Is Vaping Bad For You?
There has been a rapid increase in people turning to e-cigarettes as a way to help them quit smoking. With this rise in popularity has come some concerns about the safety of e-cigarette use and its effects on the environment and public health.
In this article, we address the safety concerns surrounding vaping and how it can impact your health.
With so much information floating around in the press and online, it can be difficult to separate fact from fiction. Even more so as vaping has become a political issue, with some leaders taking a firmer stance on vaping than tobacco smoking.
In this article, we will dispel some common myths surrounding vaping and provide you with the hard facts.
Myth 1: Vaping Causes ‘Popcorn Lung’
This is one of the most commonly circulating myths about vaping. Popcorn lung is also known as bronchiolitis obliterans, a condition where the tiniest airways in the lungs become damaged, causing a cough and breathing difficulty. There is currently no cure for the disease, but there is medication available to avoid progression and to control symptoms.
An investigation into popcorn lung cases revealed that it was caused by a chemical called diacetyl, which is commonly found in certain food and beverages. Although vape e-liquids used to contain diacetyl, this chemical was banned in most countries years ago.
Despite the negative media, there are no known cases of popcorn lung in vapers.
Myth 2: Second-Hand Vaping is Harmful
Another common myth is that second-hand vaping is just as harmful as second-hand tobacco smoke. Many studies have refuted this claim, suggesting that second-hand vaping has very few harmful effects on bystanders.
When people exhale tobacco smoke, they release a variety of toxic chemicals into the air which can be ingested by bystanders. Research has shown that over time, repeated exposure to this second-hand smoke can negatively impact their health.
Vaping on the other hand, releases far less harmful chemicals into the atmosphere, and has been shown to be safe to passively inhale.
You may remember the U.S. media uproar in 2019 when several cases of illness and death were linked to e-cigarette use. To date, there have been over 65 deaths and 2,700 cases of respiratory illness reporting symptoms such as cough, shortness of breath and lethargy. More rarely, people have developed serious lung injury.
Upon launching an investigation into these cases, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that the cause was in fact THC oil and vitamin E acetate. THC is the active ingredient of marijuana and vitamin E acetate is an oily chemical often illegally added to black market THC products. The problem with vitamin E acetate is that it creates a greasy coating in the lungs, which can cause severe lung inflammation. This was found to be responsible for the 65 deaths and 2,700 cases of respiratory illness.
To put these numbers into context, there are 480,000 conventional smoking-related deaths per year and even more cases of respiratory illness. Furthermore, smoking accounts for over 90% of all lung cancers.
Side Effects of Vaping
The main ingredient in vape e-liquid is nicotine. On its own, nicotine is relatively safe. Furthermore, the concentrations of nicotine found in vaping are controllable and generally comparable to those used in conventional nicotine replacement therapies. However, nicotine is an addictive stimulant, even in smaller concentrations. As such, people using vape products may experience nicotine cravings.
Side effects of vaping may include headaches, nausea, dry mouth, dizziness or eye irritation. Fortunately, most people will never experience these symptoms in association with vaping.
In the event that you do experience any of these side effects, particularly if they persist, it would be advisable to seek medical attention.
Who Shouldn’t Vape?
The legal age of purchase and use of vaping products is 21 in the U.S. This varies by country, but generally people under 18 are not permitted.
Adolescent or young adults who vape can develop premature health problems, of which the most worrying is impeded brain development.
Pregnant women are also advised against vaping as the chemicals may cross the placenta, harming the unborn child.
Vaping and Cancer
Tobacco smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer worldwide. So far, no link has been made between vaping and cancer. As it is still a relatively new field, the long-term effects of vaping are still to be determined.
While some e-liquids contain a chemical called formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, the quantity is not large enough to be harmful. It is certainly a much lower concentration that would be found in conventional cigarette smoke.
Nonetheless, it would be advisable to avoid buying e-liquids that contain formaldehyde. Always ensure you buy your vape products from trustworthy brands and suppliers
Is Vaping Addictive?
Most e-liquids contain nicotine, an addictive stimulant which stimulates feelings of pleasure. This is what most smokers crave when they try to quit. Smoking cessation therapies often make use of nicotine replacement therapies to help ex-smokers manage these cravings. This can be given in different forms including gum, patches, sprays and lozenges.
Vaping is simply an alternative form of nicotine replacement. Naturally, it can also develop into an addictive habit. As such, people without a smoking history are discouraged from taking up vaping as it could lead to an avoidable addiction.
Vaping is also useful in helping ex-smokers fulfill other physical habits that they previously associated with smoking. This includes the hand to mouth motion of smoking, a pleasurable throat hit and the act of deep inhalation and exhalation. Some may argue that perpetuation for these physical habits makes vaping addictive but the difference is that it eliminates the health risks associated with conventional smoking.
Many e-cigarette brands now offer nicotine-free e-liquids which they market as ‘just for enjoyment’. This presents a perfect option for those who wish to vape without the risk of addiction, or those who have slowly weaned themselves off nicotine. Although some may worry that nicotine-free vaping provides a gateway into nicotine vaping, there is no evidence to suggest this as yet.
Which is Worse: Smoking or Vaping?
When people smoke tobacco, a myriad of harmful chemicals and carcinogens are inhaled and released into the atmosphere. So much so, that smoking is the leading risk factor of lung cancer worldwide and has been linked to more than 15 variants of cancer. Smoking can also have harmful effects on the cardiovascular and respiratory systems.
In contrast, the only known link between vaping and serious illness was an eruption of cases in 2019 where people added illegal black-market products to their e-liquid. There is still yet to be any conclusive evidence linking approved vaping products to cancer or any serious health problems. What we can confidently report is that the components of e-liquid are much less of a health risk compared to those of tobacco cigarettes.
Although vaping is not completely risk free, if you had to choose, vaping would be the better option. This has been backed by many reputable health organizations who are encouraging smokers to make the switch.
If you can, it is best to avoid both vaping and smoking, but for those seeking the healthier of the two, vaping is best. If you must vape, it is advised that you do so in moderation.
Please remember that the legal age to buy or use vaping products is 21 in the U.S (18 in some countries). If you experience any side effects following e-cigarette use, stop immediately and seek advice from your healthcare provider.