Is Vaping Safe? (Everything We Know So Far)
Vaping has emerged as a healthier alternative to smoking cigarettes, with the e-cigarette industry evolving considerably since 2016. In 2020, the global vape market size was valued at USD 15.04 billion and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 28.1% from 2021 to 2028.
The question as to whether or not vaping is safe is pertinent to everyone. So, this infographic will showcase what we currently know about vape safety to help consumers make informed decisions now and in the future.
The Truth About Vaping Risks
Serious cases thought to be caused by vaping are becoming more commonly reported in the U.S. As of February 2020, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recorded a total of 2,807 incidents of EVALI (e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury) and related deaths across the country.
According to the CDC, the majority of these cases are strongly linked to the use of unregulated vape juices containing THC and vitamin E acetate. Despite these associated risks, multiple studies have concluded that vaping is 95% less harmful than smoking cigarettes.
Risks Associated with Direct Vaping
Vapes Contain Nicotine
Vapes emit an aerosol by heating a liquid that usually contains nicotine, flavorings, and other chemicals. Nicotine is strongly addictive and can affect the developing brain, potentially harming adolescents and young adults. Even some “nicotine-free” e-cigarettes have been found to contain nicotine.
A study has revealed that exposure to nicotine may impair learning ability and may have lasting consequences for one’s mental health and even personality. Experts explain how this happens: each time a new skill is learned or a memory is created, stronger connections – or synapses – are built between brain cells. When nicotine is taken in, it changes how these synapses are formed, possibly harming the parts of the brain that control attention and learning.
Risk of Defective Devices
Explosions and burns have been reported with e-cigarettes while recharging the devices due to defective batteries. To prevent these accidents, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends using specific batteries and chargers, replacing damaged or wet batteries, keeping e-cigarettes away from metal objects, and avoiding charging batteries overnight. Also, sticking to legitimate, regulated vape brands like RELX can reduce the risks associated with defective devices.
Increased Risk for Tobacco Addiction
The CDC has noted that vaping may increase one’s risk for future addiction to cigarettes. In particular, young people who vape may be more likely to smoke two or more tobacco products.
Studies point out that this may be attributed to the presence of nicotine in both cigarettes and e-cigarettes, which fuels the user’s urge to constantly smoke.
Mouth and Throat Irritation
E-cigarettes contain propylene glycol and glycerol, substances that can trigger throat and mouth irritation. When smoked in high concentration, these compounds can cause a dry cough.
Vaping juices also contain volatile organic compounds known to cause throat irritation. And if you inhale when there is no vaping juice to vaporize, you’ll experience a burning sensation called “dry hit,” which can temporarily cause a sore throat.
Popcorn lung is caused by inhaling certain harmful chemicals, some of which are found in e-cigarettes. Medically called bronchiolitis obliterans, this condition occurs when the oxygen’s flow to the lungs is blocked by swollen or damaged air passages (bronchioles).
Experts contend that diacetyl, a flavoring agent added to e-cigarettes, is what triggers popcorn lung. Inhaling this compound can cause inflammation in the lungs and may lead to permanent scarring in the airways, making breathing difficult. Once again, this can be avoided by sticking to legitimate, regulated vape brands like RELX.
Formaldehyde is a common vape juice chemical that has been linked to asthmatic reactions. A study notes that when this substance stays in the lungs after a typical vaping session, the user may develop potential health risks.
Cases of vaping-related hospitalizations have been earlier reported in the U.S., with the symptoms developing gradually from shortness of breath and chest pain. Health experts aren’t sure if vaping actually caused these lung-related incidents, but claim that the culprit is most likely a toxin present in the inhaled vapor.
That said, the formaldehyde content of RELX atomized smoke is equivalent to requirements of the "Health Standards for Formaldehyde in Room Air," which is 0.06% of the formaldehyde limit.
Research shows that vaping tends to increase the risk of viral and bacterial pneumonia. Findings also indicate that it can trigger lipoid pneumonia, where fluid fills the lungs, inflaming it and thus inducing a chronic cough.
In a study of 51 individuals with EVALI, health professionals confirmed that vitamin E acetate was found in the lung fluid of 95% of them. This may be due to the e-liquid ingredients not completely vaporized, resulting in the entry of fluid into the lungs, thereby causing pneumonia.
Sticking to regulated vaping brands significantly decreases this risk, as consumer product control agencies have more recently become stricter when it comes to e-liquid ingredients.
Increased Risk of Heart Disease
Emerging data suggest that vaping may be associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. Experts warn that it can elevate one’s blood pressure and spike up their adrenaline levels, increasing the likelihood of a heart attack.
Although the long-term effects of vaping on one’s health are not entirely known, experts and authorities emphasize that e-cigarettes are potentially dangerous to the human body.
Risks Associated with Secondhand Vaping
Exposure To Toxins
Bystanders who breathe in the aerosol might be exposed to many of the same contaminants found in e-cigarettes and even in traditional tobacco. Although vaping produces fewer toxins than smoking cigarettes, secondhand smokers could still be at risk of ingesting:
- Nicotine: Frequent inhalation of this chemical can cause the arterial walls of the heart to harden, potentially triggering a heart attack.
- Formaldehyde: This chemical is produced when the vaping device heats up solvents like glycerin and propylene glycol. This can become toxic when absorbed in high doses.
- Benzene: This organic compound can irritate the lungs, especially if the device is operated at a high power.
- Acrolein: The concentration of this compound is higher in exhaled e-cigarette vapors than in the pre-exposed user’s breath, posing potential harm to secondhand smokers.
- Diacetyl: This flavoring chemical can be dangerous when repeatedly inhaled, possibly causing popcorn lung.
- Heavy metals: These include lead, nickel, tin, and chromium, among others. Chromium is linked to gastrointestinal symptoms and respiratory failure. Likewise, nickel is associated with lung disease.
People at Risk
When vape aerosol is emitted – even if it smells like candy – it can affect an entire crowd of people. However, it can pose greater risk to certain groups:
Infants and children are at an increased risk of developing respiratory symptoms from secondhand vaping. According to a study, being exposed to even low concentrations of aerosol can affect lung development.
Secondhand vaping can also affect their brain sensitivity. With frequent inhalation, they may become addicted to products that contain nicotine and other drugs in the future.
Just as inhaling cigarette smoke is harmful to pregnant women, secondhand vaping during pregnancy is equally risky. Since e-cigarettes contain nicotine, experts are concerned that breathing in secondhand aerosol could increase the risk of miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, placental abruption, stillbirth, and low birth weight.
People with lung conditions
For someone who has a lung problem, exposure to secondhand aerosol can worsen the condition. Based on the results of a survey by the Asthma U.K. and British Lung Foundation Partnership, 14% of people with asthma reported that inhaling vape fumes triggered their symptoms. In another poll conducted in the U.S., the researchers found that exposure to secondhand vapor increased the odds of an asthma attack by 27%.
Vaping May Pose Health Risks
The long-term effects of vaping are not well-understood yet. But what’s clear is that some of the substances present in e-cigarette aerosol can potentially cause lung disease. Certain chemicals in the vapor can also harm the brain while posing a risk for future addiction to tobacco and other drugs.
Although vaping is a much safer alternative to smoking cigarettes, you should still be aware of its health risks, so you can make better decisions in the future. Additionally, be aware and respectful of the people around you when vaping. This consideration will be greatly appreciated.
For a safer vaping experience, stick to legitimate, regulated brands like RELX.
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