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Research Says That E-cigarettes May Be Linked To Lung Disease

Research Says That E-cigarettes May Be Linked To Lung Disease

Did you know that the sales of e-cigarettes among teens doubled in the period between 2011 and 2012? There are now 4 million Americans who use these. But the big question that everybody is asking about this billion-dollar craze is whether these new cigarettes are really safer and healthier than old-fashioned tobacco cigarettes.

The main problem is that there has been very little research and, of course, it is probably far too soon to assess the longterm health risks. But there is one alarming fact that cannot be brushed under the carpet in spite of all the hype. It is this: these cigarettes contain nicotine and flavored chemicals — no less than 7,000 flavors have been developed!

Harmful chemicals may damage the lungs

One of these chemicals is called diacetyl and it has been found in almost 75% of the e-cigarettes studied by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. They found that this chemical caused bronchial and other lung diseases in workers who were making popcorn with a vanilla flavour which contained it. This condition is called “popcorn lung” because these workers were inhaling it as they made the popcorn.

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When you use these cigarettes, there is no smoke because the battery does all the heating — there is no need for combustion. There is only “vaping,” that is, you are producing vapor as you inhale and exhale. Sounds pretty harmless but the whole process and the use of chemicals is worrying some doctors.

Why e-cigarettes may be harmful

Although there seems to be enough evidence to show that the lack of smoke produces fewer harmful chemicals than normal cigarettes, doubts remain.

What actually goes into the e-cigarettes seems to vary enormously. After all, there are 250 brands already on the market! The most alarming fact is that e-cigarettes remain unregulated and that means there is no guarantee at all in regards to their purity and safety. In addition, nobody knows what the longterm effects of the vapor may be.

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“As for long-term effects, we don’t know what happens when you breathe the vapor into the lungs regularly.” — Thomas Glynn, Director of Science at the American Cancer Society.

The harmful effects of nicotine

Normal cigarette smoking causes about 400,000 deaths in America annually. The burning of tobacco means the smoker is inhaling tar and other toxic chemicals which can lead to heart disease and cancer. Now, the number of chemicals in e-cigarettes is infinitely smaller (9 versus 11,000 according to the FDA), so that would suggest they are indeed much safer. But the nicotine is still in there and that leads to addiction, just as with normal cigarettes. It is so addictive that you can get withdrawal symptoms which can lead to depression and anxiety. The nicotine can also damage the heart and arteries in the long term.

Other harmful chemicals in the mix

The nicotine dose is mixed with propylene glycol and vegetable glycerine. While these are not officially carcinogens, they are believed to be “potentially carcinogenic,” as described in a French report on e-cigarettes. The French government is thinking of introducing a public ban on smoking these devices, including limiting their use to adults only. They are concerned about the health effects and the side stream smoke for those unlucky enough to be near someone who is vaping.

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Up to 42 chemicals have been identified in e-cigarettes. You can see the full list here. They include some rather notorious chemicals which we spend a lot of time avoiding because they are toxic and they may lead to cancer. This includes benzene, lead, nickel, toluene, and formaldehyde.

“In addition to containing varying levels of the addictive substance nicotine, they also contain other cancer-causing chemicals, such as formaldehyde, and as our study shows, flavoring chemicals that can cause lung damage.” — David Christiani, Elkan Blout Professor of Environmental Genetics and co-author of the Harvard study.

When e-cigarettes hit the scene, they were regarded as harmless gadgets and a safer option to smoking. This is only partially true, as we have seen above, and their use should be better controlled for the sake of all our lungs.

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Featured photo credit: Vaping vs Smoking/ Vaping360 via flickr.com

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on December 2, 2018

How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

Ebb and flow. Contraction and expansion. Highs and lows. It’s all about the cycles of life.

The entire course of our life follows this up and down pattern of more and then less. Our days flow this way, each following a pattern of more energy, then less energy, more creativity and periods of greater focus bookended by moments of low energy when we cringe at the thought of one more meeting, one more call, one more sentence.

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The key is in understanding how to use the cycles of ebb and flow to our advantage. The ability to harness these fluctuations, understand how they affect our productivity and mood and then apply that knowledge as a tool to improve our lives is a valuable strategy that few individuals or corporations have mastered.

Here are a few simple steps to start using this strategy today:

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Review Your Past Flow

Take just a few minutes to look back at how your days and weeks have been unfolding. What time of the day are you the most focused? Do you prefer to be more social at certain times of the day? Do you have difficulty concentrating after lunch or are you energized? Are there days when you can’t seem to sit still at your desk and others when you could work on the same project for hours?

Do you see a pattern starting to emerge? Eventually you will discover a sort of map or schedule that charts your individual productivity levels during a given day or week.  That’s the first step. You’ll use this information to plan your days going forward.

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Schedule According to Your Flow Pattern

Look at the types of things you do each day…each week. What can you move around so that it’s a better fit for you? Can you suggest to your team that you schedule meetings for late morning if you can’t stand to be social first thing? Can you schedule detailed project work or highly creative tasks, like writing or designing when you are best able to focus? How about making sales calls or client meetings on days when you are the most social and leaving billing or reports until another time when you are able to close your door and do repetitive tasks.

Keep in mind that everyone is different and some things are out of our control. Do what you can. You might be surprised at just how flexible clients and managers can be when they understand that improving your productivity will result in better outcomes for them.

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Account for Big Picture Fluctuations

Look at the bigger picture. Consider what happens during different months or times during the year. Think about what is going on in the other parts of your life. When is the best time for you to take on a new project, role or responsibility? Take into account other commitments that zap your energy. Do you have a sick parent, a spouse who travels all the time or young children who demand all of your available time and energy?

We all know people who ignore all of this advice and yet seem to prosper and achieve wonderful success anyway, but they are usually the exception, not the rule. For most of us, this habitual tendency to force our bodies and our brains into patterns of working that undermine our productivity result in achieving less than desired results and adding more stress to our already overburdened lives.

Why not follow the ebb and flow of your life instead of fighting against it?

    Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

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