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What is vaping?

What is vaping?
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The latest public health crisis. That’s how medical experts are referring to the health problems resulting from vaping. Hundreds of people have become seriously ill after using the electronic devices. Some people have died. Here’s what you need to know to protect yourself.

Vaping is the inhalation of an aerosol from an electric cigarette or similar device, which is used to heat the vapour-producing liquid. There are many brands of electronic cigarettes and they are available in a variety of shapes and sizes. Many are pen-like (hence the term vape pen) or they may also resemble a USB flash drive. The vapour usually delivers nicotine but it can also deliver other legal or illegal substances, including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in marijuana. In addition, the liquid can contain fine particles, oils, toxic chemicals, or other ingredients, some that have been linked to cancer, lung problems and possibly heart disease.

How common is vaping?

How common is vaping?
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E-cigarettes were introduced in 2006 and have increased in popularity since then, especially among young people. In Australia, among 18-24-year olds, current use has gone up from 2.8 per cent to 5.3 per cent in the last three years. A 2019 National Drug Strategy Household Survey reported a rise across all age groups of people who had ever used e-cigarettes from 8.8 percent in 2016 to 11.3 per cent in 2019. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is urging consumers to refrain from using vaping products for the following reasons.

Read on for things that happen to your body when you stop vaping.

You can get very sick

You can get very sick
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More than 1000 cases of vaping-related lung injuries, from the US territory, have been reported to the CDC. The symptoms of the lung disease resulting from vaping include coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, fatigue and stomach pain. Nearly 70 per cent of cases are in males. Nearly two thirds (62 per cent) of people who have gotten sick are between the ages of 18 and 34, and 16 per cent are under 18. Some of the people used vaping devices that delivered nicotine, but most have used THC-containing products.

You can die

You can die
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As of October 2020, the CDC reported 68 deaths from vaping of cannabis oil and vitamin E acetate and the hospitalisation of thousands in the US. The cause, said pulmonologist, Dr Robert Goldberg, was acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).

Don’t miss these silent signs your lungs could be in trouble.

Vaping can be addictive

Vaping can be addictive
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“Nicotine is an extremely addictive chemical,” says Dr Goldberg. And although it can vary, vaping may provide more nicotine per inhalation than traditional cigarettes. “The amount in one puff from a vaping device is greater than in one puff from a cigarette.” Many of the vaping companies used fun names and created fruity flavours like Fruity Freeze and So Berry Good to appeal to children and make them dependent on the devices. Often young users were unaware that the devices even delivered nicotine. “Companies saw a gold mine,” Dr Goldberg says. “If they could hook a new population on nicotine, they would have customers for life.”

Vaping isn’t regulated

Vaping isn’t regulated
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It is illegal to guy, sell or use liquid nicotine in Australia without a prescription. Yet e-cigarettes are easily available to purchase online from overseas vendors, as well as under-the-counter from unscrupulous shop owners. Since there is no regulation, it’s not known what other chemicals are being used to deliver nicotine. “When you vape, you are bringing unknown chemicals into your body that aren’t being regulated,” Dr Goldberg says. “We don’t know what’s in the devices,” he adds.

Read on for some unhealthy habits that are worse for you than you thought.

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Vaping may increase your risk of lung disease

Vaping may increase your risk of lung disease
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Even before recent reports of the serious and deadly lung diseases, vaping was known to have a negative effect on the respiratory system. “Early on, I would see patients who were vaping have an asthma-like syndrome ­– they were coughing and wheezing,” Dr Goldberg says. “We were seeing patients developing lung disease from vaping.” Some flavoured varieties of vape juice also contain diacetyl, a chemical known to cause a rare and serious lung condition called bronchiolitis obliterans.

Check out these ways to get lung fit!

Vaping may increase your risk of heart disease

Vaping may increase your risk of heart disease
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Nicotine causes an increase in blood pressure, heart rate, flow of blood to the heart, and narrowing of the arteries, according to the Heart Foundation of Australia. It may also contribute to hardening of the arterial walls, or arteriosclerosis, which can play a role in heart attacks. Since many vaping devices are used for nicotine, it stands to reason that vaping may also raise the risk of heart disease. “But we just don’t know what the long-term effects will be because the devices haven’t been around that long,” says Dr Goldberg. Preliminary research suggests that vaping may be linked to a higher risk of stroke, heart attacks and heart disease, according to a study presented at a medical conference in 2019.

Don’t miss these silent signs you may have clogged arteries.

Vaping might not help you quit smoking

Vaping might not help you quit smoking
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When vaping was first introduced, it was sometimes used as a smoking-cessation tool although it was not approved by the TGA for this purpose. “Patients would start out with a high-nicotine vape and then gradually replace it with water until they were getting almost no nicotine,” Dr Goldberg says. “This was a way of weaning them off cigarettes.” He did have a couple of patients who successfully stopped smoking using this method, but others simply became addicted to another device that delivers nicotine. A 2019 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that people who switched to vaping were more likely to be off traditional cigarettes a year later than those who tried nicotine-replacement products (18 per cent vs 10 per cent) but they were also more likely to still be using their smoking cessation tool (80 per cent vs 9 per cent). During the investigation of the vaping-associated deaths, the CDC is encouraging people to avoid vaping, particularly products that contain THC. However, they have stopped short of telling smokers to go back to cigarettes, which have a decades-long, well established risk of potentially life-threatening conditions like lung cancer, COPD and heart attacks.

“If you are an adult who used e-cigarettes containing nicotine to quit cigarette smoking, do not return to smoking cigarettes,” the CDC says.

There are better ways to quit smoking

There are better ways to quit smoking
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“There are other delivery devices for nicotine that are very successful and have been used for many years,” says Dr Goldberg. These include nicotine patches, gums and nasal sprays. “They’re available over the counter and are regulated by the FDA.” Prescription medication can also be helpful for smoking cessation. Speak to your doctor about those options.

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