If you think that smoking cigarettes is a dying trend, think again. Newer forms of smoking, which include e-cigarettes, vaping, and dabbing, are becoming more popular among teenagers and young adults. Companies have been touting these products as healthier tobacco alternatives and helpful ways of quitting smoking, but the addiction and risks related to nicotine intake are still present.
“Vaping technology, which heats liquid nicotine to create vapor which the user then inhales, does not contain tobacco. Because of this, many people think that vaping poses little risk to their health—and they couldn’t be more wrong,” said Dr. Fares Mouchantaf, a pulmonologist at Beverly Hospital. “Young adults are coming in with a smoker’s cough, sores in their mouths and throats, and signs of gum disease. There are still a great number of harmful substances in e-cigarettes that can cause long-term damage to your health.”
A smoker’s cough is another term of chronic bronchitis. This type of illness is defined by wheezing and a productive cough that don’t go away with time. When inhaled, nicotine vapors can irritate the lungs and inflame airway tissues. These respiratory effects can last for a long time, and vapers show some of the same lung symptoms as cigarette smokers.
“E-cigarette use has shot up 900 percent among high schoolers from 2011 to 2015,” said Dr. Mouchantaf. “The Surgeon General has stated that e-cigarette use by children and young adults is a major public health concern. The long-term effects of e-cigarettes in young adults is still being studied, but we know that smokers with chronic bronchitis develop permanent lung damage later in life.”
Additionally, a more potent form of marijuana, called ‘dabs’, is on the radar of law enforcement officials and public health departments. Dabbing is the practice of using a highly concentrated extract of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient of marijuana. Dabbing is particularly dangerous because of its high percentage of THC, which can lead to rapid heartbeat, blackouts, psychosis, and hallucinations when consumed.
Dabs can be consumed in a pen similar to an e-cigarette, or in a heated oil rig with a water pipe. The latter method poses increased risk of inhaling contaminants, other gases, and injuries associated with heating the rig while being cognitively impaired.
“The risk of abusing marijuana increases exponentially when using a concentrated product,” said Dr. Mouchantaf. “Marijuana has become legalized in some states, but regulations have not been made for these newer forms of the drug. There are many unknown health risks that still need to be studied, especially if these products are not understood and produced in an unregulated fashion.”
For more information on how to quit smoking, talk to your Lahey Health physician.