The realities of vaping

Vaping, or using e-cigarettes, has recently become popular among kids, teens and young adults. In fact, youth use of e-cigarettes is rising at record rates. E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that people use to inhale an aerosol, which typically contains nicotine, flavorings and other harmful chemicals. It seems young people have jumped on the vaping bandwagon (and at a price). Without the odor of smoke from traditional cigarettes, the negative stigma surrounding tobacco products may be lacking with vaping. In fact, some of the “flavors” and sweet smells associated with vaping may even be appealing to young people — and may encourage more to take up the habit without knowing the potential dangers.1,2 Here are some facts about this concerning trend.3

What are the risks of vaping?

You may be wondering if vaping is a safer alternative to smoking. While vaping may not contain quite as many chemicals (or tobacco) as regular tobacco cigarettes (more than 7,000), it does contain nicotine and it’s still incredibly harmful and just as addictive. There are also quite a few health risks that come with vaping, including an increased risk of cancer. And because the long-term effects of vaping are still unknown, you could be causing more damage to your lungs and body than you realize.4 Other risks include:5

  • Lung disease: There are a few types of lung diseases associated with vaping, like popcorn lung, lipoid pneumonia and collapsed lung.6,7,8
  • Nicotine addiction: The more you vape, the more nicotine you put in your body. Nicotine harms your brain, heart, mouth/gums and more.9
  • Brain damage: Nicotine can harm parts of the brain that control mood, learning, attention and impulse control. This can be especially problematic for young people, whose brains are still developing. Brain damage from nicotine and its neighboring chemicals can’t be reversed and lasts a lifetime.
  • Mouth/gum disease: Vaping destroys healthy bacteria and tissue in your oral cavity. And nicotine can reduce blood flow and nutrition to your gums — things needed for a healthy mouth. This puts you at risk for oral health diseases.
  • Heart issues: Nicotine raises your blood pressure and increases heart rate, putting you at a greater risk for a heart attack.

What are side effects of vaping?

The vape oil, or “juice,” that’s inhaled through an e-cigarette contains a handful of chemicals and metals that could harm your lungs (things like nickel, tin and lead). Plus, vitamin E acetate is often used as an additive in vaping products. When it’s inhaled, vitamin E acetate can lead to abnormal lung function and illness. As a result of breathing in these toxins, you may experience some of the following side effects:10,11

  • Trouble breathing
  • Excessive coughing
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting
  • Fever

If you’re having severe episodes of any of the side effects listed above, see a doctor right away or call 911.

What are tips to quit vaping?

The best way to improve your health if you vape is to quit. Here are tips that might help you quit vaping.12

  1. Pick your “quit day.” Mark your calendar for when you plan to start living tobacco-free. Use the days leading up to gradually cut down on how much you use tobacco, and mentally prepare for the journey ahead.
  2. Decide how you’ll quit. Do you want to quit all at once (some people call this “cold turkey”)? Or gradually cut back until you stop completely?
  3. Talk with your doctor. They might have recommendations on certain therapies or medications that may help you quit.
  4. Have a plan. Once your “quit day” comes and goes, have a plan for how you’ll stay committed. Eat healthy, stay busy with friends and family, and avoid places where tobacco may be present. Surrounding yourself with people who want you to succeed is one of the most important tools to help quit smoking.
  5. Stay committed. It might take a few tries to permanently quit vaping, and that’s okay. Quitting is hard work, so give yourself some grace if you struggle with it.