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Why e-cigarettes are dangerous

For years, companies have been pushing “smokeless” alternatives to cigarettes, billing them as a safer way to use nicotine. But in the past year, the dangers of e-cigarettes have become a hot topic as several people across the country were admitted to hospitals with mysterious symptoms initially linked to vaping, Juuling, and e-cigarettes.

As the stories spread, the truth of the situation has become more difficult to pin down. So, what are vapes and Juuls? Why are e-cigarettes dangerous? We’re getting to the bottom of it.

What are e-cigarettes?

Electronic cigarettes are battery operated devices used to inhale an aerosol. These usually come in the form of an oily liquid (“e-juice” or “e-liquid”) which can contain nicotine or be nicotine-free . They also come in a variety of different flavors from fruity to dessert-based to more traditional “tobacco.” There are currently 460 e-cigarette brands distributing some version of these devices which range in power, size, and potency.

What makes e-cigarettes dangerous?

While there are e-cigarettes that do not contain nicotine—or even contain less nicotine than a traditional cigarette—they still contain potentially harmful chemicals. In fact, it is the unknown effects of these chemicals, not the nicotine itself, that make e-cigarettes so potentially dangerous.

A study found that the vapor does, in fact, contain carcinogens and toxic chemicals. It also indicated the presence of a toxic metal known to cause breathing problems and disease. Furthermore, the prevalence of vaping among teens is of concern as early exposure to nicotine changes the reward center of the brain which can lead to mood disorders, issues with impulse control, and future experimentation with other drugs.

How to resist the urge to smoke—and quit for good

UPMC can support your journey toward  living tobacco-free. Here are some resources available to you as a Health Plan member:

  • UPMC MyHealth Ready to Quit™—This six-week program is designed to help you plan to quit, stick to it, and stay with it. You will receive a workbook and talk with a telephonic care manager to stay on track.
  • Odyssey by UPMC—This unique app is designed to completed at your own pace or guided by a care manager.
  • Prescription for Wellness—Talk with your doctor about wanting to quit smoking. They can prescribe a care manager to help you succeed.
  • 1-800-PA-QUIT-NOW—This state resource provides several program options designed to help you quit smoking.

While e-cigarettes may seem like a safer alternative for nicotine use, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide these words of caution: “if you are not currently using e-cigarettes or smoking, don’t start.” While they may be free of the things that make traditional cigarettes so bad for you, the evidence that they are completely safe is not yet verified. It’s safest not to start.

And if you’re looking to quit, you can always discuss your options with your doctor or one of our UPMC Care Managers.