What’s the deal with e-cigarettes?

Electronic cigarettes are a hot topic right now. Some people love them and others… not so much.

What are e-cigs, again?

E-cigs are battery-operated devices designed to look like cigarettes, cigars, pipes, or pens. They contain nicotine and other chemicals that are vaporized by the device to be inhaled by users. Some people call them “smokeless cigarettes.”


Why do some people use e-cigs?

Using e-cigs or “vaping” is a way for people to maintain the habit or routine of smoking (think: going outside, lifting something to your lips, inhaling, etc). For some people, smoking cigarettes is incredibly difficult to quit and they may find that vaping provides a way to “smoke” without actually using combustible tobacco products.

What are the risks of using e-cigs? Are they actually better than smoking cigarettes?

In short, no one knows. E-cigs are relatively new technology and have been in the U.S. since 2007. This means long term studies are not possible yet, and the devices and liquids used inside of them are not yet regulated by the FDA. There are hundreds of e-cig manufacturers and no consistent standards. This means that we don’t how much nicotine they contain (for example, one study found nicotine in products labeled “nicotine free”). Other harmful chemicals might be inhaled as well. Without regulation, users cannot accurately weigh potential benefits and risks.

There is also concern that young people use e-cigarettes for recreational purposes rather than for smoking cessation. Vaping is heavily marketed to adolescents as a cooler, safer way to use tobacco. One study has shown that adolescents who used e-cigarettes were more likely to try combustible tobacco products within the next year (JAMA. 2015;314(7):700-707).

E-cigs in the news:


Beginning January 1, 2016, e-cigs will be banned in some public areas of Durham County. The ban will mostly affect bus stops, public parks, and shopping malls. The concern is that other people are exposed to the vaporized chemicals from e-cigs (secondhand vapor, if you will). However, e-cig supporters think that this will prevent people from quitting smoking.


An Asheville MD writes about some of the risks and challenges with vaping.

The bottom line:

We don’t know much about e-cigs. We do know that there are many other products available that have proven benefits and are safe for smoking cessation. The gum, lozenge, patch, and pills (like Zyban or Chantix) are first line choices until we have more information on e-cigs.  All of these products are available at Campus Health Pharmacy.

Smoking cessation: If you smoke and are interested in quitting smoking, find help and resources at QuitlineNC. You can also visit Campus Health Services or make an appointment with a CHS provider (919-966-2281) to learn more about smoking cessation.

Mariah Justice Sigmon is a fourth-year PharmD student at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. She attended UNC Chapel Hill for undergraduate coursework.  Mariah enjoys reading, cooking, and hiking with her husband and their dog. 

Workout Wednesday: The Shocking Truth About Smoking Hookah

by Campus Rec

How much do you know about hookah? Answer the question below to test your knowledge!

Question: Is smoking hookah safer than smoking cigarettes?

A) Hookah is much safer. There’s no nicotine… right?
B) Hookah and cigarettes are equally as harmful.
C) More dangerous- a hookah session equals twice as much smoke as 1 cigarette.
D) Much more dangerous – a hookah session equals 100 times as much smoke as 1 cigarette

Answer: D. Hookah smoke contains nicotine, carbon monoxide, and is actually more dangerous than cigarette smoking.

hookahCelebrities like Rihanna have helped to popularize hookah smoking. 1 hookah session = 100 cigarettes

Many college students are turning to hookah for a fun, new experience. The social aspect and flavorful taste makes smoking hookah the perfect Friday night activity. Smoking hookah is also seen as more socially acceptable than smoking cigarettes. In fact, a 2011 study found that 18.5% of college students had used a hookah in the past year. And many hookah smokers believe that smoking a hookah has fewer negative health effects than cigarettes. These notions couldn’t be farther from the truth. Find out why hookah smoking could be causing the next major public health crisis.

New research has revealed the dramatic and shocking dangers of smoking hookah. Hookah smoke contains the same deadly toxins as cigarette smoke, which have been linked to lung cancer, respiratory illness, low birth weight, and periodontal disease. In fact, smoking hookah exposes the user to more smoke than a cigarette does. This is because hookah sessions last longer than smoking a cigarette, and the method of inhalation is different. When smoking hookah, the user inhales deeper and more frequently. These differences mean that hookah smokers are actually absorbing higher amounts of toxins.

The harmful effects of hookah go beyond the dangers of cigarettes. Smoking hookah may also be a cause for cancer. This is because the charcoal used to incinerate the tobacco produce smoke that contains high levels of carbon monoxide, metals, and cancer causing chemicals. Exposing yourself to these chemicals is playing Russian roulette with your health.

The dangers are real, but the awareness is limited. Currently, there are no public health campaigns against hookah smoking, like there are for cigarettes. Take action and educate yourself and your peers. Check out the information below to arm yourself with the facts about smoking hookah:



Workout Wednesday blog posts are written by UNC Campus Recreation staff members. Each Wednesday we’ll be swapping blog posts with the Tarheel Tone Up blog so that readers can view more diverse post topics that will benefit their health and wellness. Workout Wednesday blog posts can be found both here and on tarheeltoneup.com.

image courtesy of rollingout.com