Vaping & Health
Vaping is the act of using electronic cigarettes to produce a vapor that you can inhale. Vaping devices often look like cigarettes, and the vapor is inhaled in much the same way. However, the chemicals in vape juice are different from those in cigarettes. Vaping devices heat the liquid to create vapor, but they do not burn the chemicals the way a traditional cigarette would.
With all the similarities between smoking and vaping, many people are concerned about how safe vaping can be. Is vaping bad for you? Can it save you from the hazards of smoking? This is a tricky topic. Read on to learn more.
Image via Flickr by Vaping360
If you’re vaping to improve your health, you’re most likely doing so as a means of quitting tobacco products. Some individuals have success with vaping as an alternative to smoking. The greatest health benefits come when you quit both activities.
Vaping can be hazardous to your health depending on the liquids you’re using. Understanding the chemicals and components in your e-juice is essential for you to fully understand how vaping can impact your health.
Vaping isn’t inherently bad, but it does pose some risks. Vaping is best used as a method for quitting cigarettes and cutting back on nicotine consumption. However, not everyone uses vaping devices this way. One of the primary arguments against vaping is that it can introduce children and teens to smoking in a colorful, candy-flavored package. Later, these users may graduate to real tobacco products.
A 2015 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that high school students who used e-cigs were more likely to use cigarettes and other tobacco products. So, for kids, vaping is bad. Vaping is also illegal in this demographic. By law, you must be at least 18 years old to buy vaping products.
However, vaping can have an important place for those who want to move away from tobacco products and gradually ease off of nicotine dependence. “Is vaping bad?” is too broad of a question to have a simple answer. There are many factors to consider when determining whether vaping is bad (and if so, just how bad in comparison to other activities).
The dangers associated with vaping vary by product. As with anything you buy, it’s good to know what you’re getting. It’s easy to get caught up in the choice between Monster Berry and Blueberry Sweetart, but there are some other important things to consider. Check out these key stats on your vape juice.
E-juices are made with propylene glycol (PG) and/or vegetable glycerin (VG) as a base ingredient. Some contain 100 percent of one or the other, while other products are a blend of the two.
Propylene Glycol is considered safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It’s used as a preservative in food products and pharmaceutical products, so you may have already consumed this organic compound outside of vaping. Compared to vegetable glycerin, PG is thinner and generally carries flavors better. It provides a heavy throat hit but produces less vapor. The main concerns with PG are sensitivities and allergies.
Individuals who have sensitivities to PG may experience a sore or dry throat when vaping. The severity varies from one individual to the next, but this can make vaping PG intolerable for some. Those who are allergic to PG will have a more severe reaction, which may include a rash, hives, and a stinging or burning sensation. Ouch!
Fortunately for vapers, there is an alternative to PG that most people find more tolerable. Vegetable glycerin is a natural liquid that comes from plant oils. This is a more viscous substance than PG, so it creates a thicker vapor and smoother throat hit. One drawback to VG is that it’s quicker to create a gunky buildup in your vaping device. VG lacks the preservative qualities of PG, so juices with a VG base have a shorter shelf life. Flavors aren’t as strong with VG, either. However, for those who are sensitive to PG, this product is a welcome alternative.
Can’t decide between PG and VG? Don’t worry — lots of people feel the same way! That’s why there are so many blends on the market. Over time, you’ll probably find a combination that gives you the exact flavor, viscosity, and throat hit you’re after. Just make sure you know what it is, so you’re aware of what you’re inhaling.
Most vape juices contain some amount of nicotine. This is due in large part to the fact that vaping products are promoted as an aid for those who want to quit smoking. If you’re using e-cigarettes to stop smoking, you MUST know how much nicotine is in your e-juice.
The following are standard nicotine levels in vape juices:
If you’re not vaping to wean yourself off cigarettes, then by all means, pick a vape juice with no nicotine! This is one quick way to eliminate some of the dangers of vaping. The lower the nicotine level, the better. Go as low as you can, and reduce your nicotine levels gradually over time.
Any remaining ingredients in your vape juice are probably there for flavor. Many e-juices rely on natural flavorings that are no different from what you’ll find in food products on grocery store shelves. From a health standpoint, these are obviously your best option.
Read the label carefully to make sure you’re not inhaling unnecessary additives. Some ingredients should be avoided:
These additives are used to give vape juices a buttery flavor. They’re so good at it, in fact, that they’ve been used in microwave popcorn. This has caused some concern among vapers about a condition known as popcorn lung. Popcorn lung is a condition that’s been detected among popcorn factory workers. In these cases, it was linked to diacetyl exposure.
One study in the United States revealed that 39 of 51 e-liquid flavors that were tested contained some amount of diacetyl, which led many to worry about whether popcorn lung might occur with exposure to these e-juices. However, popcorn lung hasn’t been reported among e-cigarette users, and this study did not examine whether there’s a link between e-juices with diacetyl and this condition.
While popcorn lung isn’t a documented concern for vapers, diacetyl is still among the chemicals you may want to avoid when you can. The chemical is banned in vape juice in the UK but may still appear in vape juices sold in other countries.
If you’re vaping with an e-juice that contains nicotine, you’ll likely notice several side effects. Nicotine can cause the following:
Unless you have a finger to your pulse, you’re not likely to notice all of these effects. What you will notice is that telltale “kick” you get from a hit of nicotine. This can take place in as little as 10 seconds after you’ve inhaled.
Nicotine can make you feel more alert, energetic, and calm. It reduces anxiety and gives some users a sense of euphoria. Sounds great, right? Unfortunately, nicotine also comes with some hazardous side effects:
Nicotine is highly addictive. If you’re not a smoker and first expose yourself to nicotine through vaping, you will begin to notice the side effects of a growing addiction. If you go too long without using nicotine, you’ll experience cravings, anxiety, depression, irritability, and trouble focusing.
If you don’t have an existing nicotine addiction, look for a vape juice that’s free from nicotine! These are readily available on the market and will help you avoid the above-mentioned hazards while vaping.
The link between vaping and cancer isn’t well understood. One study has shown that vaping certain chemicals can cause damage to your DNA. Those most associated with this effect are formaldehyde, methylglyoxal, and acrolein. However, this does not form a conclusive link between vaping and cancer.
Some researchers are concerned about the effects of heating the primary ingredients in vape juice. PG and VG are considered safe in food products, but when these compounds are heated to the point of vaporizing, they may release carcinogenic compounds.
Compared to cigarettes, vaping is a safer alternative. Cigarettes contain a number of carcinogens that e-cigs do not. Compared to smokers, vapers are exposed to 97 percent fewer carcinogenic chemicals. This may be comparable to the levels that non-vapers pick up from the environment. However, since this possibility was not explored during the course of the study, it’s just speculation.
The short answer here is that it’s too soon to know what effect vaping may have on one’s likelihood to develop cancer.
As you’ve likely gathered by now, the risks and effects of vaping depend largely upon what you’re using. However, some major across-the-board hazards should be mentioned.
Vaping can have a harmful impact on the development of children. It may slow their growth and can impact memory and attention span. Children should never be allowed to use vaping products directly, but they should also be kept away from second-hand vapor, which could still be harmful.
Pregnant women should not vape, especially if the vape juice contains nicotine. Nicotine is harmful to unborn babies.
Most of the negative effects of vaping are associated with the nicotine present in vape juice. Nicotine has many negative health effects, particularly when an individual establishes dependency on the drug. Fortunately, vape users have the opportunity to customize their nicotine consumption when they’re vaping. You can check out the nicotine content of your vape juice and gradually wean yourself off of those that have a lot of nicotine.
No conclusive evidence associates vaping with weight loss. However, some natural effects of vaping may help you lose weight.
Vape juices come in a wide range of flavors, including chocolate, cake, toffee, and pie crust. If you’re craving these types of calorie-laden sweets and can use a vape juice as an alternative to eating, you will obviously eliminate those calories from your diet.
Vaping may also help prevent some of the weight gain that smokers experience when they quit cigarettes. Many smokers indicate that they don’t know what to do with their hands or mouth during what would normally be a smoke break, so they eat. Vaping instead of eating is another obvious way that vape products may support weight loss.
Picking up vaping if you’re not a smoker isn’t the healthiest way to tackle your extra pounds, though, so you should use this tactic with care.
Cigarettes and vaping devices are difficult to compare. Public Health England produced an expert review in 2015 that indicated e-cigs were 95 percent less harmful than tobacco cigarettes. Some critics of vaping indicate that e-cigs are only two-thirds less harmful. Kenneth Warner, a researcher at the University of Michigan, states that vaping is probably 80 to 85 percent less dangerous than smoking.
It’s impossible to compare vape juices and cigarettes across the board because products are so different. This is why it’s so important to know what’s in your e-juice. If you’re vaping formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, acetone, and butanol, vaping may be worse than cigarettes. Formaldehyde exposure, in particular, can be as much as 15 times greater in e-juice than in cigarettes. Watch what you’re vaping.
If you use vaping as a way to quit smoking by gradually reducing the amount of nicotine in your vape juice, you may be able to use vaping to its full advantage and ultimately improve your health using these products.
The more informed you are about your vaping products, the safer your e-cigarette use will be. Check the chemicals in your vape juice and pick your products with care. Gradually step down on your nicotine levels for the safest vaping experience. Done mindfully, vaping is something that you can enjoy as you step away from tobacco cigarettes.
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