Cigarettes and E-Cigs
Tobacco use is the largest preventable cause of death and disease in the Unites States, yet tobacco companies continue to make large profits from cigarette and e-cigarette (“e-cig”) sales. Despite anti-tobacco campaigns like Tips From Former Smokers and Truth, each aimed at raising awareness about the harmful health effects of smoking, the CDC surveyed an estimated 34.3 million adult smokers in 2017, 10 percent of whom were between the ages of 18 and 24. If the number of current smokers in the United States remains high, so too does the toll on human life—480,000 deaths each year, or nearly one in five deaths.
Cigarettes Versus E-Cigarettes
E-cigs are often vaunted as the safer alternative to traditional tobacco products, but this is a false distinction. While the medium is different – e-cigs produce an oil-based, aerosolized vapor via a battery-powered device, which is why smoking e-cigarettes is typically referred to as “vaping,” or “juuling,” after the company that manufactures them—both e-cigs and traditional cigarettes deliver an addiction-forming amount of nicotine to the body. In fact, e-cigs may be more dangerous than traditional cigarettes because e-cig vapor carries traces of heavy metals like nickel, tin, and lead, and are flavored to appeal to young people. For this reason, the American Heart Association cautions that smoking could be “re-normalized” because kids and adolescents are at a great risk of succumbing to the allure (and health costs) of e-cigs.
Health Costs of Smoking
There are myriad health complications linked to smoking cigarettes and e-cigs, though the most urgent threaten the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. “Even those who smoke less than five cigarettes a day can show signs of cardiovascular disease, which could develop into a stroke or heart attack,” says Alexander Mendez MD, a family medicine physician at PIH Health.
A stroke occurs when blood flow is staunched by blockage or clot formation; inhaling tobacco smoke can induce a stroke by damaging and constricting blood vessel walls and reducing blood flow to the heart. Similarly, smoking can collapse airways in the lungs and cause lung disease. Dr. Mendez advises that “tobacco smoke destroys the small air sacs called alveoli that are found in the lungs. Smokers are at a high risk of developing lung cancer, and asthmatic smokers can trigger or exacerbate an attack. It is important for smokers to stay on top of their health by going for yearly checkups and lung cancer screenings.”
PIH Health Resources for Smokers and Non-Smokers
If you or someone you know smokes or plans to smoke, talk to your doctor to learn about the health effects of tobacco use. To find a PIH Health physician and schedule an appointment, please visit PIHHealth.org/Find-a-Doctor.
The PIH Health Lung Cancer Screening Program is a Lung Cancer Alliance Screening Center of Excellence and is an American College of Radiology Designated Lung Cancer Screening Center. For more information, visit:
PIH Health’s Lung Cancer Screen Program webpage.