Meigs Health Today: The Scoop on E-cigarettes, Vapes & Hookahs

By Sherry Hayman, Public Health Nurse

E-cigarettes are still fairly new and scientists are still learning about them. Here is what we know now…

E-cigarettes are sometimes called “e-cigs,” “vapes,” “e-hookahs,” “vape pens,” and “electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS)” and they come in many shapes and sizes. Most have a battery, a heating element, and a place to hold a liquid.  E-cigarettes produce an aerosol by heating a liquid that contains nicotine and other tobacco products, flavorings, and or chemicals that help to make the aerosol. Users inhale this aerosol into their lungs, often called “vaping”. Bystanders can also breathe in this aerosol when the user exhales into the air. Some e-cigarettes are made to look like regular cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. Some resemble pens, USB sticks, and other everyday items. Larger devices such as tank systems, or “mods,” do not resemble other tobacco products.  E-cigarettes can be used to deliver marijuana and other drugs.

Sherry Hayman, Public Health Nurse

The e-cigarette aerosol that users breathe from the device and exhale can contain harmful and potentially harmful substances, including nicotine.  Ultrafine particles which are inhaled deep into the lungs that contain cancer causing agents.  Some flavorings contain Diacetyl, a chemical linked to serious lung disease.  This aerosol can also contain heavy metals such as nickel, tin and lead.  It is difficult for consumers to know what e-cigarette products contain. For example, some e-cigarettes marketed as containing zero percent nicotine have been found to contain nicotine.Nicotine is highly addictive. It is toxic to developing fetuses, it is a health danger for pregnant women and their babies. Nicotine can also harm adolescent brain development.  

E-cigarettes can and have caused unintended injuries. Defective e-cigarette batteries have caused fires and explosions, some of which have resulted in serious injuries. Most explosions happened when the e-cigarette batteries were being charged. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) collects data to help address this issue. In addition, acute nicotine exposure can be toxic. Children and adults have been poisoned by swallowing, breathing, or absorbing e-cigarette liquid through their skin or eyes.

If you are interested in quitting, the Meigs County Health Department offers tobacco cessation counselling. Call Sherry Hayman RN, CTTS (Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist) at 740-992-6626 from 8 a.m.-noon or 1-4 p.m. Monday through Friday for an appointment to arrange a quit plan. It can take some people several attempts before successfully quitting so don’t be discouraged.