Why to Reconsider Vaping

by Elizabeth Ybarra RRT, TTS – Medical Center Health System Cardiopulmonary Staff Educator

As seen in the Odessa American’s Medical Matters:


Society changes and upgrades are everywhere. For example, look at fashion, art and television. Other changes include actions and what is “popular” at any particular time. That being said, smoking cigarettes has been around for centuries … that is nothing new. However, “vaping” is a new trend that is being highly utilized by the population.

What is “vaping”?

Vaping is also known as electronic nicotine delivery system, or E.N.D.S. These electronic nicotine devices have become the new trend, especially in the younger populations. The allure has to do with these “e-cigarettes” being small, having no smell and providing a variety of flavors that are fun and appealing.

Are “e-cigarettes” good or bad for you?

Some news sources and our society have been implying that e-cigarettes are harmless and a better alternative to regular cigarettes. But that message is not necessarily accurate.

To understand the good and bad of these devices, one has to know a little more about how they work. The devices have a heating element that heats up a cartridge filled with nicotine. The heat produces a vapor that is then inhaled. The e-cigarette contains a humectant, typically propylene glycol, flavoring and nicotine (rti.org).

Why are e-cigarettes something to reconsider?

There are three main reasons to reconsider ever “vaping” in the first place, or certainly never again.

  • The biggest reason is that these devices are not regulated by the FDA. Therefore, the amount of nicotine and humectant might not be disclosed or accurate.
  • These devices have simply not been around long enough for adequate clinical findings on how these ingredients effect the body when heated.
  • The popularity of vaping creates the potential to encourage non-smokers to start experimenting with nicotine. According to Quit.com, research suggests that nicotine is as addictive as mood and behavior altering drugs such as heroin, cocaine and alcohol. It is tough to quit nicotine, so why start using it to just be part of a trend?!

Is there anything good about vaping?

The only good thing about vaping is that there is no combustion with e-cigarettes like there is with normal cigarettes. (NationalAcademies.org) The combustion aspect of a lit cigarette is that it releases over 7,000 chemicals.

There might not be that same worry with vaping, but do not be fooled. There are still toxins being inhaled that affect smokers and nonsmokers as well. (TruthInitiative.org)

So, the next time someone wants a companion to vape with, opt out of that dangerous experience and put your health first.


It’s beginning to look a lot like … Asthma.

By Dr. Kevin Benson

As seen in the Odessa American “Medical Matters”: http://www.oaoa.com/people/health/medical_matters/article_c2285462-a09d-11e7-b46c-cfb9e97cafd1.html


Many of us have enjoyed a wheeze-free summer …and let’s face it, summer in West Texas lasts until at least October. Inevitably, with the change of seasons, along with fall-colored outfits and pumpkin spice flavored everything, we see the shiny yellow, red and blue of inhalers being used on those chilly mornings.

I think of asthma as hyper-reactive airways. Much like seasonal allergies where our noses and eyes react to things in our environments that are really not threatening, those of us with asthma have our lungs react to certain triggers. Triggers for asthma include allergies, changes in the weather, particles in the air like cigarette smoke (or smoke in general, watch those fireplaces!) and exercise. Everyone with asthma is a bit different, both in what they react to and to what extent they react. Asthma is then classified based on the frequency and severity of wheezing a particular person has.

Anyone can have wheezing once. But in general doctors don’t diagnose people with asthma unless there is a pattern of repetitive wheezing or coughing symptoms. In the past, there was a bit of stigma associated with asthma. However, with the invention of medication that improves control of symptoms and flare-ups, the fear of the diagnosis is fading. In fact, denying the fact that you or your child might have asthma can be dangerous. If one had been prescribed an inhaler more than once in the past, the possibility of asthma should be discussed.

When one encounters a trigger and begins wheezing, at least two things are happening in the lungs. Very simply:

  1. Muscles around the tubes in your airways tighten up, making it difficult to pass air through. This happens quickly.
  2. Mucus and inflammation begin to accumulate in your lungs. This happens slowly.

Medications for asthma work on both of these issues. Fast-acting bronchodilators relax the muscles and make breathing easier. Other medications work to slowly, decreasing the inflammation. These medications work in different ways and can be used together to treat and prevent asthma attacks. If you are, or your child is, using their bronchodilators frequently, you should discuss whether a preventative medication might be used to decrease the flare-ups.

Being aware and prepared is the key to a wheeze-free holiday season!


You CAN Quit Being Trapped by Tobacco Use!

by Timothy Marquez, BA, RRT – Former MCHS Pulmonary Patient Educator/Cardiopulmonary

Cold Hard Facts from Texas health and Human Services and Center for Disease Control:

  • According to the Texas Department of Health and Human Services, the average age a person first starts using tobacco is 12 to 13 years old.
  • Almost nine out of 10 adults who smoke started before they were 18.
  • A person who smokes one pack a day for a year spends approximately $2,184 on cigarettes.
  • Tobacco is one of the most heavily advertised and promoted products in the U.S. In 2001, the tobacco industry spent a combined $719.2 million advertising tobacco in Texas.
  • Studies show nicotine is more addictive than heroin, cocaine and alcohol.
  • Over 400,000 Americans die each year due to tobacco related diseases.

This is the “heavy of the situation” for the tobacco epidemic. When it comes to smoking, many have attributed it to lung cancer. However, for many years now, the health data has proven its links to many other additional diseases that could lead to death. These include increased risks for stroke, artery disease, blood clots, bladder cancer, COPD, heart disease or heart attack … just to name a few.

HOWEVER, there is good news! For many years, the great State of Texas has been working on a solution for tobacco use prevention, finding funding to support the fight against tobacco use and partnering with local communities’ hospitals, clinics, healthcare organizations and programs to accomplish the goal of tobacco cessation.

STOP Smoking

If you smoke, you still have a fighting chance to STOP smoking. And after you quit, you can stay a non-smoker for as long as you choose. Is this process easy? No, it won’t be easy. But you will be better for it!

There are smoking cessations programs throughout Texas. The program through Medical Center Hospital System is called Smoking Independence Classes and they are held on Thursdays from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the MCH Cardiopulmonary Education Room.

Programs such as these not only help you quit, but provide helpful tips to stay tobacco free. The focus isn’t in replacing the habit or addiction, but turning it around into the focus on dealing with stress, fear, anxiety, negative emotions in a positive manner. There are many reasons why people smoke, and most of them have to do with stress. There are healthier alternatives to relieve stress.

In addition to focusing on coping skills, in the MCHS Smoking Independence Classes, we discuss diet and exercise. According to the Cancer Center for Research at University of South Florida, four out of five people gain weight after quitting smoking. Some of the reason has to do with replacing one bad habit with another bad habit (CCUSF, 2000).

By working with the individual on “why they smoke”, we can provide a supportive and encouraging atmosphere for them. Like most programs, we suggest that the person surround themselves with supporters who want them to quit smoking. The more supporters a person has on board, the better their chances are for success!

For anyone who smokes, please value yourself and realize your worth. You deserve better for yourself than to be trapped by the use of tobacco. You have a fight to win … find your drive and motivation!  YOU CAN DO THIS!




Smoke in the air – What can be done?

Smoke in the air – What can be done?

by Timothy Marquez, BA, RRT – MCH Pulmonary Patient Educator, Cardiopulmonary

As most of us in West Texas woke up this morning, we found there to be a certain thickness in the air, plus an aroma … components from a nearby fire. Throughout the day, the haziness in the air, along with the strong winds, blew in this smoke from the blazing fires north of us. We hold those in the immediate area of the fire in our thoughts as they deal with damaged properties and loss of life in the region that is battling the wildfires.

The smoke that has filled the West Texas air is an irritant and a by-product of fire. It contains various components such as carbon monoxide, which is hazardous to your health. Smoke can cause issues to the body of any individual – even healthy individuals. However, smoke can cause more issues to those with respiratory conditions, such as Asthma and COPD. The Asthma and COPD populations already tend to have a hard time breathing and smoke as an irritant can cause Asthma Attacks and COPD flare ups.

What can be done?

Consult your primary care provider on whether or not you need to up your dose of Asthma/COPD medications. If you can stay indoors and away from the smoke outside, do so. If you must be outside for any reason, then wear a respiratory mask to help filter the air you breathe.

Children who have Asthma and are at schools should stay indoors because the smoke in the outside air can bring about Asthma attacks. As a precaution, parents should send inhalers with their children if the medication is not already with the school nurse.

What about allergies?

As mentioned above, smoke is an irritant to the body. It not only irritates the airways, but it can cause mild to severe allergy symptoms including itchy water eyes, itchy throat, cough and quite possibly an allergic reaction.

What can be done?

If you are not regularly taking allergy medicines, but know your triggers, you might need to take allergy medicine during this time. For example, if you take medicine for seasonal allergies, you can take that those allergy medications during this time. There are many over-the-counter (OTC) allergy medications from which to choose. Examples include Allegra, Claritin and Zyrtec. If you are concerned about whether or not you should take any allergy medication, please consult your primary care provider.


Smoke Signals

Smoke Signals
Fact Sheet

The dangers of cigarettes and other tobacco products have had health professionals sending up smoke signals for years. Although smoking rates have declined, nearly 18 percent of people 18 and older in the U.S. still currently smoke, and nearly half a million Americans die every year from smoking-related disease. In fact, smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S.

Did you know?

  • Cigarettes contain more than 7,000 chemicals. At least 69 are known to cause cancer.
  • On average, cigarette smokers die 10 years earlier than nonsmokers.
  • Smoking is directly responsible for 90 percent of lung cancer deaths.
  • For every person who dies from smoking, at least 30 (more than 16 million Americans) are living with a smoking-related illness.
  • Secondhand smoke causes ear infections, asthma attacks, and respiratory symptoms and infections in children and raises their risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). In adults, secondhand smoke causes heart disease, lung cancer and stroke. In fact, living with a smoker increases nonsmokers’ chance of developing lung cancer by 20 to 30 percent by ex­posing them to many of the toxic chemicals released from burning tobacco products and exhaled smoke.
  • Smoking raises blood pressure and stresses the heart, increasing your risk for heart disease.
  • Health experts are concerned that electronic cig­arettes are “a gateway to nicotine addiction and, ultimately, smoking, particularly for young people.” Electronic cigarettes pose a risk to unborn babies whose mothers smoke (or vape) and increase nonsmokers’ exposure to nicotine and other toxins, according to a report by the World Health Organization.
  • More people are addicted to the nicotine in cigarettes than to any other drug. Nicotine may be as addictive as heroin, cocaine or alcohol.

Stopping smoking is the single most important step you can take to improve the length and quality of your life. It’s never too late to quit! In fact, you cut your risk for heart disease in half just one year after quitting. Even quitting at age 50 reduces your risk of dying from a smoking-related disease by 50 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Do One Thing: Although many people quit on their own, it generally takes multiple tries. You’re more likely to be successful if you get a little help. So send up your own smoke signal: Declare your inten­tion to quit and tap into one of these proven quit-smoking resources.

  • The Ector County Health Care Coalition offers FREE Tobacco Cessation Classes! They occur at 6pm every Tuesday at the MCHS Center for Health & Wellness, Classroom B. (8050 E. Hwy 191 at Faudree Rd.) Call 432-640-2026 to get started.
  • Call the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) 1-800-QUIT-NOW hotline (800-784-8669) or visit the CDC’s Quit Smoking Resources or I’m Ready to Quit resources page
  • Join the American Lung Association’s Freedom from Smoking program
  • Talk to your doctor about smoking cessation medications and local quit-smoking programs 















© 2016 Spirit Health Group. All rights reserved.

COPD – Dealing with West Texas Winter

Odessa weather forecast this week shows lows in the 30s and 40s.

People with COPD often find themselves in trouble during the winter season. The West Texas cold air can be a problem for many people with COPD and often causes them to have shortness of breath. The winter wind can also cause many problems leaving many feeling drained and fatigued. If you have to leave the comfort and warmth of your home, here are a few tips for you:

  1. Breathe right. Wear a scarf or mask and try to breathe through your nose to warm the air you breathe.
  2. Layer up. Wear several pieces of loose fitting garments so that you are protected against the cold. However, beware not to constrict your breathing. Layers will also allow for easy removal in case of ever-changing West Texas temperatures.
  3. Medicate before you mobilize. Ask your doctor if you can take an extra puff of your inhaler 20-30 minutes before you leave home.
  4. If you use oxygen, keep the tubing covered under your clothing to warm the air as much as possible.
  5. Make it quick. Limit your time in the cold as much as possible and do not tire yourself out. “Do not do out in the cold today what can be done on a warmer tomorrow!”

People with COPD must always take extra care of themselves year round, but it takes even more effort during winter months. Sure, we all want to be out and about. But if you have COPD, you must ask yourself – “Is it worth it?”.

People with COPD can enjoy the winter and breathe easier when proper precautions are taken.

So be safe, stay healthy and enjoy the West Texas winter!


Submitted by:

Rafael R. Rubalcado RRT, CTTS

Respiratory Educator

Cardiopulmonary Department

You cannot “workout” the damage tobacco does on your body.

We have all heard people justify having a donut or cupcake by saying: “I will run 15 minutes extra to burn off the calories.” And to an extent, they may be correct. But can the same be said about using tobacco? Can you out run the damage a cigarette or pinch of snuff will cause on your body?

The benefits of exercise are well known. Regular exercise assists in controlling your weight. It reduces the risk of heart problems such as elevated cholesterol and high blood pressure. It reduces the risk of diabetes and provides boosts of energy. But using tobacco actually counteracts all the positive effects of exercise. And the damage it causes is irreversible … unlike that extra cupcake.

When a person smokes, they are inhaling over 7,000 toxins, 60 of which are known to cause cancer. Smokeless is not any safer. It contains 2,000 harmful chemicals. These toxins are what cause a multitude of health issues. For example, it only takes smoking 100 cigarettes in a life time to cause Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). No exercise regimen will undo this damage.

People with diabetes are encouraged to modify their eating habits and increase their physical activity. However, the toxins in tobacco may make it more difficult to control their sugar.

People exercise to improve their endurance and build strength. Using tobacco counteracts all the positive effects. While smoking, carbon monoxide is absorbed by the blood and is circulated to all the organs and muscles in the body. The carbon monoxide deprives the body of the much needed oxygen it needs to heal and function. The blood vessels that carry the much needed nutrients to the body are hardened by tobacco.

With these thoughts in mind, should you just quit exercising if tobacco nullifies the positive effects?  No. Why not improve your OVERALL health? By exercising AND quitting tobacco, you are able to care for your entire self. Exercise is actually one of the recommended strategies to help you quit using tobacco products.

Quitting tobacco and starting an exercise regimen have something in common – “the better informed you are, the better the results will be.” When starting an exercise plan, it is recommended to speak to your primary care provider and an exercise specialist to help you achieve your goals. A plan is designed and if you follow it carefully, the results will come.

The same can be said about quitting tobacco. Speak to your provider about your desire to quit.  Locally, Medical Center Health System and the Ector County Healthcare Coalition have two certified tobacco treatment specialists who are ready to help you. The counselors will design a quit plan and use nicotine replacement to assist you. Attendance to the support group, which is held every Tuesday night at Mission Fitness at 6 p.m., can double your chances to successfully quit.

To get started with FREE Tobacco Cessation Classes, call 432-640-2026.

Submitted by:

Renato Galindo, BSRC, RRT,CPFT, AE-C, CTTS

Pulmonary Patient Educator

Cardiopulmonary Department