Hospital News

Vaping, tobacco cessation take center stage in 2020

In this time of new year’s resolutions, one of the biggest changes a person can make is kicking a bad habit. One of the hardest habits to quit, smoking, is facing renewed scrutiny thanks to a change in how the nicotine is delivered.

Vaping, which according to the Center on Addiction, is the act of inhaling and exhaling the aerosol, often referred to as vapor, which is produced by an e-cigarette or similar device, has taken the world by storm over the last several years. “I think initially when it first came out it was meant to help people quit smoking, but then it was geared toward a younger audience through advertising all the different flavors,” said Jill Evans, Pulmonary Education Specialist at Western Maryland Health System. “Although we don’t fully understand yet what happens to the lungs when someone vapes, we are finding out quickly that it has devastating consequences, just like smoking.”

The practice is popular in Western Maryland and nearby Pennsylvania and West Virginia. “I’ve had the opportunity to provide outreach in some local schools and it has been a growing concern for the last several years,” Evans said. “The majority of students know about vaping and many have experimented. The kids are getting addicted at an early age.”

Even those people with good intentions who aim to use vaping as a way to quit smoking are putting themselves at risk. “One of the biggest concerns is that many people who are working toward smoking cessation by using vaping as an alternative end up both vaping and smoking at the same time, which ends up being a double-edged sword,” Evans said.

Evans’ fellow Pulmonary Education Specialist Cheryl Hartman said the lack of information about the long term effects of vaping causes concern. “It’s just dangerous,” she said. “We don’t know how bad of an epidemic this is going to be. There’s a lot of young people doing this under the radar. What is clear is the process. You are putting an oil filled with chemicals into your lungs and they are just not made to tolerate something like that. Your lungs are a sponge meant to be exposed to only air.”

Both Evans and Hartman emphasized that quitting both smoking and vaping is tough. “You are talking about one of the most addictive substances on the planet,” Evans said. “It’s not impossible though. The key is sharing the information we have with the people that need it. Those that seek out counseling and help are more than 3 times as likely to successfully quit.”

Parents worried about their children’s vaping habit or those seeking more information should contact their pediatrician and consult the information at https://teen.smokefree.gov/quit-vaping. 

Resources are also available at the Western Maryland Health System Center for Clinical Resources by calling 240-964-8787 or by visiting https://www.wmhs.com/services/center-clinical-resources/.