It’s worse than you think. If you read my blog often, you know that I don’t use or approve of scare tactics. But vaping sort of snuck up on all of us and you need the facts! The use of electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes, represents an increasing and significant proportion of tobacco consumption. It poses a tremendous threat to oral health as well as systemic health and has the potential to decrease your healthy years. How does vaping influence your healthspan?
E-cigarettes have been viewed as the “healthy” alternative to cigarette smoking. Many of my dental patients have decreased or eliminated their cigarette habit and taken up vaping with the intent to improve their life, not create another problem. Here are a few of the reasons that people state that they have switched to vaping:
Believing that vaping is less harmful than cigarettes
Circumvention of smoke-free areas
An array of vaping flavors
Using e-cigarettes works by heating a liquid to generate an aerosol that the user inhales. The “e-liquid” usually consists of propylene glycol, glycerin, flavorings, water, and nicotine. THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is the main active ingredient of cannabis, is sometimes substituted for the nicotine. Although it is difficult to make a direct comparison, e-cigarette users tend to reach lower blood levels of nicotine than tobacco smokers.
Anti-tobacco advocates are openly concerned that irresponsible marketing has made vaping appealing to the young population that never intended to start smoking and has no history of tobacco usage. Fortunately, smoking had been decreasing among middle and high school students since 2014. But unfortunately that number has recently increased with the popularity of e-cigs. It is estimated that one in five high school students may now be using tobacco products. E-cigarette usage between 2017 and 2018 increased 78 percent among high school students and 48 percent among middle school students.
START SOMEWHERE learning the dangers of e-cigarettes:
1. Nicotine: The damaging effects of nicotine on gum tissue are well documented. It is a vasoconstrictor, which means that it decreases blood flow to the gum tissue and supporting bone. It also alters immune cell function, possibly making a person more prone to the devastating effects of gum disease. All of this increases the user’s chances of tooth decay, periodontal disease, halitosis, and tooth loss. Remember, periodontal disease affects the entire body. Please watch my brief TEDx talk on this subject for an overview. Although the percentage of nicotine is lower than traditional cigarettes, it is still present and still dangerous.
2. Propylene Glycol: This is the carrier product in e-cigarettes and is often abbreviated PG. It can be found in food processing and various edible items such as ice cream, liquid sweeteners, and whipped dairy products. PG is a colorless, thick liquid that is faintly sweet and breaks down in the mouth to acetic acid, lactic acid, and propionaldehyde. These byproducts bond to saliva, resulting in dry mouth or “xerostomia.” Healthy saliva is protective and dry mouth leads to an increase in tooth decay, gum disease, and other oral health problems.
3. Vegetable Glycerin and Flavorings: Vegetable Glycerine (VG) is a sweet tasting, odorless, colorless, and thick liquid that is used in a variety of pharmaceutical and personal products. It serves as a solvent, a sweetener, and reduces moisture loss from whatever it is in. Studies are indicating that the combination of VG with the flavorings can quadruple the ability of oral bacteria to stick to enamel. Because the vapor is thick, it goes into the pits and fissures of the teeth and allows Streptococcus mutans, the primary decay-causing bug, to cause decay. This is terrifying from my standpoint; it’s like the rampant “wildfire” decay that occurs in people who constantly sip on sugary soft drinks, suck on hard candy for extended periods of time, or are on pharmaceutical drugs that dry them out .
4. Adverse Events: E-cigarettes contain lithium batteries. Although the risk is considered small, a vape pen can explode due to overheating. Dennis Thombs, School of Public Health Dean at UNT Health Sciences Center, published a study estimating that adverse events are under-reported and are 40 times worse the US government appraisals.
Advertisers want us to think that e-cigarettes are a benign, safer alternative! The added flavoring attract younger users. Bottom line, vaping can be just as dangerous as smoking. I’ve really just addressed the dental-related issues here, but there are potentially many more lung, heart, and toxin concerns.
Your Healthspan Strategist,