Is Vaping Safe?
“Vaping,” or the act of inhaling the vapor produced by the heating up of a water, chemical, and nicotine or marijuana-based compound has recently taken the smoking industry by storm. This inhalation method has been around since the 1960s, further developed by a 52 year old Chinese pharmacist named Hon Lik, who designed what would become the first commercially successful electronic cigarette (E-Cig) in 2003. Hon’s inspiration for creating this device was his father, who died of lung cancer resulting from years of heavy smoking.
In the early 2000’s vaping was quickly absorbed by North American and European markets as a legitimate means to quit smoking, at which time it was also still viewed as a safer method of administering nicotine and cannabis. It was not until September of 2008 that the World Health Organization deemed vaping an illegitimate cessation to nicotine replacement therapy (helping people quit smoking cigarettes). They raised concerns over the existence of other toxic chemicals and substances present in vapor smoke, and mandated more studies be performed on this subject to determine the legitimacy and safety of this smoking replacement option.
Meanwhile, the E-Cigarette and vaping industry has grown into one of the most profitable marketplaces in the world, some experts anticipating a net worth of $10 billion by 2017. Consumers are now able to purchase vaping products that range from 8 dollars to hundreds, available for purchase in common convenience stores, smoke shops, and grocery markets around the world.
Most people are unfortunately unaware of the severity of health risks associated with the dangers of vaping – some adverse affects proving to be just as dangerous as cigarette smoke. From popcorn lungs to MRSA infections, these facts are certain to make you think twice about buying another E-Cig.
1. Vaping Lowers the Body’s Ability to Fight Infections
Researchers at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill examined scraped cells recovered from the noses of otherwise healthy participants who belonged to one of three groups: cigarette smokers, vape users, and a control group that neither vaped nor smoked. These researchers then measured the activity levels in the cells of 594 genes known to aid in immune system support and fighting off infections.
What they found was astonishing; both vape users and cigarette smokers showed signed of diminished activity in these genes, however the vape group in particular exhibited decreased activity in 300 more genes in comparison to regular smoking! This evidence suggests that compounds found in the liquid used to create the vapor has an immunosuppressive effect on the body.
2. Chemicals in Vape Smoke Causes “Popcorn Lung”
A group of Harvard researchers found that common flavoring substances found in vape liquid caused permanent, and sometimes fatal scar buildup in the lungs. These flavoring chemicals, 2,3-pentanedione and diacetyl, systematically destroys the lungs’ smallest airways, resulting in a lung condition known as bronchiolitis obliterans, or “popcorn lung.”
This study also revealed that a majority of common vape flavors and compounds in commercial vapes contain these chemicals, or related chemicals that are known to cause the same condition. Whether you are purchasing cheap disposable electronic cigarettes found in corner shops or industrial-sized expensive cartridges found in smoke shops, you are at equal risk for exposure to popcorn lung and it’s dangerous implications.
3. Lithium Ion-powered Vapes Can Blow Up
Kenneth Barbero of Albany, NY is one of several individuals who has been severely injured by the combustion of a vaporizer. In his interview with CNN, Kenneth explains that the explosion ripped a hole in his tongue, left his hands covered in burns, and took out several teeth in the process. This explosion happened as a result of the overheating of a lithium ion battery used to power the vape, producing a dangerous explosion that could have killed him.
As these larger vape cartridges and lithium ion batteries become more prevalent in the vaping marketplace, we can expect an increase in dangerous situations like these if the means of administering this smoke is not altered or regulated more closely.
4. The Levels of Nicotine are Loosely Monitored
FDA lab tests conducted in 2009 not only found that vape cartridges labeled as “nicotine-free” contained traceable levels of nicotine, but the actual levels of nicotine in retail refillable cartridges across the board differed from their labels. In some newer “tank” style cartridges, the higher voltage of battery also delivered greater concentration levels of nicotine, increasing the likelihood of addiction. One main area of concern for the World Health Organization, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and other authoritative health-related groups with regard to vaping is the fact that there are few current measures in place to regulate the levels of nicotine, in addition to other harmful substances.
5. Accidental Ingestion of Vape Liquid Is Poisonous
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a press release in 2014 indicating that the number of calls into poison centers involving e-cigarette liquids was 215 times greater compared to 2010. The article further explains that this poisoning occurs in three ways: ingestion, inhalation, or absorption through the eyes and skin. An even more alarming finding showed that over half of these emergencies involved young children under the age of 5, one possible explanation being the candy and fruit flavor varieties of these substances that children might be drawn to. These liquids are also found to cause moderate to severe skin irritation when accidental exposure occurs, a legitimate concern for users who use refillable cartridges.
6. Metal Particles are Found in Vape Smoke
In one study, researchers measured the makeup of what they refer to as the “aerosols,” or the chemical composition of the vape smoke. They found that metals such as tin, nickel, silver, iron, aluminum, silicate, and chromium were present in this vape smoke in levels equal to, or greater than the concentrations found in traditional cigarette smoke. These nanoparticles are known for penetrating deep into the respiratory system and reaching vulnerable sacks in the lungs, often causing irreversible damage and permanent scarring. Internal bodily exposure to these metals are also linked to risks for cancer and abnormal cell growth.
7. Vapes Also Contain Formaldehyde, or Embalming Fluid
Oh, you know, that stuff that is used to preserve dead bodies over long periods of time? That’s right. James F. Pankow, a professor of chemistry and engineering at Portland State University in Oregon, found that vaping 3 milligrams of liquid at a voltage commonly used in commercial vapes produced 14 milligrams of formaldehyde. These researchers estimated that a tobacco smoker would receive .15 milligrams of the same chemical per cigarette, or 3 milligrams per pack. This indicates that many vaporizers contain more formaldehyde than regular cigarettes, a chemical associated with cancer risks when inhaled.
8. Pneumonia is a Risk for Vape Users
Lipoid pneumonia was found in a 42-year-old woman who had recently started using electronic cigarettes, causing the onset of her respiratory issues. This particular form of the pneumonia is caused by an inflammatory reaction to the presence of lipid substances in the lungs, or fat deposits found in lung tissue. Doctors linked the source of her infection to her recent exposure to the glycerin-based oils found in the compounds of e-cigarette vapor. After abstaining from e-cigarette use following her hospital visit, the patient’s respiratory conditions improved considerably.
9. E-cigarette Usage is Linked to Depression
At the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, researchers found a strong association between individuals living with anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues, and the use of e-cigarettes. Their findings indicate that people who experience these conditions are three times as likely to be current users of vaping devices compared to individuals with no mental health conditions. Although these statistics are significant and certainly a cause for discussion, no direct causation was found in this study.
10. Some Safety Studies on E-Cigarettes Written by Industry-Funded Scientists
The Lancet, an England-based scientific publication, released an article warning that some scientific evidence indicating that vaping is safer than regular cigarettes are written by scientists funded by the vaping industry. They specifically called out Public Health England (PHE), who produced a press released shared by the BBC claiming that E-Cigarettes are up to 95% less harmful than tobacco. They found that the authors of this paper served as consultants to well-known and wealthy e-cigarette distributors. The article warns that three of the scientists hired to uncover the dangers of vaping that are directly funded by the E-cigarette industry, presenting an undeniable conflict of interest, in addition to the methodologically weak scientific evidence present in their studies.
Commonly Asked Vape Questions
Is Vaping Bad for You?
Vaping is undoubtedly bad for your health. Studies have proven that this habit lowers the body’s ability to fight off infections, essentially suppressing the immune system. Although the use of electronic cigarettes does eliminate many of the cancer-causing byproducts of burning tobacco, nicotine vaporizers still put users at risk of heart health problems. In fact, a study released by Journal of the American Heart Association found that nicotine vaporizer smokers experience the same heart rate variability patterns associated with increased cardiac risk. In sum, the scientific community generally agrees that both the vapor e cigarettes produce, and the nicotine most of them contain, are bad for your health. If you are trying to quit, you can start by asking your doctor about nicotine gum or patches.
What are the Most Common Side Effects of Vaping?
Many side effects of vaping are attributed to the vapor they produce, while some side effects are attributed to nicotine. Here are the side effects of vaping most commonly associated with the dehydration the vapor causes:
- Dryness of the mouth
- Dryness of the eyes
- Dryness of the skin
- Dryness of the lips
- Sensitive or bleeding gums
- Cough and general throat irritations
- Dulled ability to taste food
Below are the side effects of vaping most commonly associated with nicotine consumption:
- Inability to sleep
- Racing or abnormal heart patterns
- Ringing in the ears
- Unusual tiredness
Is Vaping Bad for Your Lungs?
Vaping is definitely not healthy for your lungs. Many e cigarette liquid solutions contain a substance called Diacetyl that has been studied and observed to cause what is known as “obliterative bronchiolitis.” When inhaled, this substance permanently scars the smallest airways within the lungs, which reduces their ability to function normally. Unfortunately, there are currently no government standards for diacetyl content in vape juice, so electronic cigarette juice producers are not required to mark products that contain this hazardous material.
Is Vaping Worse than Smoking?
Although the healthiest option would be to abstain from inhaling foreign substances into your lungs in the first place, the medical community generally agrees that vaping is not as detrimental to your health as smoking. According to WebMD, half a million deaths are caused by smoking in the United States every year. The most hazardous part of smoking comes from the thousands of chemicals that are produced as a byproduct of burning the cigarette, producing smoke. E cigarettes vaporize substances for inhalation, instead of burning and creating smoke.
Is Vaping Harmful to Others?
Secondhand smoke has historically been a major problem in the United States, requiring laws be set in place to prohibit cigarette smoke in public areas. While secondhand smoke from cigarettes is definitely dangerous to others, electronic cigarettes do not produce smoke, therefore most medical professionals agree that it is less of a concern. However, the International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health produced a study that found that the use of vaporizers worsened air quality, specifically increasing aerosolized nicotine in the general vicinity of the e cigarette smoker. This indicates that e cigarettes are not entirely emission-free.