By now, the risks of smoking tobacco are pretty well publicized. In many circles, if you want to raise a few eyebrows and provoke a few scowls, all you have to do is light up a cigarette in their breathing space.
Curiously, though, e-cigarettes rarely seem to incite such negative responses. In fact, in recent years, the use of e-cigarettes, or “vaping,” has rapidly gained popularity among nearly every demographic group, from teens and college students to their grandparents. Males and females, rich and poor alike, are vaping regularly, and they’re doing it practically everywhere, from middle and high school restrooms to retirement homes.
It’s not difficult to understand why: In the face of growing public resistance to smoking tobacco, e-cigarettes have been heavily marketed as a safer and far more socially acceptable alternative to traditional cigars and cigarettes. Further, they’re designed expressly to appeal to the widest possible customer base, featuring an array of flavors, from mint to menthol to fruit and candy varieties, that will appeal to almost every taste (1).
In addition, the most popular e-cigarette brands, such as JUUL, are designed for discretion. Many are shaped like USB flash drives to fool the uninitiated. And so, an addiction is born and grows right before the eyes of unwitting parents, teachers, employers, caregivers, and family members.
If you are one of the millions who has already tried e-cigarettes, whether as a tobacco cessation tool or simply out of curiosity, you may already be well aware of the rarely discussed harms of vaping. From illness to impulsivity to addiction, e-cigarettes can engender a constellation of risks. They are by no means an innocuous pastime.
Vaping’s Dirty Little Secret
The stark reality, though, is that while e-cigarettes may, indeed, be somewhat safer than traditional cigarettes and cigars, they are by no means safe or healthy (2, 3, 4). In addition to the physical risks associated with vaping comes a host of emotional, psychological, and cognitive harms as well (5). Unfortunately, though, these risks are scarcely publicized and therefore largely unknown until the addiction has taken hold and the harm has been done (6, 7).
The Physiological Effects
A significant body of research indicates that vaping can produce significant physical harm. The first and most well-documented risks are to the lungs. The aerosols produced by e-cigarettes are by no means just “flavored water vapor,” as so much of the hype surrounding vaping in recent years has suggested. Rather, the compounds produced in e-cigarette aerosols can significantly increase the risk of both acute and chronic lung damage, including respiratory failure. Importantly, these risks pertain not only to vapers themselves but also to those exposed to secondhand e-cigarette smoke (8, 9, 10).
However, the pulmonary impacts are not the only ones to be wary of when you vape. There’s mounting evidence that e-cigarettes can pose significant cardiovascular harms as well, particularly with regular, long-term use (11, 12). For former tobacco smokers choosing to migrate to e-cigarettes to reduce the cardiopulmonary effects of smoking, the evidence is not promising. In fact, when vapers have been compared with exclusive tobacco smokers in clinical studies, the reduction in vapers’ heart and lung risk has been marginal at best (13).
Emotional and Psychological Risks
If the physical effects of vaping are still little known, its emotional and psychological impacts are even less so. However, a growing body of research is linking e-cigarette use to sometimes severe behavioral, developmental, and psychological harms, including impulsivity and depression (1, 14). These risks are especially great for adolescents and young adults, in whom exposure to e-cigarettes can detrimentally impact and disrupt brain development (1).
The emotional and mental health risks don’t end there, though. The use of e-cigarettes is not only strongly associated with addiction, but also with the progression to the use of tobacco, alcohol, and more illicit drugs (15, 16).
This may be due in part to the fact that harmful substances can be found in the most seemingly innocuous variations of e-cigarettes. Studies have shown, for instance, that most devices advertised to contain “no nicotine” do, in fact, include this dangerous and highly addictive compound (1). Many varieties of e-cigarette also enable users to add substances other than nicotine or the various vaping flavors currently flooding the market. Many brands can be used to smoke cannabis and other substances (1).
Unfortunately, those who find themselves suffering the emotional and psychological harms of vaping addiction are likely to experience feelings of isolation, guilt, and shame. After all, e-cigarettes have been widely publicized as innocent recreation, a “safe” alternative to conventional tobacco. Few are aware of the substantial risks of addiction, or of the physical and mental health harms connected to vaping.
How Bayshore Can Help
If you have come to Bayshore for help in overcoming an addiction to drugs or alcohol, then you may find that integrating support in learning to abstain from vaping should also be a part of your overall recovery plan. Those who have developed a dependency on e-cigarettes may find themselves battling their addiction alone. If you are one of them, you may feel isolated, anxious, perhaps even misunderstood. But you are by no means alone. Vaping addiction is real, but it can be overcome.
At Bayshore, our expertise in providing customized addiction recovery solutions is tailored to the unique needs and goals of our clients. That means that, even as you are learning to live your life free of drugs or alcohol, you may also choose to pursue a life free of vaping. Seeking treatment for a vaping addiction is not a luxury. For many, it is a physical and mental health necessity, an essential stepping stone to the full and dependency-free life you deserve.
Bayshore’s proven approach is a holistic one, centering on the whole person, not simply the addiction. Because we limit the number of clients we serve to six at one time, we are able to work closely with our clients to devise an integrative and comprehensive approach to recovery. This includes not only addressing the roots of the addiction(s) but also developing self-care and lifestyle management strategies to enable you to achieve your goals and live your best life.
For instance, at Bayshore, we offer training in yoga, meditation, and mindfulness to help our clients cultivate proven techniques for coping with stress and anxiety. Learning to productively and healthfully manage these challenging, but unavoidable, emotions is often the first and most important step in breaking the dependency (17, 18).
In addition, Bayshore’s team of onsite mental health experts offers counseling and support, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help you free yourself from addiction of all kinds (19). Depending on your particular needs and goals, your recovery team at Bayshore may prescribe short-term medications to support your success through the initial stages of recovery, as your mind and body detoxify (20).
The popularity of e-cigarettes has soared in recent years, a phenomenon that can be attributed to prevalent misconceptions that vaping is a “harmless” alternative to conventional cigars and cigarettes. The reality, though, is that vaping can not only be highly addictive, but it also brings with it a constellation of significant physical and mental health risks. Nevertheless, it is possible to break your vaping dependency. Bayshore’s specialized, patient-centered, and evidence-based approach to addiction recovery can help you live the healthy, happy, and smoke-free life you want and deserve.