E-cigarette use has become common, but there still seems to be a smokescreen concealing its true impact on health. A growing body of evidence shows that smoking e-cigarettes, or vaping, could be even more dangerous than smoking cigarettes (which we know is bad!). Vaping, unfortunately, has become popular with the younger generation of individuals and because they haven’t been around that long, we are discovering new evidence of its harmful effects. There are some staggering facts around it too- e-cigarette use among young people has skyrocketed in recent years and remains at epidemic levels… around 1 in 5 high school students used e-cigarettes in 2020, many of whom were not smokers in the first place. Here are the harmful effects of vaping:
- Contains carcinogens: Because they are not regulated, many different e-cigarettes contain different types of chemicals including diethylene glycol, which is commonly found in antifreeze. These chemicals are harmful to both adolescents and adults. A study was done on the levels of carcinogens in the vape of e-cigarettes which found that vapor of some e-cigarettes contains traces of the carcinogenic nitrosamines NNN and NNK.
- Increases blood pressure and heart rate: Vaping still contains nicotine which has many different effects on the body. Nicotine is known to have the effects of narrowing the blood vessels which makes the heart beat faster. It is also known to raise your blood pressure and spike your adrenaline, which increases your heart rate and the likelihood of having a heart attack. Studies on this theory determine that the use of e-cigs noth with and without nicotine may result in short-term elevations of both SBP (systolic blood pressure) and DBP (diastolic blood pressure). Federal survey data revealed that compared with nonusers, people who use e-cigarettes have a 71% higher risk of stroke, a 59% higher risk of heart attack, and a 40% higher risk of heart disease.
- Increases risk for strokes: Strokes are known to be one of the leading causes of death among men and women behind cancer, heart, and lung disease and is the leading cause of long-term disability in the USA. A study on the effects of vaping illustrated that after inhalation by healthy nonsmokers of e-cigarette vapor there was an acute change in flow dynamics consistent with endothelial dysfunction and a decrease in hemoglobin saturation suggesting microvascular dysfunction, as well as stiffening of the aorta. This physiological changes determined that alterations in blood vessel function can be associated with stroke. Another study found that patients aged 18 to 44 years who currently smoke combustible cigarette or both e-cigarettes and combustible cigarettes had a triple increased risk for stroke compared with those who did not smoke.
- Increased inflammation: When someone inhales the smoke from a vape/e-cigarette, they inhale all the different harmful chemicals in the vape. These chemicals, some being carcinogenic, have different effects on the body- including inflammation of the lungs. Studies on these effects on the body determined that e-cigarette smoke increases the permeability of the respiratory epithelium and causes mucus overproduction. This pro-inflammatory milieu in the lung leads to consecutive recruitment of immune cells. New research also indicates the liquid vapor chemicals of propylene glycol and vegetable glycerol found in e-cigarettes disrupt the gut barrier as well.
- Causes DNA Damage: The biggest damage from vaping is lung cancer- one of the leading preventable deaths in the world. There are many different chemicals in vaping that induce DNA adducts, which increase oxidative stress in the body. A study on these effects determined that mice exposed to electronic cigarette aerosol have increased levels of DNA lesions and decreased DNA repair activity.
- Lower Immunity: Cigarette smoke exposure increases the body’s susceptibility to influenza and other respiratory infections such as tuberculosis and pneumonia through numerous ill effects on host defense mechanisms. Research on the effects of vaping illustrates that vaping e-cigarettes is associated with decreased expression of a large number of immune-related genes, which are consistent with immune suppression at the level of the nasal mucosa.
- Respiratory Issues: It has been widely reported that individuals who have smoked experience symptoms including acute cough, sore throat, and dry mouth. This specific study illustrated that vaping was associated with increased risk of wheezing and related respiratory symptoms. The fluid in e-cigarettes were associated with the near fatal respiratory failure of a teenage boy who was found to have an exaggerated immune response to one of its chemicals while vaping, according to this report.
- Can cause “popcorn lung”: “Popcorn lung” is another name for bronchiolitis obliterans (BO), a rare condition that results from damage of the lungs’ small airways. BO was originally discovered when popcorn factory workers started getting sick. The chemical that cause it was diacetyl, a food additive used to simulate butter flavor in microwave popcorn. Unfortunately, diacetyl is often added to flavored e-liquid to enhance the taste in e-cigarettes and vapes.
Can cause pneumonia: Unlike traditional pneumonia which is caused by infection, vaping is known to provoke lipoid pneumonia from inhaling oily substances found in e-liquid, which sparks an inflammatory response in the lungs. The fatty acids in the vape liquid fill the alveoli in the lung tissue, causing a chronic cough, shortness of breath, and maybe even coughing up blood. Vaping is known to increase the risk of viral and bacterial pneumonia by compromising the respiratory local immune response.
Can cause anxiety: Peer-reviewed studies have revealed disturbing links between vaping, nicotine, and worsening symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as higher odds of having a depression diagnosis. Dependence on nicotine has been linked with impulsivity, mood disorders, anxiety, suicidality, and depression. Nicotine is also known for increasing sensitivity to stress, and alters the coping mechanisms in the brain.