If you are a vape fiend, you are going to either be pissed or elated this week. Winner of the SAG Awards best actor, Leonardo DiCaprio, was caught vaping this past Saturday as the ceremony was taking place. We aren’t sure what he was smoking, but you can be sure it caused a stir on social media. Tweets like the ones below blew up the Twittersphere:
- “I hope to one day have the kind of relationship with my boyfriend that Leonardo DiCaprio has with his vape pen”
- “So Leonardo DiCaprio is allowed to vape at the SAG awards yet it’s “frowned upon” at my niece’s recital? What gives?!”
- “Leonardo DiCaprio’s #SAGAwards date is his vape pen, and we’ve never seen him so in love”.
The verdict isn’t quite conclusive yet of whether or not vaping is harmful to the health of you or those around you. However, there is a handful of research that is starting to surface that suggests it may not be all that innocent of an alternative to smoking cigarettes. According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, there are 2.5 million e-cigarette smokers in the U.S. to date (1). So this leaves a whole bunch of people (far too many, in my opinion) that could possibly suffer terrible side effects after years of smoking the so-called “better alternative to smoking.”
I am not an “I told you so” kind of person, so I will ask that if you are a vape fan, that you hang onto this article for future reference.
Children Are Becoming Addicted Early
Research has found that only 2.7% of adults have tried e-cigarettes in the United States. However, 10% of U.S. High School students have been reported as having tried them. This is a scary thought. Children are becoming more and more likely to pick up the habit of oral fixations, such as smoking, because it seems innocent. The e-cigarette does not contain tobacco but it does contain nicotine and other possibly harmful and addictive chemicals. It is probable that this will highly increase the amount of smokers in the world in the future. New research also suggests that nicotine is a gateway component for other addictive substances. In a recent study titled, “Nicotine and the Adolescent Brain,” researchers stated, “…nicotine exposure, increasingly occurring as a result of e-cigarette use, may induce epigenetic changes that sensitize the brain to other drugs and prime it for future substance abuse.” (1, 2, 3). So although it may look cool for them to blow an aura of strawberry smoke around, they may be solidifying their future of chemical dependency! My other concern is that Leo’s vaping was televised, thus romanticized to possibly millions of non-vapors that now may pick it up themselves. Check out these tweets:
- “If Leonardo DiCaprio vapes then I’m going to buy a vape pen tomorrow and start vaping too”
- “Leonardo Dicaprio has a vape I think it’s time I buy one.”
So if you know any youngsters or if your child smokes e-cigarettes, put your foot down and stop them now! (1, 2, 3).
Vapes Are Not Regulated
It is way too soon to know how harmful these little smoke machines can be. We do know that most e-cigarettes aren’t currently regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. However the FDA does define them as such, “Electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes, are battery-operated products designed to deliver nicotine, flavor, and other chemicals. They turn chemicals, including highly addictive nicotine, into an aerosol that is inhaled by the user.” The FDA mentions on their site that people have reported the following adverse effects associated with the use of the e-cigarette (they can not yet conclude a cause and effect relationship until further research is conducted):
- Congestive heart failure
They also make Adverse Event Reports available to you from June 2009 – March 2014 on their website, CTP FOIA Electronic Reading Room. I would be very leery about putting something in your lungs that does not have a long list of benefits connected to it (4, 5).
Vaping Is Rude
For me personally, seeing Leo vape brought up my own troubled relationship with those miniature smelly fog machines. My boyfriend and I had the pleasure of taking my son and several of his friends to the Misfit’s concert this summer to celebrate graduating junior high. The scene is dark; punk rockers young and old are everywhere. It smells like fried food and dried beer, and you would be lucky to find a booth you didn’t stick to in the whole place. But that’s what you expect and almost want when going to a punk concert, right? So my guy and I find a booth in the back so my son and his friends can go mosh without being mortified being seen with two adults as chaperones. Suddenly the smell of a punk bar disappears and the smell of grape drink replaces it. The whole place starts to smell like terribly cheap car fresheners. It made me sick to my stomach and I actually had to leave the room due to the vape smoke! You wouldn’t dare spray perfume in someone’s face and think it’s ok, right? Then please do not smoke your peaches and cream anywhere near me! Just because you like the taste and smell, it doesn’t mean everyone in your ½ mile radius does as well.
Too Good to Be True?
You know the saying, “If something is too good to be true, then it probably is?” Remember the “Frozen Yogurt” era? Frozen yogurt shops were popping up everywhere in the 90’s, packed with lines of people ready to drop the pounds by dropping ice cream and eating yogurt instead. Turns out, you don’t see many of those Fro-Yo shops anymore because people realized that although it is indeed better for you than ice cream, the amount of sugar and dairy in frozen yogurt does not make it a diet/health food.
No one can argue that e-cigarettes are less evil than cigarettes, but they aren’t the great alternative to quitting smoking as advertised. As stated earlier, they do have an addictive component to them and they may increase the probability of future smokers. Though we currently see them as less harmful, it is not to say that future research will suggest otherwise. It is a bit too soon to consider them as the best means to quit smoking. I suggest sticking with an alternative that is approved by long-standing research and regulated by the FDA. The American Cancer Society is also a great resource for “all things quitting smoking.” Their website has is rich with data, success stories, alternative research, proven ways to quit smoking and a ton of support. (6, 7)
We Must Learn From The Past
First time, shame on them, second time, shame on you! The tobacco industry time and time again has put our loved ones’ lives at risk in order for them to gain the big dollar. Just like you should never trust anyone who is out for themselves, you should also not trust the tobacco industry. Guess what??? This so called “innocent” alternative to smoking in 2013 was taken in by Lorillard Tobacco Co., a heavy hitter in the Big Tobacco biz. They purchased Blu Eciggs for a whopping $135 million in 2013 and now control over 40% of e-cigarette sales. It is projected that many are considering jumping on board. I suppose they will be successful until something that is actually good for you (like fresh air or psychotherapy) is deemed the best way to quit smoking (8).
Should Leo ditch the vape? If you ask me yes; at least while in a room full of people! He is a role model to many. Is old school class dead my friends?? At the risk of sounding like my father, I must say that society as a whole needs to learn more social etiquette. The reason people didn’t like smokers in their vicinity in the past wasn’t only because of the damage that second-hand smoke can do. Non-smokers didn’t want to endure smelly smoke being blown their way and it goes the same for vaping. Let’s make sure we apply the same etiquette rules for vaping as we do for passing gas. If you have to do it, do it in private!
- Rigotti NA. e-Cigarette use and subsequent tobacco use by adolescents: new evidence about a potential risk of e-cigarettes. 2015;314(7):673-674.
- Yuan, Menglu, et al. “Nicotine and the adolescent brain.” The Journal of physiology16 (2015): 3397-3412.