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Addiction Expert: Recreational Vaping vs. Quitting Smoking

October 03, 2019

The lack of research and regulation around recreational use of e-cigarettes and vapes – plus national outcry after serious illness and deaths led to multi-state bans on sales – makes the devices less desirable than ever.

In fact, one Rushford doctor had two words for anyone thinking of picking one up for fun and puffing: Stay away.

Dr. J. Craig Allen, medical director of Rushford. said any electronic nicotine delivery system (END) – such as vapes, e-cigarettes or Juuls — have not been proven safe for recreational use.

“We need more data on the effects of long-term use of ENDs and what the heavy metals and other carcinogens contained in the heated aerosolized liquids can do to the lungs and body,” Dr. Allen said.

Particularly concerning, he added, are the “black market” or homemade juices containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that gives users a high.

“Agents used in some of these liquids appear to be associated with the current outbreak of lung disease which has involved a number of deaths,” Dr. Allen said, noting that the Centers for Disease Control is monitoring the string of problems related to these THC vapes.

Yet he would still consider this as an option for smokers, he said, who have tried to quit using other “evidence-based strategies or FDA- (Food and Drug Administration) approved medications without success.”

“Tobacco-related deaths total nearly 500,000 every year in the United States,” he said. “I have had success with patients who want to pursue this method of quitting smoking.”

He does make sure they know the FDA has not approved any ENDs products for smoking cessation.

“I also point out that END products, if not used correctly, may only exacerbate a nicotine addiction,” he said. “Statistics show that more than 60 percent of adults who use ENDS continuing to use tobacco cigarettes. They may just be extending the opportunities for nicotine exposure.”

When using vape or e-cigarettes for smoking cessation, Dr. Allen suggested people work with a healthcare professional. He added that establishing a start and end date for the ENDS is important. The quitting process includes replacing tobacco cigarettes with a vape and then tapering off the vape by lowering the nicotine strength of the “juices” used in the device.

“The goal is ultimately to discontinue use of all nicotine products,” he said.

Anyone interested in quitting smoking should visit Smokefree.gov, created by the National Cancer Institute. For information about Hartford HealthCare’s addiction services, click here.