Vaping and e-cigarettes are sometimes promoted as ways to help cigarette smokers quit. But what about the reverse? Can vaping lead to regular cigarette smoking later on?
A Johns Hopkins cardiologist shares his insights on the potential dangers of vaping, and why avoiding cigarettes and their electronic alternatives is the healthier choice.
Vaping: Is It Safe? Or Just Safer Than Smoking?
Michael Blaha, M.D., M.P.H. , a professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins, directs clinical research at the Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease.
Blaha says that although vaping may not be as dangerous as smoking, it’s not a safe practice.
Does Vaping Lead to Cigarette Smoking?
Some e-cigarettes and vape “juices” contain nicotine, an addictive substance in tobacco. As of 2016, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies e-cigarettes and nicotine-laced vape juice as tobacco products and regulates them accordingly.
Blaha says that while the FDA has recently taken a stance that is more toward what it calls “modified risk” tobacco products that cause less harm than smoking, vaping is certainly more harmful than not using anything at all.
“Kids have such a poor understanding of vaping products — it’s extraordinary,” he says. “Sometimes they don’t know that there’s nicotine in them or what the dose is, or what the impact of the flavorings might be.
“But because using these products is more socially acceptable than smoking, they might think that electronic cigarettes are perfectly safe.”
Are Vapes and E-Cigarettes a Gateway to Smoking for Teens?
In addition to nicotine, artificial flavorings and other chemicals that users inhale, Blaha is concerned about some of the behavioral aspects of vaping.
“I think perhaps the #1 concern about vaping right now is the so-called gateway effect. Our own literature suggests that 2 million young adults use electronic cigarettes as their first nicotine-based product. They’re not trying to quit smoking — they’ve never smoked before.”
Nicotine in any form is highly addictive. Vaping, using nicotine-laced products, can become a tenacious and expensive habit, and kids might not stop there.
Blaha says there’s evidence that young people who vape are more likely to go on to use illicit drugs and tobacco products such as cigarettes.
“We might be causing the next smoking epidemic through young people getting addicted to electronic cigarettes early in life,” he says.