By TAMI PEAVY
Once upon a time in the 1960s, cigarette companies sought to increase their market by specifically advertising to women. Soon women were smoking cigarettes in the movies, on billboards and everywhere. This targeted advertising paid off handsomely and there was a marked increase in women smoking. As a result, there was a proportionate increase in the number of women diagnosed with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), a disease that obstructs airflow in the lungs and affects more than 16 million people. Moreover, millions do not even know they have it until it reaches advanced stages. Now more women than men die from this leading cause of death in the U.S.
With more women smoking, family exposure to secondhand smoke has increased significantly, along with the incidence of COPD from secondhand smoke.
Among people with COPD, around 15% never touched a cigarette or lived in poor air quality environments in their lives. These 15% were typically exposed to secondhand smoke from their parents, spouses or sometimes work environments. It is a shock to most patients that they have COPD when they have never smoked themselves.
In 2019, our new marketing is in the form of an electronic cigarette, also known as an e-cigarette, an e-cog or a vape. A vape is a cartridge filled with around 7,000 chemicals including nicotine, but without the tar of regular cigarettes. Smoking is done from a pen and does not have the smell of a regular cigarette.
Again, the cigarette companies cashed in on the opportunity to increase the market by advertising now to children. Flavors like lollypop, Skittles, candy cane and others appeal to the younger market. A seemingly harmless cloud with no odor that can be hard to detect is an easy tool for children as young as elementary school to use. Fortunately, legislators regulated the advertising this time before it had the chance to seduce as many children as it did women in the 1960s.
But a serious misunderstanding exists in the world of vapes. A CDC survey showed that more than 40% of people believe that secondhand smoke from a vape is not harmful; and one-third of the respondents did not know if it was harmful or not. Asking if vapes are less harmful than cigarettes is like asking if a burn is less serious if it comes from a wood-burning fire versus chemical fire. What is the lesser of two evils? But make no mistake, they are both evil.
Yes, it looks harmless, smells harmless and the smoke even looks kind of “cool,” but it is the ultimate silent killer, even as a secondhand exposure.
Standing next to someone with an e-cigarette still exposes you to a risk for lung disease as much as secondhand cigarette smoke.
The chemicals in e-cigs increase your risk of lung disease, heart disease, stroke, and cancers. But one of the most dangerous chemicals in e-cigs is diacetyl. This chemical is often added to the liquid in a vape, to enhance the flavoring like coconut and vanilla. Currently more than 75% of e-cigs test positive for diacetyl.
Diacetyl has been banned from use in microwave popcorn. This chemical caused “popcorn lung” which describes the damage to the small airways of the lungs. It should also be banned from vapes.
However you get COPD, you must know it is a progressive disease that results in shortness of breath causing frequent hospitalizations. Multiple medical research studies demonstrate that pulmonary rehabilitation therapy is the best way to coordinate the overall care of patients with COPD. Unfortunately, only 3% of patients with COPD receive pulmonary rehabilitation.
And while millions suffer from COPD, millions more don’t even know they have it. Symptoms may include:
- Chronic cough.
- Coughing up mucus or phlegm.
- Shortness of breath doing every day activity.
- Chest tightness.
- Frequent respiratory infections.
If you were a user of, or exposed to secondhand smoke from cigarettes or e-cigarettes or vapes and have been experiencing shortness of breath and low endurance, you should have a lung function test.
Early detection is key to stopping the progression of COPD. At La Mesa Rehab, you can receive a free lung function test which will determine if you have COPD, and to what extent. In addition, you can also get a free consultation on your lung health and risk factors.
— Tami Peavy is the clinical director of La Mesa Rehab Pulmonary Rehabilitation. To find out how your lungs are working, call La Mesa Rehab at 619-466-6077.