Vaping or Juuling is all the rage among teens and young adults. It is also popular among older adults who hope to kick the smoking habit, and then turn to e-cigarettes while they go through withdrawal. However, could these devices prove more harmful than smoking tobacco itself? The dangers of vaping, unlike tobacco, are not fully known — but early research is not promising.
Vaping consists of using a battery to heat liquid tobacco suspended in a solvent. While this sounds like a harmless distillation of a plant, in reality, the solutions used in making vapes contain harmful chemicals that can lead to a host of negative health outcomes.
The Health Dangers of Vaping
Here’s what you need to know about the dangers of vaping before you take your first drag.
Chemicals Used in Making Vape Cartridges
Vape cartridges contain a host of dangerous chemicals. One found in many e-cigarettes is benzene, which is used in pesticides and gasoline, and it disrupts the endocrine system. Acute exposure results in drowsiness and dizziness, whereas leukemia can develop  from long-term exposure.
Additionally, vapes contain formaldehyde, the same substance used to preserve dead bodies. Far from giving you a rosy glow of health, formaldehyde ingestion leads to the development of several forms of cancer. Prolonged exposure indeed may result in ending up on a slab with a tag on your toe.
Polypropylene glycol, an ingredient used to make polyester clothing, can irritate the eyes, nose and throat when exposure lasts less than one minute. Long-term exposure results in asthma in children, and adults get more upper respiratory infections than nonusers.
Toulene, which converts to benzene during the burning process, disrupts the central nervous system (CNS). Exposure results in developmental delays, CNS dysfunction and limb malformation in developing children. The EPA says there’s not enough evidence yet to prove whether the substance is carcinogenic.
One study found 91 percent of e-cigarette aerosols  killed human cells, even when low voltages were used to heat them and they contained only glycerin. Juul users inhale unknown levels of these chemicals daily.
Heavy Metals in E-Cigarettes
Solvents aren’t the only problematic material found in e-cigarettes. Vapes also contain high levels of various heavy metals toxic to human health.
Lead can build up in the human body and cause health risks, especially among young children. Infants and children exposed to high lead levels often have developmental delays, irritability, loss of appetite, fatigue and seizures. Adults who experience lead poisoning  often experience abdominal distress, mood disorders, difficulty with sperm production and trouble concentrating.
Cadmium is found in municipal waste and released when you burn fossil fuels like gas or coal. It can build up in the kidneys, where it causes disease. One recent study of 17,000 individuals  indicated rates of chronic kidney disease increased significantly in individuals exposed to even low levels of cadmium. The study linked cigarette smoking as a likely contributor to exposure. The EPA considers cadmium a probable carcinogen.
Finally, e-cigarettes contain nickel, a known carcinogen. Nickel exposure can cause dermatitis and itching, usually in the extremities. According to the EPA, certain nickel formulations can cause lung cancer.
Flavors Add Additional Woes
E-cigarette manufacturers are no strangers to controversy, and the fun flavors they use to entice younger users come with additional health risks. Other than the obvious problem of getting young children hooked on the devices, flavors like cinnamon and citrus change chemical composition when exposed to solvents such as polypropylene glycol and glycerol. In doing so, they became more irritating to the lungs and soft tissues of the throat when inhaled.
When mixed with solvents, 40 percent of the flavors transform  into acetal compounds, which are carcinogenic. Children and teenagers get the majority of lung irritation from inhaling these substances.
Health Risks of Nicotine in Any Form
Some research on the dangers of vaping focuses on nicotine toxicity, a known carcinogen released by any type of tobacco product. According to the American Cancer Society, half of all smokers will eventually succumb  to diseases related to the habit.
Nicotine use increases the risk of several diseases:
- Lung cancer: Smoking accounts for 87 percent  of all lung cancer deaths.
- Other forms of cancer: Smoking increases the risk of developing other types of cancer, including rectal and prostate.
- Heart disease: Both smoking and vaping cause your arteries to harden. When this happens, the risk of heart attack or stroke increases significantly. Smoking also lowers HDL, or good cholesterol levels, making blockages more likely to occur.
- Diabetes: Those who smoke at least 20 cigarettes per day double their risk of developing diabetes . Smoking increases insulin resistance, which explains why some people find weight loss difficult even though they may fear additional gain from quitting.
- Dental disease. Smokers run double the risk of losing their teeth  than nonsmokers. According to a 2003 Canadian Community Health Survey, those who smoke are more likely to report oral health problems.
In addition to disease, vaping poses quality-of-life issues. Those who vape regularly may find themselves growing short of breath from everyday activities like walking up a flight of stairs. They may lack energy for the activities they once enjoyed.
Tobacco use of any kind is associated with mental health disorders. Although 14 percent of all American adults use tobacco in some form, including vaping, 23 percent of individuals with a mental health disorder  adopt the habit. It is unclear if people with mental health issues use nicotine in an attempt to self-medicate or whether such individuals are more prone to substance abuse due to structural differences in the brain.
How You Can Quit the Habit
The good news is, even if you vape, quitting now can better your health outlook greatly. As little as a month after quitting, you can expect your lung function to improve significantly. After 15 years, your risk of certain diseases rivals that of nonsmokers.
If you’re ready to quit, the Centers for Disease Control offers a host of free resources  to help you. Many individuals find success with the aid of cessation medications such as Chantix. Others find a gradual approach works better than cold turkey, and once they begin seeing the positive health benefits of cutting back, they feel empowered to quit altogether. Your state government may offer additional resources.
Stopping Vaping Improves Health Outcomes
Considering the multiple risks associated with vaping, quitting the habit now makes sense. It’s never too late to begin the journey to better health — why not get started today?
If you read articles from Great Britain you will see that they don’t have the problems that the US has. Why is that?
Carly Fraser says
I am not totally sure – maybe they haven’t come across the same problems, or maybe the UK doesn’t add flavor packs and vitamin E to their mixes? Could be a variety of factors, really.