What Is Vaping?
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Many people still aren’t sure what is vaping exactly. If you have any questions about vaping, I hope I will be able to shed some light on the subject. Should you be concerned about vaping? What are the health risks?
Vaping, or vaporizing, is the process of heating up raw plant matter or extracts, without combustion. Instead of burning cannabis, tobacco, or hash, vaping gently heats up these substances to limit the release of harmful chemicals and maximize the plant’s intended effects. Cannabis is typically vaporized at no less than 285°F but no greater than 450°F, and tobacco vaporizes at temps between 250°F and 300°F. Even though vaping reduces the effects of second-hand smoke, it doesn’t mean you’re not experiencing a drug’s effects.
Vaping is the process of using electronic nicotine delivery device systems (ENDS). These devices use batteries to turn liquids into a vapor that is inhaled into the lungs. The liquids usually have nicotine in them, along with flavorings and other substances. A vape device can also be used to heat/inhale marijuana or other substances after the initial e-liquid has been used up.
What Is in Vapes
Nicotine is a known harmful substance because:
- It is addictive.
- In addition to being addictive itself, nicotine may make users more vulnerable to other forms of addiction.
- It is a toxin that crosses the placenta and so affects both the fetus and the mother.
- It can harm the development of young brains. Brain development is not complete until a young person reaches the age of 26.
- The parts of the brain most at risk are those that handle decision-making, impulse control, and the ability to pay attention.
- Nicotine addiction and substances may make anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders worse, even when nicotine use was started as a way to handle these mood issues.
Are vapes and e-cigarettes healthy?
Vaping is unhealthy. The heating element does not just deliver the desired nicotine content but also introduces into the lungs chemicals that damage the lung. Some e-cigarettes or vapes say that they do not contain nicotine, but testing has shown that nicotine is often an ingredient and may have more nicotine than regular cigarettes at times.
Other chemicals related to using these devices have been found to be dangerous to your health. These include the flavoring chemicals, which have been linked to a serious disease often known as popcorn lung. Using these devices may be linked to asthma, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This could lead to admission to a hospital for lung failure and the need for a machine to breathe. A number of people have died from lung disease related to vaping.
Vaping causes other problems, including:
- Poisoning of children, who swallow the liquid nicotine.
- Fires and explosions from defective batteries in the e-cigarette result in serious injuries.
- E-cigarettes and vapes are relatively new; the long-term effects are unknown.
Can e-cigarettes or vapes be used to quit smoking?
There are several products recommended by the US FDA to help people quit smoking.
- E-cigarettes/vapes are not FDA-approved.
- Using them trades one form of nicotine addiction for another one.
- E-cigarettes/vapes have negative health and environmental consequences.
- Young people and pregnant women should never use e-cigarettes/vaping as quit aids.
What should I know about children and teenagers and vaping?
- E-cigarettes and vapes are currently the most frequently used form of tobacco/nicotine among middle school and high school students in the U.S.
- Preteens and teens who vape are more likely to use other substances, including marijuana, cigarettes, and other drugs.
- These young people often believe that vaping does not pose health risks.
The U.S. has new laws banning the sale of e-cigarettes and vapes to minors in stores and online. Many states have laws that allow these products to be sold only to individuals 21 years and older, although some states still approve sales to 18-year-olds.
Let us get more into the health issues of vaping.
Health risks of vaping with nicotine
Nicotine is not known to cause cancer. It is approved for use in nicotine replacement therapies, such as the patch or nicotine gum. However, there are risks linked to nicotine.
Nicotine is a highly addictive substance. Vaping nicotine could:
- lead to dependence
- cause nicotine addiction among users who would not have started using nicotine otherwise (e.g., smoking)
Children and youth are especially susceptible to the harmful effects of nicotine, including addiction. They may become dependent on nicotine with lower levels of exposure than adults.
- can affect memory and concentration.
- is known to alter teen brain development.
Exposure to nicotine during adolescence may cause:
- reduced impulse control.
- cognitive and behavioral problems
Vaping may predispose youth to addiction to nicotine and possibly other drugs.
This is kind of interesting as e-cigarettes are supposed to help us quit smoking.
Symptoms of Vaping-Related Lung Illness May Feel Like the Flu
More than 1,200 people have reported vaping-related lung injuries in the U.S.—and 26 have died.
Gregory Rodriguez thought he had the flu when he went to the emergency room with headaches, terrible nausea, and diarrhea in September—but his lungs had actually stopped working properly. The 22-year-old had been vaping THC because he thought it was safer than smoking marijuana. As he continued to feel worse, Rodriguez’s blood oxygen levels dipped so low that he had to be connected to a ventilator. He was “essentially dying,” his doctor said and had to spend 12 days in the hospital before his condition started to improve.
Unfortunately, cases like this have become more and more common—and it completely puzzled doctors, researchers, and other public health officials. There have been 1,299 reported cases of people suffering lung injuries after using electronic cigarettes or vaping products in the U.S., along with 26 official deaths, according to a new Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The numbers are expected to rise along with awareness of the illness.
Health risks of other chemicals in vaping
There are health risks linked to other chemicals found in vaping products.
Vaping substances have fewer and different chemicals than tobacco products.
Vegetable glycerin and propylene glycol are the main liquids in vaping products. These are considered safe for use in many consumer products such as cosmetics and sweeteners. However, the long-term safety of inhaling the substances in vaping products is unknown and continues to be assessed.
Chemicals used for flavor in vaping products are used by food manufacturers to add flavor to their products. While safe to eat, these ingredients have not been tested to see if they are safe to breathe in.
There is no burning during vaping, but the vaping process needs the liquid to be heated. This can create new chemicals, such as formaldehyde. Some contaminants (e.g., nickel, tin, aluminum) might also get into the vaping products and then into the vapor.
The number of substances (including nicotine) a person can be exposed to by vaping is affected by the:
- battery power
- type of vaping device
- settings on the device
- combination of internal components
- type of vaping liquid and amount of nicotine
- user-behavior patterns
- user’s experience with vaping
Using vaping products with higher power and temperature settings can produce more chemicals.
Some of these chemicals and contaminants are linked to negative health effects. However, the amount of chemicals and contaminants in the vapor is normally at much lower levels than in cigarette smoke.
We are still learning more about how vaping affects health. The long-term health impacts of vaping are unknown. However, there is enough evidence to justify efforts to prevent the use of vaping products by youth and non-smokers.
There is a concern that people who vape might get ‘popcorn lung’ from being exposed to diacetyl. Diacetyl is a flavoring chemical used to give butter-like and other flavors to food products, as well as vaping products. However, there have been no reports of popcorn lung occurring due to vaping.
This disease is named popcorn lung because workers in popcorn plants developed it after inhaling heated flavors such as diacetyl.
Popcorn lung, or popcorn worker’s lung, is:
- a chronic disease that damages the small airways in the lung
- the common term for the medical condition known as bronchiolitis obliterans.
While once common in vaping products, steps have been taken to reduce its use.
Second-hand vapor is not harmless, but it does contain far fewer chemicals than second-hand smoke. Bystanders can be exposed to vapor that is exhaled by users. The health effects of exposure to second-hand vapor are still unknown. However, the risks are expected to be much lower compared to smoke from a tobacco product.
We recommend that users be cautious around non-users and youth.
There is some evidence that e-cigarette use increases the level of nicotine and other chemicals on indoor surfaces.
Vaping Is Less Harmful Than Smoking, but It’s Still Not Safe
E-cigarettes heat nicotine (extracted from tobacco), flavorings, and other chemicals to create an aerosol that you inhale. Regular tobacco cigarettes contain 7,000 chemicals, many of which are toxic. While we don’t know exactly what chemicals are in e-cigarettes, Blaha says “There’s almost no doubt that they expose you to fewer toxic chemicals than traditional cigarettes.”
However, there has also been an outbreak of lung injuries and deaths associated with vaping. As of Jan. 21, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed 60 deaths in patients with e-cigarette or vaping, product use associated lung injury (EVALI).
While the concept of vaping-related illness is fairly new, the CDC just revealed there’s now a name for it: e-cigarette or vaping product use associated lung injury, aka EVALI. There are a lot of health officials who still haven’t figured out about EVALI, but here’s what they do know about its potential causes, symptoms, and treatment.
“These cases appear to predominantly affect people who modify their vaping devices or use black market-modified e-liquids. This is especially true for vaping products containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC),” explains Blaha.
The CDC has identified vitamin E acetate as a chemical of concern among people with EVALI. Vitamin E acetate is a thickening agent often used in THC vaping products, and it was found in all lung fluid samples of EVALI patients examined by the CDC.
The CDC recommends that people:
- Do not use THC-containing e-cigarette or vaping products.
- Avoid using informal sources, such as friends, family, or online dealers to obtain a vaping device.
- Do not modify or add any substances to a vaping device that are not intended by the manufacturer.
Research Suggests Vaping Is Bad for Your Heart and Lungs
Nicotine is the primary agent in both regular cigarettes and e-cigarettes, and it is highly addictive. It causes you to crave a smoke and suffer withdrawal symptoms if you ignore the craving. Nicotine is also a toxic substance. It raises your blood pressure and spikes your adrenaline, which increases your heart rate and the likelihood of having a heart attack.
Is vaping bad for you? There are many unknowns about vaping, including what chemicals make up the vapor and how they affect physical health over the long term. “People need to understand that e-cigarettes are potentially dangerous to your health,” says Blaha. “Emerging data suggest links to chronic lung disease and asthma and associations between dual use of e-cigarettes and smoking with cardiovascular disease. You’re exposing yourself to all kinds of chemicals that we don’t yet understand and that are probably not safe.”
Electronic Cigarettes Are Just as Addictive as Traditional Ones
Both e-cigarettes and regular cigarettes contain nicotine, which research suggests may be as addictive as heroin and cocaine. What’s worse, says Blaha, many e-cigarette users get even more nicotine than they would from a tobacco product — you can buy extra-strength cartridges, which have a higher concentration of nicotine, or you can increase the e-cigarette’s voltage to get a greater hit of the substance.
Electronic Cigarettes Aren’t the Best Smoking Cessation Tool
Although they’ve been marketed as an aid to help you quit smoking, e-cigarettes have not received Food and Drug Administration approval as smoking cessation devices. A recent study found that most people who intended to use e-cigarettes to kick the nicotine habit ended up continuing to smoke both traditional and e-cigarettes.
In light of the EVALI outbreak, the CDC advises adults who use e-cigarettes for smoking cessation to weigh the risks and benefits and consider the use of other FDA-approved smoking cessation options.
A New Generation Is Getting Hooked on Nicotine
Among youth, e-cigarettes are more popular than any traditional tobacco product. In 2015, the U.S. Surgeon General reported that e-cigarette use among high school students had increased by 900%, and 40% of young e-cigarette users had never smoked regular tobacco.
According to Blaha, there are three reasons e-cigarettes may be particularly enticing to young people. First, many teens believe that vaping is less harmful than smoking. Second, e-cigarettes have a lower per-user cost than traditional cigarettes. Finally, vape cartridges are often formulated with flavorings such as apple pie and watermelon that appeal to younger users.
Both youths and adults find the lack of smoke appealing. With no smell, e-cigarettes reduce the stigma of smoking.
“What I find most concerning about the rise of vaping is that people who would’ve never smoked otherwise, especially youth, are taking up the habit,” says Blaha. “It’s one thing if you convert from cigarette smoking to vaping. It’s quite another thing to start up nicotine use with vaping. And it often leads to using traditional tobacco products down the road.”
The Chemicals You Inhale When Vaping
Instead of bathing lung tissue with a therapeutic mist, just as a nebulizer does, vaping coats lungs with potentially harmful chemicals. E-liquid concoctions usually include some mix of flavorings, aromatic additives, and nicotine or THC (the chemical in marijuana that causes psychological effects), dissolved in an oily liquid base. “We think that some of the vaporized elements of the oil are getting deep down into the lungs and causing an inflammatory response,” explains Broderick.
The substance at the center of the investigation is vitamin E. It’s often used as a thickening and delivery agent in e-liquid. And, while it’s safe when taken orally as a supplement or used on the skin, it’s likely an irritant when inhaled. It’s been found in the lungs of people with severe, vaping-related damage.
Other common substances found in e-liquid or produced when it’s heated up may also pose a risk to the lungs.
- Diacetyl: This food additive, used to deepen e-cigarette flavors, is known to damage small passageways in the lungs.
- Formaldehyde: This toxic chemical can cause lung disease and contribute to heart disease.
- Acrolein: Most often used as a weed killer, this chemical can also damage the lungs.
Vaping-Related Lipoid Pneumonia
Unlike classic pneumonia caused by infection, lipoid pneumonia develops when fatty acids (the building blocks of fat) enter the lungs. Vaping-related lipoid pneumonia is the result of inhaling oily substances found in e-liquid, which sparks an inflammatory response in the lungs.
Symptoms of lipoid pneumonia include:
- Chronic cough
- Shortness of breath
- Coughing up blood or blood-tinged mucus
There is no treatment for, “Lipoid Pneumonia”.
Primary Spontaneous Pneumothorax (Collapsed Lung) After Vaping
Primary spontaneous pneumothorax, or collapsed lung, occurs when there’s a hole in the lung through which oxygen escapes. This can be the result of an injury — such as a gunshot or knife wound — or when air blisters on the top of the lungs rupture and create tiny tears.
Those who develop these blisters are usually tall, thin people who had a period of rapid growth during adolescence, says Broderick. Because of the accelerated growth, a weak point may blister and develop at the top of the lungs. On their own, these blisters don’t typically produce symptoms. You don’t know you have them unless they rupture. Smoking — and now vaping — are associated with an increased risk of bursting these blisters, leading to lung collapse.
Can Vaping Cause Lung Cancer?
Cancer is definitely a concern, given that vaping introduces a host of chemicals into the lungs. But vaping products haven’t been around long enough for us to learn whether or not they cause cancer.
“We do know that smoking tobacco forces tiny particles to be deposited deep in the bronchial tree and can lead to the development of cancer. The same may be true for vaping,” says Broderick.
Who is Stephen Broderick?
He just happens to be a lung cancer surgeon at Johns Hopkins Medical Centre
The final decision of course is yours, but do you really think vaping is worth the risk?
Thank you for reading.
Comments are welcome.