Is vaping as bad as smoking?

Lung Health

by David Mason

Jan 12, 2016

Fortunately, in the United States, smoking is decreasing over the last decade. As a surgeon who treats lung cancer, this makes me very happy.

However, a new trend has developed over recent years with the use of electronic cigarettes or vaping. Vaping or e-cigarettes is inhalation of a vaporized substance typically containing nicotine that is atomized, as opposed to ignited or burned. It is done using an electronic vaporizer which looks very similar to a traditional cigarette.

Some argue that this substitute is a better alternative than traditional smoking, but I have mixed feelings about e-cigarettes.

It is not clear at all whether electronic cigarettes are safer than tobacco and a whole field of research is emerging to study this question. Most certainly, it is not at all clear whether e-cigarette use is helpful in quitting smoking, and it is not presently approved for that indication.

I do believe that e-cigarettes most likely carry less harmful effects to a person’s health than a standard cigarette. However, I do not feel that they are totally harmless. I am most concerned that the habit of e-cigarette use might over time lead to increased cigarette use, although this is entirely unproven. However, as a public health concern this is a real issue and currently being researched.

It is important to realize that it is clearly better not to smoke any form of cigarette.

In addition, stopping smoking is best for a person’s global lung and cardiovascular health. This cannot be overemphasized.

In fact, many electronic cigarettes contain flavoring chemicals that are not regulated by the FDA. This poses potential risks to those who chose vaping or to use e-cigarettes.

According to a new study, nicotine might not be the only hazardous chemical tied to e-cigarettes. Researchers recently found that almost 75 percent of flavored e-cigs tested contained a dangerous chemical linked to a deadly lung disease called ‘Popcorn Lung.’ Roger Khetan, MD, an internal medicine physician on the medical staff at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas, recently discussed the health risks associated with this chemical.

Education opportunities are vital to preventing and treating lung cancer. It does not matter if you are young, old, a smoker or non-smoker, you may be affected by lung cancer.

As e-cigarettes and other smoking habits emerge, researchers and providers are examining these chemicals which are exposed in the air as you inhale, and what connection they may have to lung cancer.

There have been incredible advancements in diagnosing and treating lung cancer. We know it is essential to accurately determine the stages of lung cancer for proper treatment. Getting treated by a multidisciplinary team including pulmonologists, radiologists, oncologists, radiation oncologists and thoracic surgeons is critical to an optimal outcome. New, minimally invasive approaches to lung cancer surgery have made it safer and easier on patients with faster recovery.

Despite the advancements in medicine, the most effective way to minimize lung cancer is to decrease your risk. This means avoiding smoking altogether, whether it be cigarettes or vaping.

About the Author

David P. Mason, MD, is the chief of thoracic surgery and lung transplantation for the Baylor Scott & White Health system. Dr. Mason is an international leader in the field of lung transplantation. Before joining Baylor Scott & White in 2014, he was on the surgical staff at Johns Hopkins University and the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio. He leads the department of thoracic surgery at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas and the Center for Thoracic Surgery. Dr. Mason has broad experience in all aspects of thoracic surgery. He pioneered many minimally invasive techniques and is a recognized expert in the treatment of locally advanced lung cancer, esophageal cancer, hiatal hernias, reflux disease, as well as the surgical treatment of emphysema. Dr. Mason has many research interests and is widely published in all areas of thoracic surgery. He is the author of numerous articles and book chapters. He is the member of multiple international societies and leadership committees.

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