Dr. Kevin Most: Vaping and NC Health Concerns

Dr. Kevin Most on the Steve Cochran Show.

Our thoughts go out to the people of North Carolina, they are far from the end of this. Millions of individuals have been displaced from their homes and won’t be back in their homes for a while. From a health view there are many concerns. Individuals taking medication for chronic conditions will need refills and attempting to reach their doctor may be difficult. There were hundreds of individuals with scheduled surgeries that have now been delayed, which could impact health. Individuals receiving chemotherapy or radiation for their cancer treatment have been displaced and the continuation of these important medications is key to their health. Women delivering babies at hospitals they have never visited, being treated by physicians that just met. The stress that is placed on patients who have lost their homes and possible jobs will need more mental health counseling and that may be scarce.

We also are concerned about staffing hospitals as individuals are going back to flooded homes, destruction in the neighborhood will have doctors and nurses taking care of their families and not be able to get to work. Hospitals in some of these smaller towns will be stressed for staffing. Blood donations will be needed as well as many won’t be thinking of donating blood as they work on their flooded homes.

In the environment, moisture and heat will promote mold growth which will be a concern in all flooded homes.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the citizens of North Carolina

We have discussed in the past the concern we have with cigarette smoking and its ability to increase cases of lung cancer, heart disease and emphysema. The option of vaping has been in place now for many years with the hope that we would eventually see the health impact of smoking decrease. Lung Cancer causes more deaths than colon, breast and prostate combined! We have close to 250,000 new cases of lung cancer each year in the US and over 150,000 deaths. The bad thing about this cancer is, like others we have recently discussed is that at the time of diagnosis it is often advanced. We do have the ability to screen for lung cancer now using a CT scan looking for small tumors before they cause symptoms.

So what are we doing about this, well industry has taken 3 routes, one is to try to help individuals to stop smoking. You have all seen ads for the drug Chantix which helps stop the urge to smoke and thus helps that individual ready to quit. We all know about the nicotine based gums which again are there to help eliminate the craving for nicotine by delivering it via gum versus thru the cigarette. Psychotherapy is also used to help people quit. The other route industry has taken is with new chemotherapy and radiation treatments for lung cancer. New radiation skills have allowed for some advancement in the treatment and chemotherapy has made a dent albeit a small dent in helping extend the lives of those suffering from lung cancer.

The government has taken a few steps as well. In 1971 they banned all cigarette advertising on radio and TV. Just this year the tobacco companies are forced to place ads on TV and newspaper, the court forced them to place corrective statements on TV and in print. The ads explain that cigarettes are addictive and do cause 1,200 deaths a day. Those ads were to run for one year at a set number of times thru November of this year. This was forced as tobacco companies finally admitted in 2006 that cigarettes were in fact addicting but fought for 11 years as to what the penalty would be for deceptive advertising.

Cigarettes are also heavily taxed in the hopes to slow the use and help offset some of the cost associated with the treatment of smokers. In Illinois that tax is at $2.42 a pack, looking out over all of the Midwest states Illinois has the highest tax, this has been true since 2012 when they doubled the tax. Some argue that this high tax actually hurts the state as smokers will go across state lines to purchase their cigarettes from surrounding states thus losing the tax revenue without making a huge dent in the number of smokers.

One we wanted to touch on today as it has been in the news last week was Vaping. Essentially vaping is a battery operated cigarette. It often looks like a cigarette. It has the promise of delivering nicotine without the carcinogens we see with cigarettes. Is this safe? Well, we have seen the occasional malfunction of the Vape battery which has caused burns and injuries and in a few cases death but that is not the major concern many have. Most doctors and researchers feel that vaping is safer than smoking cigarettes for that individual who is unable to quit smoking using traditional methods. The vaping delivers far fewer carcinogens to the lungs, this is not to say it delivers NO carcinogens just fewer in number.

So that all sounds good, sure we have an occasional malfunction of a vape battery, but we also have individuals burned by cigarettes, and many a house fire has started by a smoker falling asleep. So that sounds safer. They have less carcinogens than cigarettes so that is good.

So what’s the problem? Many individuals feel this is a gateway to cigarettes and some studies have shown this to be true. The Mayo Clinic reported that tobacco use is rising for the first time in 17 years, and they feel that that vaping has resulted in more true tobacco smokers. Individuals who have never smoked a cigarette are 3-4 times more likely to smoke cigarettes in the future if they use e-cigarettes. The tobacco survey recently completed shows that over 2 million middle school, high school and college students use vaping. 20% of high schoolers and 3 % of middle schoolers have tried vaping in the past year.