The Realities of Vaping
Learn about the health risks vaping presents and resources to help you quit.
If you randomly ask 20 people on campus whether they have tried a vaping product or not, at least 3 of them would say “yes”. As the popularity of vaping among youths and young adults becomes harder and harder to ignore, about two years ago, Wang introduced vaping as an emerging epidemic in the SWC article, Escape the Vape. Even now, rates of vaping are on the rise, and it is time to bring our attention to this commonly used substance.
What is vaping?
By the definition given by the government of Canada, “vaping is the act of inhaling and exhaling an aerosol produced by a vaping product, such as an electronic cigarette”. The electronic cigarette (or e-cig) heats a liquid into a vapour, then the vapour is condensed into an aerosol. Most vaping substances are flavoured and can contain nicotine. Sometimes the nicotine level can be higher than the ones in a typical tobacco cigarette. It is also possible to consume cannabis through vaping, however, in this article we will only be focusing on vaping nicotine.
Why do some people vape?
- …as a way to cope with negative emotions or feelings.
- …to boost their social image.
- …to save money as it has a relatively low cost than smoking.
- …to quit regular cigarettes.
- …as it offers flavour choices.
- …as it can be used indoors.
Youths start vaping because…
- …their friends smoke.
- …they want to feel more “grownup”.
- …the industry makes it seem normal and common.
How much nicotine is in a vape compared to a cigarette?
When purchasing a vape, you have some choices in terms of how much nicotine is in the pod you purchase. Here are the most common amounts available:
- 0% – No nicotine contained.
- 0 – 3% – 0 – 30 mg/mL of nicotine (the most common amount in commercial vape juice and the most flavours).
- 3 – 5% – 30 – 50 mg/mL of nicotine.
- 5% or more – The highest concentration possible (50+ mg/mL).
Using one commercial vaping pod as an example, when the pod has a capacity of 2 mL and a nicotine concentration of 3%, it contains about 51 mg of nicotine in atomized vapour.
For cigarettes, an average cigarette contains about 10 to 12 mg of nicotine, but only 1.1 to 1.8 mg of nicotine will be inhaled by the end of each cigarette. For a pack of 20 cigarettes, you will inhale between 22 to 36 mg of nicotine.
Therefore, as mentioned before, it is possible to consume a vape that contains a higher nicotine dose than an average cigarette.
Is vaping less harmful than smoking cigarettes?
Yes, when consuming the same amount of nicotine, vaping is less harmful than smoking cigarettes as vaping products usually contain lower levels of several harmful chemicals found in tobacco smoke. If you are a smoker, completely switching to vaping will provide some short-term general health improvements and may improve cessation rates.
However, vaping is still not safe. Even when used as a cessation tool, it still presents serious risks to your health.
What are the potential risks of vaping?
- Research suggests vaping is bad for the heart and lungs.
- Nicotine in vaping is addictive and can affect memory and concentration, as well as altering teen brain development.
- Vaping liquid containing nicotine can be very harmful to young children if swallowed or absorbed through the skin.
- Even though the main liquids in vaping products are considered safe for use, the long-term safety of the chemicals remains unknown.
- Chemicals used for flavour have not been tested to see if they are safe to breathe in.
- The heating process of the vaping product may create new chemicals or contaminants that are harmful to humans.
What do we know about vaping and COVID-19?
Studies suggest that individuals who vape are at a higher risk of COVID-19 infection through frequent hand-to-mouth contact when using vaping devices in public. This statement has been acknowledged by the World Health Organization (WHO). Aerosols generated by vaping products can also play a role in the transmission of the virus. Evidence shows that vaping impacts lung function, which increases the severity of COVID-19 outcomes. Because of these important findings, experts recommend reducing or quitting vaping to lessen the risk.
How can I quit vaping nicotine?
Identify why you want to quit
By clearly identifying why you want to quit vaping, you will find the motivation that helps with validating your decision and changing this habit.
Some examples can be:
- Health reasons
- Money that you will save by quitting
- Protecting loved ones from being exposed to second-hand vaping
- Freedom of not feeling agitated when can’t vape
There are no right or wrong reasons, as long as they work for you and keep you motivated, you are good to go!
Think about timing
When setting a time to start your plan, consider choosing a time when you are not under a lot of stress. Some people find it helpful to choose a day with significance, such as their birthday or New Year’s Day.
Cold-turkey v.s. gradually quitting
Cold-turkey means to immediately stop using the substance without any help from medication or nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). Evidence has shown people who quit using the cold-turkey method are more likely to quit successfully and more likely to be abstinent than those who quit gradually. Gradually quitting can still work, just remember to keep your end goal of quitting completely in sight.
Identify your main triggers
Triggers are the physical, social, or emotional cues that make you want to vape. Physical cues can be withdrawal symptoms. Some possible withdrawal symptoms are: mood changes, feelings of anxiety and depression, tiredness, difficulty sleeping, headaches, trouble focusing and increased hunger. One social cue example would be seeing other people vaping, and emotional cues can be when you are feeling stressed, bored, lonely, etc. By being mindful of potential triggers, you are able to plan out and develop strategies that can increase your success rate.
Have a strategy for withdrawal and cravings
Some things you can do when dealing with withdrawals and cravings are:
- Deep breathing
- Walk in nature (check out this great article to find out where to go)
- Playing a game
Let those close to you know about your plan
By doing so, your close ones can offer encouragement and provide support to help you finish your journey. You may also set boundaries, such as asking a friend to not vape around you or letting others know you don’t want to go to places where people are vaping. If people are not so supportive, restate your boundaries or maybe take time away from the relationship.
Know that you’ll probably have some slip-ups, and that’s OK
According to the American Cancer Society, only 4% – 7% of people quit successfully on a given attempt without medication or other support.
Try not to give yourself a hard time, instead:
- Remind yourself how far you’ve come
- Commit to quit right again and remind yourself why you want to quit
- Revisit your coping strategies
- Vary your usual routine to avoid situations that make you want to vape
Consider working with a professional
If needed, you can seek medical support from a professional, such as prescribed medication and nicotine replacement therapy (NRT).
NRT delivers nicotine into your body through a different method than smoking/vaping. Research shows that using NRT doubles the odds of quitting success. Some forms of NRTs are patches, gum, inhaler, and lozenges. If you think NRT would be beneficial to you, please consult with your doctor. NRT doesn’t help address emotional vaping triggers, so getting more support is always a good idea.
For emotional support, you can try counselling. Counsellors can provide confidential 1-1 support, help you develop a structured quit plan, and answer questions you may have regarding quitting vaping.
What are some resources to help me with my cessation?
A wellness program offered by SWC on Wednesdays from 5:30 to 7:00 pm. Participants will be introduced to science-based 4-Point Program to resolve problems with any addiction. People who are still engaging with a substance or behaviour are also welcome to join! For more information or to register, email Madison Behr (firstname.lastname@example.org).
STOP (Smoking Therapy for Ontario Patients) is a collaborative program between Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and local Public Health Units. Call 905-540-5566 ext. 1 to see if you are eligible. Eligible participants will attend an information session and be offered 5 weeks of no-cost nicotine patches.
Smokers’ Helpline is a free, confidential service. They offer support and information about quitting smoking and vaping. They have bilingual and interpreter services in over 100 languages. From Smokers’ Helpline, you can get help with developing a personal quit plan and be referred to programs and services in your community.