Is Vaping Bad for Your Heart?
Sarah Kaddour·February 18, 2020
As e-cigarette use by young people reaches epidemic proportions, we often think about how vaping could hurt your body, mostly your lungs. In honor of American Heart Month, doctors also stress that vaping seriously impacts your cardiovascular system too.
“Any damage to your lungs or body is still damage and should be avoided,” Dr. Anastasia Gentles, NightLight Pediatric Urgent Care founder and Chief Medical Officer.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the benefits of stopping tobacco and vaping includes lowered risk for lung cancer and other types of cancer; reduced risk for heart disease and stroke; reduced heart disease risk within one to two years of quitting; and reduced respiratory symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. For women specifically, there is a reduced risk for infertility and reduced risk of having a low birth weight baby.
Nicotine, an addictive substance, affects the inside of your blood vessels and your platelets, tiny cells that help blood clot. Ultimately, that kind of damage and stress can lead to heart attacks, heart failure, and heart rhythm problems. Plus, studies have shown that vaping e-cigs raises your systolic blood pressure.
Smoking is the single biggest cause of preventable death and disease in the nation.
On Sept. 1, 2019, Texas became the 18th state in the nation to raise the minimum age for tobacco purchase to 21.
According to a report by the National Academy of Medicine, the policy of raising the minimum age of purchase for tobacco products from 18 to 21 will likely decrease the prevalence of adult tobacco use in the U.S. by 12% and reduce mortality associated with tobacco illness by 10% over time.
The Texas Health Journal states the 12% decrease in use, for children born between 2000 and 2019, would translate to approximately 220,000 fewer premature deaths in their adulthood. Approximately 50,000 fewer people in this cohort would die from lung cancer, and an estimated 4.2 million fewer years of life would be lost overall. The reduction in use among women would also likely lead to a significant reduction in preterm birth.
The Texas ban includes electronic cigarettes and other forms of tobacco. The Texas 21 coalition contended with opposition from the traditional tobacco industry, as well as from the increasingly well-resourced e-cigarette manufacturing and retail industries, when advocating for the tobacco sale age to be raised.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse found that 66% of young adults think electronic cigarettes contain ‘just flavoring’. Manufacturers are not currently required to report ingredients on their packaging, therefore, users are not aware of what is actually in them.
How do I know my child is vaping?
According to the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey, 27.5% of high school students and 10.5% of middle school students have reported vaping in the last 30 days as e-cigarettes have become the most commonly used tobacco product by U.S. adolescents. The number of youth using e-cigarettes rose from 3.6 million in 2018 to more than 5 million in 2019.
According to the CDC, most teens who smoke e-cigarettes are using aerosol pods that contain very high levels of nicotine, which is harmful to developing brains. This aerosol may contain high concentrations of irritants, toxins, and carcinogens, such as nickel, tin, and lead, and have been linked to markers of cardiovascular disease and brain seizures. In addition, 2,758 hospitalized cases and 64 deaths linked to e-cigarette or vaping product use associated lung injury have been confirmed in the United States.
Symptoms or signs to look out for if you suspect your child is vaping:
- Unexplained Sweet Scent: Although the vapor produced by e-cigarettes can be either odorless or scented, given the choice, most teenagers will choose the scented (or flavored) vapor.
- Pens and USB Drives that Don’t Look Normal: E-cigs come in many forms, but the most common e-cigs among teens are JUULs that resemble a USB flash drive and vape pens that resemble traditional pens.
- Skipping the Caffeine: Some e-cig users suddenly find themselves developing sensitivity to caffeine. If your teen used to be hitting Starbucks regularly and is now suddenly passing on their favorite caffeinated drinks, this could be a sign.
- Increased Thirst: Dehydration, often described as dry or cotton mouth, is actually a fairly common side effect of vaping. Therefore, if you notice your teen drinking more water than they typically do or you happen to notice other signs of dehydration such as dark circles under their eyes, you may want to dive a little deeper to determine the cause.
- Nosebleeds: Typically, when a person vapes they exhale the vapor through their nose which can cause the inside of their nostrils to become dried triggering random nosebleeds.
- Bloody Sores in the Mouth / Smoker’s Cough
- Unfamiliar Batteries and Chargers: While some vape pens can be charged with a simple USB cable, most require batteries. And, since an e-cig vape pen battery typically only lasts two hours with constant use, the battery needs to be charged regularly.
Not only are more high school students vaping, they’re doing it more than before. CDC stated in September 2019 that 27.5% of U.S. teens reported using an e-cigarette in the previous 30 days, up from 20.8% in 2018 and 12% in 2017.
Kicking the Habit
Physicians who want to tackle this problem need to screen patients specifically for vaping, and add vaping to electronic medical records. One of the most effective ways to counsel young people is to praise them for being smart enough to ignore tobacco industry ads.
Resources Available to Teens
The Texas Department of State Health Services offers a YES QUIT Line at 1-877-YES-QUIT. Quit line services are available in English and Spanish, and include text messaging and other online resources. Your primary care provider can refer you to this program for counseling with a trained tobacco cessation specialist. Certain requirements may need to be met.
Multicomponent treatments, such as nicotine replacement therapy (e.g., nicotine patches, gum, or lozenges) in combination with counseling, are generally more effective in helping people quit smoking. Nicotine replacement therapy helps to handle the physical symptoms of withdrawal by gradually reducing nicotine intake over time rather than stopping outright, while counseling is useful for providing psychological support and helping to develop skills essential for kicking the habit.
Nicotine cessation products may be available with no out-of-pocket cost under certain insurances with an appropriate prescription.
This past month, Be Vape Free launched a nationwide initiative to provide standards-aligned, no-cost, e-cigarette prevention resources for educators teaching grades 5-12. Be Vape Free will serve to combat the growing vaping epidemic by arming educators, parents, and communities with easy-to-use tools that will help students make smart, informed, and healthy choices for life.