What All Women Need to Know About Vaping

woman vaping

We all know smoking cigarettes is bad news. Keep doing it and your lungs will turn black and you'll end up having to hold a little device up to your voice box to speak -- a look that even the Kardashians couldn't pull off. So thank goodness for e-cigarettes, right?

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Um, maybe ... not.

These battery-powered devices, which turn nicotine into a vapor that you then inhale, are still fairly new, and the research about them is scant. And that means that whether or not they carry serious health risks is still being sussed out.

The Stir asked several experts to share what we know so far about vaping: 

The Maybe-Not-So-Bad News:

"The main benefit to vaping is that it's an alternative to cigarette smoking, which is the leading preventable cause of death in the US," says Sherry Ross, MD, an OB/GYN and women's health expert at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California. 

In fact, says Dr. Ross, "a recent study by Public Health England found that e-cigarettes are around 95 percent less harmful than smoking."

So there's that.

The Signs That "Hmmm, Maybe This Isn't Such a Great Idea":

But! Vaping isn't approved by the Food and Drug Administration. "Nor have there been adequate studies done to know what health risks truly exist," points out Dr. Ross.

Some common side effects of vaping, in case you didn't know, are dry skin, dry mouth, a rash or burning sensation on your face, puffy or dry eyes, and even a bloody nose.

And we don't need science to confirm all those are kind of icky and gross.

More from The Stir: 5 Signs Your Kid is 'Vaping'

Okay. Maybe You Should Back Away From That E-Cig, Nice and Slow, Before Someone Gets Hurt:

"Vaping has been marketed as 'safe,' almost the same way that cigarette smoking had been marketed 'safe' in the early 1930s," warns Homayoon Sanati, MD, medical oncologist and medical director of the MemorialCare Breast Center at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California.

The added ingredients to enhance e-cigs' flavor, says Dr. Sanati, "can cause tissue damage to the airway and lungs, and the nicotine itself can continue to cause known effects increasing blood pressure and the risk of coronary artery disease."

Erika Sward, assistant vice president of national advocacy at the American Lung Association, agrees that vaping's full dangers are not yet known. "There are literally hundreds of different brands and flavors that you can buy," says Sward, "and because they're unregulated, we don't know what's in them."

Almost all e-cigarettes do contain nicotine, "a drug we know is not safe," Sward says. And research shows that applies even to brands that are specifically labeled nicotine-free.

Because of that, vaping is obviously "not safe or effective for helping tobacco smokers quit," says Sward.

And although vaping doesn't produce smoke, you're still exposing yourself --- and others -- to chemicals that could be potentially dangerous. Some research has ID'd nasty chemicals like benzene and formaldehyde in e-cig emissions. So, obvs, Sward strongly cautions against vaping if you're pregnant, nursing, or around children.

The Bottom Line:

True, when you compare e-cigs against traditional cigarettes, they're most likely not as deadly. But that's true when you compare most things against tobacco, Sward says. "The real questions is, how dangerous are e-cigarettes?"

Since there are no hard and fast answers yet, you might do well to play it safe and cut back on, or even cut out, the vaping. 

Need help quitting? Contact the American Lung Association at 1-800-LUNG-USA to learn more about lung health, and for help quitting, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

 

 

Image via Oleg Baliuk/Shutterstock

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