Concerning Trends Spur Vital Campaign to Help Smokers, Vapers Quit
5 min. read
About 34 million American adults still smoke cigarettes – while at least 2.5 million teenagers and an estimated 6 million young adults use smokeless tobacco products (e-cigarettes). Experts say e-cigs, or “vaping” devices, can cause serious health issues and can entice young users to try traditional tobacco products.
Smoking tobacco remains the single largest preventable cause of death and illness in the world. Smoking causes an estimated 480,000 deaths every year, or about 1 in 5 deaths. It is the single, largest cause of lung cancer cases, and lung cancer is the No. 1 cancer killer.
“Lung cancer develops in patients as a result of the 6,000 to 7,000 co-carcinogens and carcinogens that are released from the tobacco leaf,” explains Mark Dylewski, M.D., chief of general thoracic surgery at Baptist Health Miami Cancer Institute. “And now we have young people using vaping products while not realizing the health consequences. These vape pens produce more nicotine per puff than a routine combustible cigarette. Our young folks are thinking that these vape pens are safer, less addictive — and it’s absolutely untrue.”
A new study has found that cigarette smokers who quite before age 35 can achieve a “substantial reversal of risk” of early death from any cause when compared to those who never smoked. For those who quit between the ages of 45 and 64, the decrease in risk was at 66 percent, researchers found.
The rates of cigarette smoking have substantially declined over the past several decades — from 42 percent in 1965 to 14 percent in 2019, but the COVID-19 pandemic has had a concerning impact on access to tobacco products. For the first time in two decades, cigarette sales increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, the increasing popularity of vaping is creating a new generation of potential tobacco users, health experts fear.
Vaping’s Concerning Popularity Among Teens, Young Adults
Last month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released federal data from the 2022 National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS) on use of e-cigarettes or “vaping” devises. The survey found that 14.1 percent (2.14 million) of high school students and 3.3 percent (380,000) of middle school students reported current e-cigarette use.
“Both cigarettes and vaping liquids contain nicotine, which is the ingredient that makes them highly addictive,” explains Samuel Richter, M.D., radiation oncologist at Lynn Cancer Institute at Boca Raton Regional Hospital. “E-cigarettes contain other harmful substances including certain amounts of metals and chemicals, and they can also have other ingredients of unknown effect.”
Moreover, the nicotine in vaping devices can lead to dependence and addiction, he adds. “This can make a person more likely to start smoking regular cigarettes,” said Dr. Richter. “And then, of course, we know that smoking tobacco is known to increase a person’s risk of serious health problems, including heart disease, lung disease, kidney failure, infection and cancer.”
Earlier this y ear, FDA said it plans to establish “a maximum nicotine level” to reduce the addictiveness of cigarettes and other combusted tobacco products. Cancer and cardiovascular experts with Baptist Health agree that the FDA’s proposal to reduce nicotine levels in traditional tobacco products, including cigarettes, is a good first step — but it fails to address the addictiveness of e-cigarettes, where the amount of nicotine is greater and even adjustable in some vaping devices.
The possible long-term link between vaping products and cancer has yet to be established because e-cigarettes have been on the market for just a few years. But new studies are surfacing raising health concerns linked to vaping. Adults who regularly used electronic-nicotine delivery devices, or e-cigarettes, “displayed worrisome changes in heart and blood vessel function and performed significantly worse on exercise stress testing than people who did not use any nicotine products,” according to two separate analyses of preliminary research to presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2022 in Chicago this month.
Screening Tests for Smokers, Ex-Smokers
The recommended screening test for lung cancer is low-dose computer tomography (also called a low-dose CT scan, or LDCT. Such a test involves an X-ray machine that scans the body and uses low doses of radiation to make detailed pictures of the lungs.
“Historically, the majority of patients that were diagnosed with lung cancer in the U.S. were at Stage Three and Four,” said Dr. Dylewski. “That used to be about 60 to 70 percent of patients, and that is changing with the implementation of screening with CT scans. And we’re catching more and more patients in the earlier stages — Stage One and Stage Two — where surgery can have an impact at curing those patients.”
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends cancer screening with LDCT for people who:
- Have a 20-year history of heavy smoking (average of one pack of cigarettes per day), and
- Smoke now or have quit within the past 15 years, and
- Are between 55 and 80 years old.
How Quitting Smoking Improves Your Health
The benefits of quitting smoking are almost immediate and increases over time. It’s never too late to quit using tobacco, according to the ACS and the CDC. The sooner you quit, the more you can reduce your chances of getting cancer and other diseases.
How does the average smoker’s body recover over time after quitting? The American Cancer Society says that after…
Your heart rate and blood pressure start to drop.
The carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.
2 weeks to 3 months:
Your circulation improves, while your lung function increases.
1 to 9 months:
Coughing and shortness of breath decrease. Your lungs start to regain normal functionality, increasing their ability to fight infection.
The excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a continuing smoker’s.
Risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus and bladder are cut in half. Cervical cancer risk falls to that of a non-smoker. Stroke risk can fall to that of a non-smoker after 2 to 5 years.
The risk of dying from lung cancer is about half that of a person who is still smoking. The risk of cancer of the larynx (voice box) and pancreas decreases.
The risk of coronary heart disease is that of a non-smoker’s.
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