Vaping is usually portrayed as the health-conscious alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes, and some studies seem to confirm that it’s better than smoking, but such an idea only carries weight when that specific comparison is drawn. Considered on its own merits, vaping poses a number of serious health risks. If you or a loved one vapes, or is considering taking up the habit, here are some of those risks you should know about.
Vaping is the name given to smoking vaporized and flavored nicotine liquids using electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes. Unlike tobacco, which naturally contains nicotine and a number of recognized toxins, the liquid used for vaping, called e-liquid or e-juice, usually contains only water, nicotine additives, propylene glycol and flavorings.
Vaping is popular among teens, especially using the Juul model of vaping e-cigarette. Rather than carrying around a bulky device, teens can be seen sucking on what resembles a sleek USB flash drive that contains a variety of flavored e-liquids seemingly inspired by the candy aisle, from cotton candy and caramel to cool mint and crème brûlée. But while the toxins in cigarettes are mostly absent from e-liquids, manufacturers deliberately add nicotine to give smokers a buzz. Consequently, teens have reported on its addictive qualities and their desires to transition to traditional cigarettes, leading some researchers to declare vaping as a gateway to cigarette smoking.
Researchers have also reported on a number of direct health impacts of vaping. When e-cigarettes heat up and vaporize the e-liquid, the metal inside the device and the e-liquid can combine to create known carcinogens like benzene, identified as the highest known cancer-causing agent in the air in the U.S.
The heat, smoke, and nicotine generated by e-cigarettes can also mess with the smoker’s immune system, making it harder for the system to repair cell damage, inhibiting wound healing and possibly leading to lung disease and chronic bronchitis symptoms in adolescents.
Another study shows that the metal coil in some types of vaporizers can release toxic metals like cadmium and nickel, which are found in conventional cigarettes, plus potentially unsafe levels of chromium, manganese, and arsenic.
While smoker’s cough is often associated more with conventional cigarette smoking than vaping — and vaping is touted as a way to eliminate smoker’s cough — inhaling the diacetyl found in many e-liquid flavors can cause a lung disease called bronchiolitis obliterans, or “popcorn lung.” And since popcorn lung symptoms include coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath, it may as well be called “smoker’s cough.”
Last but not least, e-cigarettes have been known to explode in the faces of smokers, causing severe injury. “Manufacturers and suppliers have an ethical and legal obligation to provide reasonably safe products,” says David Bressman, attorney, and founder of Bressman Law. Anyone injured by a vaping explosion should report it to the FDA and contact a qualified personal injury lawyer.
Because of these health concerns, and despite a $12 million ad campaign by R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, vaping has been banned in San Francisco. Health experts are hoping this ban will serve as a model for other cities across the nation.