FORT HOOD, Texas--While some may believe that vaping would be a better option than smoking cigarettes, it definitely is not and the Health Promotion/Tobacco Cessation professionals at Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center caution against using any vaping products.
Vape products, including e-cigs, e-cigarettes, vapes and e-hookahs, are electronic nicotine delivery devices that heat a flavored or non-flavored nicotine-infused liquid into a vapor that users inhale.
Vaping has largely replaced cigarette smoking among service members, according to a 2015 survey commissioned by the Department of Defense. The survey found 11 percent of troops said they used e-cigarettes daily, compared to seven percent who said they smoked regular cigarettes every day.
"E-cigs are being marketed as a healthier way to smoke, but the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) has not approved e-cigs as a tobacco cessation device and has prohibited manufacturers from making health claims," said Capt. Kristopher Kohlbacher, deputy chief, Preventive Medicine. "E-cig/vaping is a largely unregulated industry with an unknown safety profile. E-cigarettes can contain just as much or even more nicotine than tobacco cigarettes and e-cigarette cartridges (e-liquids) or oils may also contain harmful contaminants. Second hand vaping product exposure is also a potential concern as its effects are not fully known."
The dangers of vaping has come to light as high numbers of vaping-related deaths and illnesses have been documented in recent months across the country. According to the CDC, As of December 4, cases of hospitalized E-cigarette or Vaping Associated Lung Injury (EVALI), were reported by all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and 2 U.S. territories (Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands). Forty-eight deaths have been confirmed in 25 states and the District of Columbia.
Since the EVALI outbreak began, a variety of investigations into the illnesses have pointed to nicotine and other ingredients in vaping products and product sources to be problematic. Kohlbacher said that while an individual chemical culprit has not been definitively identified as the cause of the outbreak, Vitamin E acetate (used as a carrier oil) has been listed as a chemical of concern and THC containing products have also been linked to most of the cases.
"The CDC and (Army) Public Health Center are advising consumers not to buy e-cigarette or vaping products off the street, and not modify or add any substances to these products that are not intended by the manufacturer," Kohlbacher said. "Even when used under manufacturer-designed methods, the safety of vaping products cannot be assured. Avoiding all exposure to vaping products is the only way to eliminate vaping-related health risks."
Spc. Daniel Basaldua is concerned about the potential health risks related to vaping, and is attending the Tobacco Cessation class to help him quit. He had been smoking on and off for three years when a friend talked him into using e-cigarettes.
"I believed the hype that it was cheaper and safer than regular cigarettes. It is a bit cheaper, but there's still a cost involved that I really don't need. And while I currently don't have any health issues from vaping, based on what's happening now, I don't think vaping is all that safe for me either," he said.
Vaping didn't turn out to be a better option for him, Basaldua said, as it basically just replaced one bad habit with another and still didn't help him with his nicotine addiction. "Since attending the Tobacco Cessation class, I'm confident I'll be able to quit for good this time. Instead of unhealthy work-arounds, they're helping me focus on behavioral changes that will help me kick the habit," he added.
The Health Promotion/Tobacco Cessation program can help anyone trying to quit using tobacco or vaping, Kohlbacher said.
"There are entirely safe and effective FDA approved methods offered throughout Fort Hood and we can help you with the process. CRDAMC outlying clinics/medical homes offer services through health care providers who can determine the best individual approach to guide tobacco cessation efforts. Our group and individual information classes help keep you motivated to quit as well," Kohlbacher said.
The AWC's Freedom from Tobacco program is available to all active duty Soldiers, family members, retirees and DA civilians, no referral necessary. Call (254) 288-8488 to enroll or find out more information.
To learn more about the health risks associated with using vape products, visit the CDC website https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/e-cigarettes/severe-lung-disease.html or the Army Public Health Center website https://phc.amedd.army.mil/topics/healthyliving/tfl/Pages/Vaping.aspx.