to smoking, and it was healthy!
As of September 2019, over a dozen people have died from vaping. With still no long-term studies on the effects of vaping, medical professionals and public health officials aren’t sure what it is in e-cigarettes that are killing people. There are suspicions about certain compounds like THC, the psychoactive substance in cannabis, but nothing conclusive can be said.
Our lungs were designed for inhaling oxygen so that it can be transported throughout the body and exhale carbon dioxide, the waste product of cellular respiration. They were not designed to cope with foreign substances, especially the chemicals found in cigarettes, be they traditional cigarettes or e-cigarettes.
Many people who have become ill from vaping had no previous respiratory condition before they began using e-cigarettes. They began to develop respiratory problems afterward, and some of those problems became fatal. The symptoms tend to start mildly and become progressively worse.
Many e-liquids contain an ingredient called propylene glycol. Propylene glycol irritates the eyes and airways. When it is heated, as it is in e-cigarettes, it transforms into acetaldehyde and formaldehyde, both of which are known carcinogens.
However, what may even be more disturbing, especially from the standpoint of public health, is that the particles inside the aerosol created by vaping are much smaller and finer than the particles created by traditional cigarettes. These particles can lodge themselves deeper into the lungs. While they may not be as toxic on their own, they can cause much more damage – and faster deterioration – than smoking traditional cigarettes.
What is particularly concerning about e-cigarettes is just how many kids are using them. As of September 2019, fully one out of every four high school seniors have vaped within the past month. Nearly 10% of eighth-graders are using e-cigarettes. That number is more than double what it was only two years ago.
What we could soon be facing is another public health crisis that mirrors the one that e-cigarettes were meant to solve: smoking. More kids than ever are becoming addicted to nicotine, and this addiction is coming through e-cigarettes. It seems that over the long term, the cure – vaping – may actually be worse than the disease.
Vaping-related illnesses are quickly on the rise, and in rare cases, they lead to death. There have been over 800 cases of vaping-related diseases as of the middle of September 2019, with dozens of new cases every day. Over half the people getting sick are under 25, and 16% of them are under 18.
These statistics show a disproportionate number of young people getting sick compared to the overall number of people who vape. Even more concerning is that these people who are getting sick are not vaping to overcome an addiction to traditional cigarettes. Many of them began vaping without having ever picked up a conventional cigarette.
Vaping was first promoted as a panacea to help people stop smoking, but it has since morphed into a public health crisis. The growing numbers of people, especially children, who are getting sick from vaping, combined with the dearth of long-term studies on the effects of vaping, have public health officials growing increasingly concerned.
We don’t know what the effects of vaping are on people’s brains, especially on children’s minds that are still developing. We also don’t know the long-term effects of the exceptionally high doses of nicotine that vapers are inhaling. We don’t know what the future holds, and this is particularly scary considering that the use of e-cigarettes continues to rise.
33. The Center For Disease Control Is Now Involved
With the rise in vaping-related illnesses and the deaths that have occurred, especially during the summer of 2019, the Center for Disease Control is now investigating hundreds of the reported cases. They want to know what it is about e-liquids and e-cigarettes that is making people sick.
Vaping, especially among children, is now being seen as an epidemic. Public health officials and medical professionals are warning people to stop vaping immediately. Until we know what the long-term effects of vaping are and what is causing people to get sick, people should stop altogether.
The best answer is neither, but from the perspective of public health, that answer only works in a perfect world. At the heart of the problem is not e-cigarettes themselves, but the fact that they are marketed as healthy. There are very few regulations around them, so they are used frequently in product placement, which appeals primarily to children.
Vaping is probably still better than traditional cigarettes, but only to a certain extent. If smokers are vaping in addition to using tobacco, then there is probably no benefit to vaping. However, if they are vaping to wean themselves off of cigarettes and quit altogether, then vaping is perhaps the best choice.
Where Did We Find This Stuff? Here Are our Sources:
“The Effects of Smoking on the Body.” Healthline. “What You Should Know About Vaping and E-Cigarettes,” by Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin. Ted Med. “E-Cigarettes: Welcome Back, Big Tobacco.” The Fifth Estate. “Eighth death linked to vaping as illnesses surge around the United States,” by Jen Christensen and Jamie Gumbrecht. CNN. September 20, 2019.