When it comes to smoking, everyone knows that cigarettes are unsafe. They contribute to lung disease, several kinds of cancer, and can even cause air pollution in the home that can harm non-smokers. To try and mitigate all these risks, many smokers have turned to e-cigs instead.
Vaping products are not regulated by the FDA, so vaping manufacturers are able to advertise their products in any way. These products are also so new that few comprehensive studies have been conducted to try and understand whether or not vaping poses health risks, either in the short or long term.
So for the time being, the public is approaching vaping as basically healthy. Is this the right choice? At least for women, it may not be.
The purpose of vaping is to deliver nicotine into the body as an inhaled vapor. This eliminates the tar that is inhaled from burning cigarettes. In many cases, the tar and associated chemicals are what increases the risk for disease. In others, however, nicotine itself is the concern.
Pregnancy and nursing
When pregnant or nursing, women are advised to refrain from smoking, or smoke as little as possible. Doctors are unsure of the exact effect that nicotine might have on a developing baby, but the chemical has been linked to premature birth, low birth weight, breathing difficulties after birth, and a host of potential behavioral problems as the child grows.
During breastfeeding, it does appear that nicotine transfers to the baby through breastmilk, meaning that nicotine exposure continues after birth. This can alter the baby’s pattern of sleeping and waking; these effects can be noticed somewhat even if parents choose to bottle feed.
Vaping will not protect a growing baby from these negative effects. Regardless of the safety of vaping in terms of associated chemicals outside of nicotine – and some studies have said that just as many carcinogens are inhaled during vaping as during regular smoking – nicotine itself is associated with these concerns.
Breast cancer is a leading preventable cause of death in women, and nicotine increases the chances of developing breast cancer. While some studies have distinctly linked increased cancer risks to smoking cigarettes in particular, other studies have compared cigarettes and snuff, for example, and found that the cancer risk remains increased. This has led much of the scientific community to conclude that nicotine is at least one risk factor for breast cancer.
Common side effects
The side effects even dedicated vapers acknowledge can include dry mouth, dry skin, irritation or rashes on the face, dry or puffy eyes, and bloody noses. While no one likes dry skin, womenin particular are taught to be hyper conscious of their physical appearance; it’s important to be aware of the effect that vaping can therefore have on your face and hands.
Is Vaping Really Safe?
So far, science really doesn’t know. Some would recommend sub-ohm vaping for the first time vaper, but without regulation of the products, it’s difficult to really know what’s in each brand of vaping product works. Anyone can make and sell their own vaping liquid, and it’s unlikely that every maker is following the strictest protocols in terms of making sure their products are safe and healthy.
There have also been occasional reports of batteries exploding on e-cigarettes. While these instances are rare, it’s important for users to be aware and be cautious about storing and charging their e-cigarettes.
So is vaping a safe alternative for women who are trying to quit smoking? Maybe. It removes many of the chemicals associated with cigarette smoking, but may introduce other chemicals. It still uses nicotine, which we know isn’t safe for women, especially those who are pregnant or nursing.
When pregnant, however, doctors tend to advise women to reduce their cigarette use as much as possible – while this can mean quitting whenever women can, women who have been heavy smokers are often advised to reduce their smoking slowly, since the intensity of withdrawals can also be damaging to the developing baby.
When pregnant in particular, doctors generally advise that pregnant women do not use nicotine patches to try and quit smoking; patches keep the level of nicotine in the bloodstream constant, which means continuous exposure for the baby. Products like vaping may be encouraged because at least the nicotine levels will fall between exposures.
Before a woman switches to vaping, either to replace cigarettes or to try and quit, it’s a good idea to speak to her doctor, just to be sure she’s not putting herself at additional risk. This is especially true if she is pregnant or nursing.