- According to data from the Ministry of Health, in 2018 practically half of students between the ages of 14 and 18 had used electronic cigarettes at some time (48.4%), a figure that is increasing
- "We are focusing on regular cigarettes when we should be focusing on electronic cigarettes, the new epidemic of the 21st century," explains pulmonologist Dr. Allan Sam
- To avoid the consumption of any form of tobacco, there are different types of treatment available to patients, in addition to them being candidates for preventive screening for cancer-related diseases
- MD Anderson Cancer Center Madrid has a smoking cessation program for the medical treatment of tobacco addiction
Madrid, January 2, 2023 - A new year is beginning and it is time to set new goals for 2023. Doing more sport, eating healthy foods or stopping smoking are the most common resolutions year after year. Despite that, specialists are warning of the rapid increase in the consumption of electronic cigarettes and the use of vapers, especially among young people, and remind us of why we should stop such a toxic habit at the beginning of the new year. According to a report by the National Committee for the Prevention of Tobacco Addiction (CNPT), tobacco use in any of its forms causes at least 69,000 premature deaths in Spain every year and more than 1.7 million years of life lost1.
As Dr. Allan Sam, a pulmonologist at MD Anderson Cancer Center Madrid, explains, “there are countries like New Zealand that have banned the sale of tobacco to people born after 2009. But, in Spain we see very high numbers of adolescents using electronic cigarettes because they consider them harmless. We are focusing on regular cigarettes when we should be focusing on electronic cigarettes, which is the new epidemic of the 21st century.”
The trend is refuted by data like that gathered by the Ministry of Health which show that, in 2018, 48.4% of students between the ages of 14 and 18 had used electronic cigarettes at some time, and that figure is increasing2. Furthermore, "according to data from the latest health statistics survey, 2 out of 5 adolescents between the ages of 16 and 19 consider themselves a regular vaper, with a minimum consumption of 2 days a week," adds the pulmonologist.
Although for the moment there is no scientific evidence available about the damage that nicotine-free vaper liquids may cause, "we do know that those with nicotine cause addiction just like a normal cigarette and that, in any of these vaping devices, the glycerin produced when heating the product is highly carcinogenic.” He goes on to point out that, "although vaping is positioned as something innocuous, harmless or not so bad for one’s health, its real impact on the body cannot yet be measured."
A combination of pharmacological treatment and psychological monitoring
Whether someone has an addiction to regular cigarettes or to other forms of nicotine consumption, health professionals can help them to stop the habit by means of psychological support and a variety of pharmacological treatments that adapt to the needs of each person. “There are many types of treatments, but normally nothing is decided until the second or third consultation, since the essential thing is to understand each patient and evaluate their case to be able to choose the best treatment route”, explains Dr. Sam.
Likewise, "we must confirm that the person has the necessary will to stop smoking and comply with the prescribed treatment." For this personalized monitoring, MD Anderson Madrid has a Smoking Cessation program, in which, "we are currently seeing a lot of parents of young children who are looking for advice on how to help their child stop vaping.”
Within the program, one of the most common treatments is the use of nicotine substitutes, like patches, gum or candies. Cognate nicotine receptors can also be prescribed, which have been shown to be effective in controlling addiction, and even antidepressants or anxiolytics for short periods of time.
Depending on the profile of each patient, in some cases a chest X-ray or CT scan is also performed, in addition to an assessment of lung function, to screen for possible cancer related and/or lung diseases caused by tobacco use. “We must remember that smoking is responsible for 95% of cases of lung cancer”, he points out.
On the other hand, since many people associate smoking with everyday routines like having a coffee in the morning, it is essential for patients to change certain habits. For that reason, “an important part of the consultation is for us to listen to the patient’s problems, what worries them, offer them a series of personalized recommendations and finally, when needed, we start treatment. Patients are usually checked two weeks after starting a treatment, when we check how it is working and make readjustments as necessary. Three months down the road, they come back to evaluate the effectiveness of the treatment.”
- MANIFIESTO SOBRE LOS NUEVOS PRODUCTOS DE TABACO del Comité Nacional para la Prevención del Tabaquismo (CNPT) https://www.sefac.org/system/files/2020-12/manifiesto-nuevos-productos-tabaco.pdf
- INFORME SOBRE LOS CIGARRILLOS ELECTRÓNICOS: SITUACIÓN ACTUAL, EVIDENCIA DISPONIBLE Y REGULACIÓN 2022. Dirección General de Salud Pública: https://www.sanidad.gob.es/ciudadanos/proteccionSalud/tabaco/docs/InformeCigarrilloselectronicos.pdf