Electronic cigarettes, also known as “e-cigs”, “e-cigarettes” or “vaping”, have become very popular in recent years, especially among teens and young adults. Many people think that e-cigs are safer than regular cigarettes, but this isn’t always true. This 18-year-old’s story will make you reconsider just how safe e-cigs really are.
An E-Cig Nightmare
An article recently published in the journal Pediatrics described the case of an 18-year-old woman who had to receive emergency care when she developed hypersensitivity pneumonitis, also known as “wet lung.” Hypersensitivity pneumonitis is an inflammatory disease caused by an immune response to inhaled antigens, which are foreign substances (1).
The chemicals found in e-cigs contributed to the anonymous 18-year-old developing wet lung (1). E-cigs are a battery-powered device that converts liquid nicotine into a vapour that is inhaled by the user (2). Although e-cigs are considered to be a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes, studies have shown the delivery of nicotine, aldehydes, metals, and tobacco-specific nitrosamines are not consistent across all products (3).
How Smoking E-Cigs Resulted In An ER Visit
The young lady, who worked as a hostess in her rural town, started to smoke e-cigs two to three weeks prior to her emergency department visit and came in after experiencing, coughing, chest pain, and labored breathing. Shortly after being admitted and put on antibiotics, her respiratory distress quickly worsened and she had to be incubated for respiratory failure. She was also put on a mechanical ventilator to help her breathe (1).
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Eventually, she was diagnosed with wet lung and her condition was found to be life-threatening. Although her health has improved since, without serious medical intervention things could’ve gone a lot worse (1).
Wet lung is a condition that must be caught early in order to reverse inflammation and prevent lung scarring (4). Some common symptoms to look out for include (4):
- Shortness of breath
- Dry cough
- Tightness in the chest
- Feeling excessively tired
Are E-Cigs Dangerous?
E-cigarettes are not totally safe, they still contain toxic substances and smoking them has been linked to an increase in wheezing and coughing in adolescents (5). The case study of the 18-year-old woman is indicative of the unforeseen, serious health consequences that can result from vaping. E-cigs have their own set of health risks that have not been seen before with regular cigarette use. Just check out this video on the differences between vaping and smoking.
Even though e-cigs are supposed to help adults quit smoking, they are also acting as a gateway for teens to get into the habit of smoking conventional cigarettes (6). One study found that 168,000 young people who started vaping went on to smoke traditional cigarettes regularly (6).
Vaping is now considered to be an epidemic in U.S. high schools with a 900% increase in e-cig use by students from 2011-2015 (7). This is a worrisome trend seeing as it is not known how safe e-cigs are, especially the ones that contain nicotine (8). Depending on the dosage of nicotine some side effects may include vomiting, nausea, eye irritation, stomach pain, high blood pressure, and seizures (8).
Even though e-cigarettes are overall healthier than traditional cigarettes, using them still comes with some risk. Not smoking is the best way to preserve your health and prevent an ER visit.
Keep Reading: What Nobody Ever Told You About E-Cigarettes
(1) Sommerfeld, C.G., Weiner, D.J., Nowalk, A., Larkin, A. (2018, May). Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis and Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome from E-Cigarette Use. Pediatrics. Retrieved from http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2018/05/15/peds.2016-3927
(2) Cassidy, S. (2011, October 26). How Electronic Cigarettes Work. Retrieved from https://science.howstuffworks.com/innovation/everyday-innovations/electronic-cigarette.htm
(3) Cheng, T. (2014, May. Chemical evaluation of electronic cigarettes. Tob Control, 23. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3995255/
(4) Learn About Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis. (2018, April 4). Retrieved from http://www.lung.org/lung-health-and-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/hypersensitivity-pneumonitis/learn-about-hypersensitivity.html
(5) Dube, D.E. (2018, January 24). Do e-cigarettes harm or help? New report reveals the impacts they have on health. Retrieved from https://globalnews.ca/news/3984754/are-e-cigarettes-harmful-or-helpful/
(6) Soneji, S.S., Sung, H.Y., Primack, B.A., Pierce, J.P., Sargent, J.D. (2018, March 14). Quantifying population-level health benefits and harms of e-cigarette use in the United States. PLOS One. Retrieved from http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0193328
(7) E-Cigarette Use Among Youth and Young Adults. (2016). Retrieved from https://e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov/documents/2016_SGR_Exec_Summ_508.pdf
(8) Davis, C.P. (2017, December 8). Vaping (e-Cigarettes) Side Effects, Health Risks, and Safety. Retrieved from https://www.medicinenet.com/e-cigarettes_vs_cigarettes/article.htm
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