Vaping & E-cigarettes

Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) and similar devices such vape pens and pods have grown in popularity the past several years. ‘Vaping’ is the term for inhaling the vapors of the heated liquid produced by the device, which may contain nicotine, flavors and other substances, including THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) or CBD (cannabidiol). E-cigarettes come in many shapes and styles and have common elements of a battery that heats an atomizer to turn a liquid into an aerosol (vapor) that is inhaled.

These devices were popularized by adults who began using them as an alternative to cigarettes in quitting smoking. Many users today have never smoked traditional cigarettes but use e-cigarettes recreationally or in places where smoking is not allowed. What effects do these have on our oral health?

Inhaling heated vapors can dry our mouth and change the types of bacteria that live on our teeth and gums. Although the e-cigarette vapors contain fewer harmful chemicals than tobacco smoke, they do still contain known cancer-causing substances. Much is not yet known about the components of the liquid products as they have not been extensively studied. Product labels may not list all the substances in the liquids, making it difficult for consumers and researchers to know what they contain. Some may contain sugar, increasing the risk of tooth decay. While some users believe vaping to be a safer alternative to cigarettes, the jury will be out until several more years of data can compare the two.

If someone wants to quit smoking cigarettes, e-cigarettes may be helpful, however there are other alternatives, including nicotine patches and gum. E-cigarettes should not be considered safer than regular cigarettes for long-term use.  Younger people who start using e-cigarettes may transition to smoking as they develop an addiction to nicotine. Beginning in August 2019, over 2,500 US e-cigarette users developed serious lung problems that led to emergency room visits due to one of the liquid additives. Sixty-eight deaths occurred resulting from these lung injuries.

If someone does not currently vape, it is best to not start. If someone chooses to use these products, let your health care providers know. We want to be aware of all things potentially affecting someone’s health. If you currently vape and want support in quitting, many resources are available. This is Quitting is a free mobile support program for people ages 13-24, sign up by texting DITCHVAPE to 88709 or by visiting https://truthinitiative.org/thisisquitting. The Oregon Quit Line has telephone and web-based counseling and several other resources for people interested in quitting vaping or smoking. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (784-8669) 24/7 or visit quitnow.net.