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Vaping Risks You Should Definitely Know About

By Orgesta Tolaj


5 October 2023

vaping risks

© Chiara Summer / Unsplash

Vaping has definitely been on the rise in the last couple of years. Teenagers (and some pre-teens as well) are constantly seen on the streets with vapes in their hands. Even certain shopping centers have begun to permit the use of electronic vaporizers inside their premises. The main reason for vaping? It is presumably “healthier than cigarette smoking”. However, that is not entirely true. If anything, there are many vaping risks one must consider before starting to smoke a vape. Here is what you need to look out for.

What Is Vaping?

Vapes, short for vaporizers, are electronic devices designed to deliver nicotine or other substances to the user in the form of an aerosol, often referred to as vapor. Vaping encompasses a variety of device types, such as vape pens and e-pipes, each with its unique form and size. These devices operate by heating a liquid within, typically containing nicotine and various chemicals. This heating process generates an aerosol that individuals inhale, and this aerosol can also be inadvertently inhaled by bystanders when the vaper exhales it into the surrounding air.

The Rise of Vaping

The prevalence of vaping is on the rise in the United States. As of 2018, approximately 8.1 million adults in the country were engaged in vaping. Notably, vaping is particularly popular among young people, with 7.6% of individuals aged 18 to 24 years identifying themselves as e-cigarette users. This trend highlights the importance of understanding and addressing the health implications associated with vaping, especially among youth.

What Are Some Vaping Risks?

Some vaping risks that should cause worry are:

  • Nicotine in Vaping

Nicotine, a highly addictive substance, is present in vaping products. It has the potential to harm the developing brains of teenagers and young adults. It’s noteworthy that even some e-cigarettes labeled as “nicotine-free” have been found to contain nicotine. Accidental exposure to e-cigarette liquids has led to acute nicotine poisoning in both children and adults.

  • Vaping and Smoking

Adolescents who engage in vaping are more likely to initiate cigarette smoking. Many young individuals who use e-cigarettes concurrently smoke traditional cigarettes.

  • Cancer as a Vaping Risk

Certain compounds found in e-cigarette vapor have been associated with an elevated risk of cancer. The aerosol produced by e-cigarettes can expose users and bystanders to harmful substances.

  • Additional Vaping Risks

Instances of explosions and burns related to e-cigarettes during recharging have been reported, often due to defective batteries. Furthermore, vaping during pregnancy can potentially harm the developing fetus.

Can Vaping Damage Your Lungs?

The impact of vaping on lung health is a matter of serious concern. Reports have highlighted sudden and severe lung problems, including fatalities, associated with vaping. This condition is known as e-cigarette, or vaping, product use-associated lung injury (EVALI).

Key points from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding EVALI include:

More than 2,800 e-cigarette users required hospitalization due to EVALI by February 2020, and sadly, 68 of these individuals lost their lives. Most of these cases occurred among teenagers and young adults.
Symptoms of EVALI have typically begun gradually, often starting with shortness of breath and chest pain before progressing to severe breathing difficulties requiring hospitalization.
Experts suspect that contamination with a specific form of vitamin E called vitamin E acetate in some THC-containing e-cigarettes is a significant cause of EVALI. However, other contaminants and factors, such as pre-existing lung disease, may also contribute.

man holding two vapes
© Olena Bohovyk / Pexels

Since September 2019, there has been a significant decrease in new EVALI cases, likely due to increased awareness about the link between THC in e-cigarettes and EVALI, as well as the removal of vitamin E acetate from these products. However, it’s important to note that some EVALI cases may go unrecognized, and tracking of cases remains incomplete.

Popcorn Lungs as a Vaping Risk

Another concern related to vaping is “popcorn lung,” scientifically known as bronchiolitis obliterans (BO). This condition results from inflammation in the lungs, causing wheezing, coughing, and breathlessness. It can lead to permanent lung damage, including scarring and airway narrowing. One of the causes of popcorn lung is diacetyl, a chemical found in many e-cigarette flavors. The name “popcorn lung” originates from cases of this illness among workers in a microwave popcorn factory.

Understanding how vaping affects the lungs involves recognizing what happens when you use an electronic cigarette. E-cigarettes heat a mixture of liquid nicotine, chemicals, and flavorings to produce an aerosol for inhalation. This aerosol contains particles of harmful substances, including heavy metals like arsenic and lead, which can become deposited irreversibly at the base of the lungs.

Is Vaping Better for You Than Smoking?

Vaping is not a safe substitute for smoking, and it’s important to note that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not endorse it as an official method for quitting smoking. If you’re considering quitting smoking and looking for FDA-approved options, you can refer to their official list of recommended methods for cessation. It’s crucial to be aware of the potential risks associated with vaping and make informed choices when trying to quit smoking.

Both smoking and vaping products typically contain nicotine, a highly addictive substance. Nicotine addiction can lead to continued use of these products, making it challenging for individuals to quit. Additionally, just like with smoking, vaping can expose others to harmful chemicals through secondhand aerosol, which can affect bystanders, especially in indoor or confined spaces.

How to Quit Vaping?

Here are some tips on how to quit vaping:

1. Find the Right Timing

Setting a specific quit date helps with accountability and preparation. Whether quitting gradually or “cold turkey,” choosing the right time is important to minimize stress.

2. Try NRT

Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) can assist in managing nicotine withdrawal symptoms. Products like patches, gum, and lozenges are available over-the-counter and can aid in quitting.

3. Track Your Triggers

Recognize situations, emotions, or activities that trigger the urge to vape. Understanding triggers allows for the development of strategies to manage them effectively.

4. Understand Cravings and Withdrawals

Strategies for dealing with withdrawal symptoms and cravings vary but may include refocusing, seeking support, using distractions, or removing oneself from triggering situations.

5. Seek Personal Help From Friends or Family

Connecting with friends, family, and support networks can be invaluable. Online resources, smartphone apps, and social media groups can also provide support and motivation.

6. Seek Medical Help

For heavy users or those with underlying health conditions, seeking medical advice and prescription NRT products may be beneficial.

7. Be Aware of the Challenges

Recognize the complexity of breaking the nicotine habit and the challenges it presents, both physically and emotionally. Identifying these challenges and planning to address them is essential. This will be the toughest point of your “cold turkey” process, so it is best to not do it alone.

8. Try Exercising

Engaging in physical activity, especially aerobic exercise, can help combat cravings and relieve stress associated with quitting vaping. It can also aid in maintaining a healthy weight.

9. Try Stress Management Techniques

Instead of relying on vaping to cope with stress, adopt healthy stress management techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, yoga, and relaxation exercises.

Are you someone who vapes? If yes, did this information on vaping risks change your mind? If you do not vape, did this convince you to never try it out? We would love to hear more about your thoughts in the comments below!

You might also want to read: Brain Health Habits to Improve Mental Health

Orgesta Tolaj

Your favorite introvert who is buzzing around the Hive like a busy bee!