The use of electronic cigarettes — the battery-powered devices that heat liquid-based nicotine into an inhalable vapor — lately seems as controversial as smoking regular cigarettes. Here are a few facts to help you sort through the vapor and mirrors.
1. It may be safer than smoking. The inhalation of burning tobacco is well established to be carcinogenic. That means smoking can cause cancer. It is established science. Smoking contributes in a major way to almost all cancers, especially lung cancer and heart disease. Heart disease and cancer are the top two causes of death in the United States and kill about half of the people who die.
Why is the CDC staying quiet? People are vaping THC, lung injuries being reported nationwide
2. It's very addictive. Expect serious nicotine withdrawal if you try to quit. Vaping is even more addictive than smoking because the concentrated liquid is more quickly metabolized, says Dr. Malissa Barbosa, an addiction medicine physician. Barbosa says nicotine also is more difficult to quit than alcohol or any of the drugs used by her patients. Receptors in the brain "grab onto the nicotine molecule because it’s similar to something we make naturally," she says, and it's more difficult to release from the body.
3. It has a growing group of critics. Vaping was welcomed by many in the public health community as a potentially more attractive and effective option for people who had struggled unsuccessfully to quit smoking. Still, the 'for' and 'against' lines were drawn pretty early, and became even more pronounced after tobacco companies entered the market. When teens, who had never smoked cigarettes, started vaping the small, trendy Juul devices, the reputation of the entire industry was tarnished.
4. The devices can be used for marijuana, which adds risk. While parents have good reason to be alarmed when they discover their teenage children are vaping, it's important to consider what exactly is in the device. Some of the recent serious cases of lung problems involved vaping of marijuana oil that had likely been contaminated. Along with the health risks of this contamination, there is additional potential that teens will ingest an extremely high level of THC, which is harmful to developing brains. It can lead to cognition loss and even psychosis.
5. It may be an effective stop-smoking method. People who use vaping to stop smoking are twice as likely to quit as they are using other "nicotine replacement therapy" options, according to a randomized control trial study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in February. Nicotine replacement therapy includes gums, lozenges and patches. There are risks with other solutions, too. Chantix, one of the most widely used prescription drugs for smoking cessation, comes with such serious side effects that drug safety advocate Kim Witczak fought the removal of its "black box" warning about the risk of suicidal thoughts, violence and aggression.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Vaping risks: Worse with THC oil and 4 other things you need to know