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Vaping: It's not a safe way to quit smoking

I am a respiratory therapist and tobacco specialist at Essentia Health St. Mary's Hospital, and I work nearly every day with people struggling to breathe due to smoking cigarettes. It can be very difficult to quit smoking, and I want to offer smokers all the support they can get when quitting.

Unfortunately, I see a growing number of patients who turn to e-cigarettes as a means to quit smoking. That is why I felt I had to write the Detroit Lakes Tribune in response to an article "The End of Vaping?" that may have led some readers to believe that e-cigarettes have been conclusively proven safe and effective as a tool for people to quit smoking.  I'd like to offer the following perspective as a local health care professional.

Research shows that the aerosol produced by e-cigarettes contains heavy metals, formaldehyde and other cancer-causing chemicals. E-cigarette aerosol also contains nicotine, the substance in tobacco that addicts smokers.

There is also no conclusive scientific evidence that e-cigarettes are effective for smoking cessation; in fact, quite often, users become addicted to both. If people wish to quit smoking, I encourage them to use evidence based support services and approved cessation aids.

At Essentia Health, we have specialists trained to provide these support services in person and for as long as you would like. Additionally, anyone in Minnesota can call QUITPLAN (1-888-354-7526) to find out about other free and low-cost services available to all Minnesota. Why would anyone want to take a chance on e-cigarettes when we already have tools that are safe and scientifically proven to work?

Also, despite the implication from the retailer in the article, there is no conclusive clinical research, or research of any kind, for that matter, that shows e-cigarettes reverse the symptoms of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). COPD is a debilitating disease that causes permanent damage to lung tissue.

This past summer, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration deemed e-cigarettes a tobacco product, just like cigarettes, cigars, and chewing tobacco. When the deeming regulations are fully implemented in 2019, manufacturers will have to disclose the ingredients in e-cigarette liquid and include the Surgeon General's warning on all packaging, among many other important consumer protections. This will provide more transparency to consumers and will aid in research about the health effects of e-cigarette use. In the meantime, I urge our community not to be unduly swayed by the self-interested statements of the e-cigarette industry.

(Vickie Lee is a registered respiratory therapist and certified tobacco treatment specialist at Essentia Health in Detroit Lakes)

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