As many as 215 cases of respiratory illness may be linked to vaping, the CDC and FDA stated Friday. In a joint statement released online, both agencies said they were working to determine whether or not the illnesses were definitely caused by e-cigarette use. If the connection is proven, there are effective methods to quit smoking.
According to the joint statement from Center for Disease Control Director Robert R. Redfield, M.D., and Acting Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Ned Sharpless, M.D., officials have yet to determine with absolute certainty that the use of smoking alternatives like e-cigarettes has caused a recent spike in “severe respiratory disease,” which included the death of an Illinois resident. “Even though cases appear similar, it is not clear if these cases have a common cause or if they are different diseases with similar presentations, which is why our ongoing investigation is critical,” Friday’s statement said. Unfortunately, many health professionals say it’s simply too soon to know the real—and imagined—health risks of e-cigarette use, which includes vaping. The same was once true of smoking cigarettes, though their dangers have now been proven. If you think it’s time to quit vaping or smoking altogether, there are many things to consider.
Knowing You Aren’t Alone
“In 1955, approximately 55 percent of men and 25 percent of women smoked,” said Dr. Jason M. Satterfield, Professor of Clinical Medicine in the Division of General Internal Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. “In fact, even physicians were known to not only smoke, but to advertise cigarettes. It wasn’t until the first Surgeon General’s report in 1964 that we knew smoking was even bad for you.”
Since then, Dr. Satterfield said, smoking rates dropped to about 22 percent in men and 17 percent in women, though they’ve remained roughly the same for over 25 years. Varying smoking cessation programs have a wide range of results as well, painting a clear and classic “good news, bad news” picture.
“It takes the average smoker four to five different attempts to quit smoking,” Dr. Satterfield said. “If they try to quit cold turkey—using no drugs, no nicotine patches, or anything—they have about a 7 percent success rate. If they use nicotine replacement and/or medications, they have about a 30 percent success rate.”
On the upside, those who fail can always try again, Dr. Satterfield added. “It’s important to remember there are now more ex-smokers in the U.S. than smokers.”
The First Steps to Quitting for Good
It’s often said that in order to loosen the holds that our troubles have on us, we first need to identify and understand where they come from. In very basic terms, “the first step is admitting you have a problem.” Fortunately, studies have aided in identifying the motives for smoking and can help smokers with cravings, habits, and so on. Dr. Satterfield cited a 2007 study by Tim Carmody linking nicotine dependence to negative emotions to illustrate this.
“He begins with a review of motivational mechanisms, with negative affect as a driver for first and continuing use,” Dr. Satterfield said. “Next, he describes the role of emotion regulation, coping skill deficits, depression, and anxiety sensitivity in explaining the relationship between negative emotions and smoking relapse. He concludes that nearly all smoking cessation programs include some elements of emotion regulation, coping with cravings, managing stress, and dealing with anxiety or depression.”
In other words, finding healthy ways to actively deal with some of life’s most common problems like stress, anxiety, and depression can reduce cravings for cigarettes or e-cigarettes. With a possible link between vaping and respiratory illnesses appearing, it may be a good time to consult your doctor about hanging up those e-cigarettes for good.
Dr. Jason M. Satterfield contributed to this article. Dr. Satterfield is Professor of Clinical Medicine, Director of Social and Behavioral Sciences, and Director of Behavioral Medicine in the Division of General Internal Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). He earned his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania.