Science, Now + Beyond

Vaping might not be as safe as you think

A growing body of scientific evidence is suggesting that vaping, once majorly considered to be a "safe" smoking alternative, might actually pose its own set of serious risks.

Let’s get real, vaping is becoming an increasingly popular trend.

It just seems like everyone is using electronic cigarettes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that nine million adults now vape regularly in the United States, and the global market for e-cigarettes is growing into a multi-billion dollar industry. Vaping is especially popular among smokers, many of whom believe that vaping presents a safer alternative to traditional cigarette smoking.

Some of my friends’ vape and many of them have made the switch from smoking regular cigarettes to using e-cigarettes. Honestly, they do appear to be doing a lot better health-wise since they made the switch to e-cigarettes, which might be a sign that e-cigs are a lot better than traditional cigarettes. However, although it is true that studies have suggested that using e-cigarettes is safer than using regular cigarettes, that hardly means that vaping is not harmful to your health.

Take it from Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, former U.S. Surgeon General, who says “…the health effects and potentially harmful doses of heated and aerosolized constituents of e-cigarette liquids—including solvents, flavorants, and toxicants—are not completely understood. However, although e-cigarettes generally emit fewer toxicants than combustible tobacco products, we know that aerosol from e-cigarettes are not safe.”

[Image Description: A man blows smoke from his mouth, via giphy.com.]
[Image Description: A man blows smoke from his mouth, via giphy.com.]
That’s because there’s still a lot of toxic chemicals found in e-cigarettes. Although the amounts of toxic chemicals and carcinogens, substances capable of causing cancer, are lower in e-cigarettes, they are present in unsafe levels. A 2009 study from the FDA found a variety of different cancer-causing chemicals in brands of e-cigarettes and its cartridges, including some of the chemicals found in anti-freeze. Another study, conducted in 2014, found traces of formaldehyde, another toxic chemical, in the aerosol from certain brands of e-cigarettes.  

E-cigarettes can also contain nicotine, a substance that has been scientifically proven to have negative effects on human health. According to the American Lung Association, the brain doesn’t fully develop until people are in their mid-20s, and nicotine’s effects on developing brains can lead to impairments in memory and attention spans. Other studies have shown that nicotine has the potential to be a carcinogen, and cause damage to the heart, lungs, kidneys and other organ systems.

And just like traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes can worsen any pre-existing lung conditions. An article published in the “Journal of Preventive Medicine” found that risks of developing asthmatic symptoms increased significantly among e-cigarette smokers, regardless of if they were already smoking traditional cigarettes.

[Image Description: A man saying - Imma asthmatic, via giphy.com.]
[Image Description: A man saying – Imma asthmatic, via giphy.com.]
In fact, one 18-year-old in Pennsylvania who had previously had mild asthma symptoms was admitted to the hospital only three weeks after she had picked up vaping. Based on the severity of her respiratory symptoms, she was diagnosed with “wet lung”, and her doctors attributed her vaping to be a primary cause of her illness. Although her case was the first case of “wet lung” associated with vaping, it did prompt the doctors who oversaw her care to release a warning about the potential for vaping to lead to more similar cases in the future.

Although e-cigarettes have only been on the market for a short time, especially when compared to how long traditional cigarettes have been, there’s already a growing body of evidence that suggests that e-cigarettes are not as safe as originally thought. Even though there are fewer toxic substances in vapes as there are in cigarettes, any amount of carcinogens can prove dangerous to a person’s health.

So next time you consider lighting up your vape, think about what you might be putting into your body.