Panel discusses pros and cons of vaping

Jessica Schladebeck

The emergence of vaping and e-cigarettes nearly 10 years ago has generated a dialogue, with both those who oppose it and those who voice its benefits brimming with passion.

A community forum — sponsored by the City of York, Rep. Kevin Schreiber's office, Eat Play Breathe York, WellSpan Health, Memorial Hospital, American Lung Association and the Pennsylvania Alliance to Control Tobacco — was held Thursday to address questions surrounding the phenomenon, as well as bring together those on either side of the issue.

Those in attendance at "Clearing the Air on Vaping" were given the opportunity to ask questions of an expert panel composed of Marie Drawbaugh, a tobacco cessation spacialist from WellSpan Health; Dr. Kate Palisoc, hospitalist from Memorial Hospital; Janise Bankard, from the American Lung Association and PACT; and Schreiber, D-York City, who has co-sponsored a bill intended to regulate vaping and e-cigarettes — particularly in minors. The moderator, Dr. Matthew Howie, the medical director of York City, also offer his insight.

Vaping concerns: The panel was united in the fact there has not been enough long-term research at this time to suggest that vaping isn't a detriment to a user's health.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn't regulate the relatively new nicotine-delivery system, leaving states and municipalities to create their own laws. Pennsylvania and Michigan are the only two states that do not legally prohibit the sale of vapor products to minors, Schreiber said, though many shops in the area do not sell to the younger demographic.

The medical professionals on the panel, for the most part, advised against the use of vaping as a means to quit cigarettes. Bankard, who tried the method to end her own habit with no success, said there are three prongs to an addiction — the mental, physical and behavioral aspects. Because vaping mimics the behaviors of smoking and delivers similar chemicals to the body, she said she could not recommend the method for cessation efforts.

Bankard told those at the event there were only seven FDA approved methods to quit smoking: going cold turkey, nicotine patches, gum and lozenges, a nasal spray and the prescriptions Chantix and Zyban.

Palisoc said she didn't "condone or condemn" vaping but advises her patients to utilize the approved methods before deciding to vape.

Schreiber expressed his concern for the unknown but said its benefits for those looking to quit smoking should not go overlooked. His primary concern was keeping it out of the hands of minors who otherwise wouldn't be exposed to nicotine.

Success story: Schreiber called on Chris Hughes, owner of Fat Cat Vape Shop in Williamsport, to share with the group the success he experienced with vaping and ending his smoking habit.

After he and his wife painted their home, he was no longer to smoke indoors, Hughes said, so he started using nicotine patches. Even using the patches at nearly their highest strength, the 30-year smoker  was still smoking an additional two packs of cigarettes a day.

"Dr. Howie just looked at me like 'How are you still alive?'" Hughes joked.

He said he eventually became a dual user for about two years and went from about two packs a day to only three cigarettes a day. The success and "profound change" in his life lead to the opening of his shop.

"I think vaping is a terrific options if you're an adult," he said. "They are not however, cessation products, they're a reduced-harm alternative to smoking."

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