Are E-cigarettes and Vaping Harmful?
With use of e-cigarettes and vaping on the rise, many people are beginning to wonder, just how safe are e-cigarettes and vaping? I recently attended a lecture by three professors at Portland State University that addressed the science of e-cigarettes. The neuroscience presented was complex but at least one point was clear--vaping and other forms of electronic nicotine delivery are not harmless.
The Harm of E-Cigarettes: Nicotine is Addictive
This may be old news, but it shouldn't be overlooked. Nicotine is a highly-addictive drug. Some people believe that using "pure" nicotine (which does not exist) should be safe because after all, isn't it the tar and arsenic and all that other bad stuff in cigarettes that causes cancer? No doubt tar and arsenic are poisonous, but nicotine by itself may not be innocuous. Scientists have identified many of nicotine's health effects. Nicotine use leads to increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, and pregnancy complications. In addition, the buzz that smoking produces is followed by a crash and symptoms of nicotine withdrawal.
According to Dr. Bill Griesar at Portland State, nicotine is an interesting drug because it works on both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Both systems are part of the autonomic nervous system (ANS), which controls many of our bodies' unconscious activities. But while the sympathetic nervous system readies our body for action (increased heart rate, decreased saliva, decreased digestion, etc.) the parasympathetic system puts our body in rest mode (increased digestion, slower heart rate, etc.). Nicotine acts on both of these systems, which is why it is classified as a stimulant but has relaxing properties.
E-cigs and Vape Pens Contain Harmful Toxins
David Peyton, Professor of Chemistry, conducted experiments in his lab using electromagnetic resonance on e-liquid, the liquid that goes in e-cigarettes or vape pens. His research shows that in the process of vaping, a chemical reaction occurs. This means that the act of vaping does not merely deliver a flavored nicotine liquid, it changes the liquid's chemical composition. This doesn't have to be a problem, but it can be if the reactions taking place create toxins. One of the toxins released in the act of vaping is formaldehyde. A 2014 study found that traditional cigarettes contained nine times more formaldehyde than e-cigarettes. Consuming less of a toxic substance is obviously preferable to consuming more of it. However, it's important to realize that e-cigarettes are not as pure and clean as some proponents suggest.
Furthermore, e-cigarette vapor (which some argue is actually aerosol particles, not vapor) may be hazardous to your health. Formaldehyde has been linked with cancer, and in a recent study at Johns Hopkins University, researchers found that mice who had been exposed to e-cigarette vapor had a slower recovery time and higher morbidity rates from pneumonia than non-exposed mice. Unfortunately, the researchers did not compare mice exposed to traditional cigarette smoke in this study.
E-Cigarettes and Vaping May Be Less Harmful than Traditional Cigarettes
As Dr. Peyton pointed out, scientists and interest groups are still debating the effects of traditional cigarettes, and those have been around many decades. By comparison, research on e-cigarettes is in its infancy. Still, the professors mentioned that e-cigs and vaping may have fewer harmful effects on one's health. Research is mixed on whether or not they help smokers quit traditional cigarettes and how they compare to nicotine replacement therapy, patches and gums.
The limited information we currently have about vaping and e-cigarettes suggests the practice may be less harmful to the body than tobacco cigarette smoking. But there is much information yet to be discovered. Vaping may cause less harm than smoking, but quitting nicotine products altogether is the safest choice.
Lesley, K. (2015, March 2). Are E-cigarettes and Vaping Harmful?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, January 24 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/debunkingaddiction/2015/03/are-e-cigarettes-and-vaping-safe
Author: Kira Lesley
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...and one more specifically addressing the diacetyl compound...
Also it has been found that some flavors contain a chemical called diacetyl which causes "popcorn lung". Popcorn Lung (bronchilolitis obliterans) is an incurable lung disease that requires a lung transplant. The term comes from popcorn factory workers who developed the disease working in popcorn factories (they inhaled it constantly). It gives a buttery flavor to e-liquid and microwave popcorn. Flavors like butterscotch, caramel, coconut, and popcorn contain this chemical. There are many others that have been found to contain this chemical as well.
So clearly it is not just "water vapor & nicotine". That is some bulls**t the e-cig vendors tell you to buy their products. I also noticed I had a slight wheezing problem after vaping certain flavors and chest tightness (I suspect it's because of the flavorings). It felt as if my airways were being restricted.
The good news is that all these side effects stopped after I quit vaping. I feel much better now. Prior to quitting vaping, I vaped everyday for 2 years straight.
I fear there will be an epidemic coming as many people are picking up vaping. We need more studies and regulation on these potentially dangerous products.
It's very difficult for me to wrap my head around theories and "studies" when there are 0 facts to support the claims made in them. Vaping might cure Polio. Who knows until there is real evidence.
Also who is doing these studies? I would assume it's Big Tobacco. The less healthy vaping seems the less people convert away from smoking cigs.
It's all a bit silly since we shouldn't be smoking anything, but I'll keep on with both. :)
Nicotine, by it self, is no more addictive than caffeine for most. Cigarettes contain ingredients that boost the addictive aspects of cigarettes.
Perhaps most surprising is that, in studies by Boyd and others, nicotine has not caused addiction or withdrawal when used to treat disease. These findings fly in the face of nicotine’s reputation as one of the most addictive substances known, but it’s a reputation built on myth. Tobacco may well be as addictive as heroin, as some have claimed. But as scientists know, getting mice or other animals hooked on nicotine alone is dauntingly difficult. As a 2007 paper in the journal Neuropharmacology put it: “Tobacco use has one of the highest rates of addiction of any abused drug.” Paradoxically it’s almost impossible to get laboratory animals hooked on pure nicotine, though it has a mildly pleasant effect.
The same study found that tobacco smoke itself is necessary to amp up nicotine’s addictiveness. In 2005, for instance, researchers at the University of California, Irvine, found that animals self-administer a combination of nicotine and acetaldehyde, an organic chemical found in tobacco, significantly more often than either chemical alone. In 2009, a French team found that combining nicotine with a cocktail of five other chemicals found in tobacco — anabasine, nornicotine, anatabine, cotinine and myosmine — significantly increased rats’ hyperactivity and self-administration of the mix compared with nicotine alone.
In short, the estimated 45.3 million people, or 19.3 percent of all adults, in the United States who still smoke are not nicotine fiends. They’re nicotine-anabasine-nornicotine-anatabine-cotinine-myosmine-acetaldehyde-and-who-knows-what-else fiends. It is tobacco, with its thousands of chemical constituents, that rightly merits our fear and loathing as the Great Satan of addictiveness. Nicotine, alone: not so much.