What is Vaping?
While tobacco smoking has long been clearly linked to cancer, vaping side effects are just beginning to be understood because e-cigarettes are still unregulated. Vaping is the act of inhaling a vapor produced by the battery-operated device. It is also known as e-cigs, electronic nicotine delivery systems, and vape pens. Vaping has become common, but there seems to be a smokescreen concealing its true impact on health. Evidence shows that smoking e-cigarettes, or vaping, maybe even more dangerous than smoking cigarettes. The rising popularity of vaping has been dramatic, especially among teenagers.
Vaping devices can vary in shape, size, and color. Devices produce an aerosol byproduct from heating up a liquid that sometimes consists of flavorings and other chemicals that make vaping seem less harsh (initially at least) than smoking. This liquid delivers nicotine, marijuana, or other drugs to the user via a mouthpiece inhaled into the lungs then expelled through the mouth or nose. E-cigarettes may pose severe vaping side effects and avoidable health risks. One major vaping side effect includes exposure to nicotine that can lead to addiction and can cause long-term harm to brain development. The vapor can also contain toxins (including ones that cause cancer) and tiny particles that are harmful when breathed in.
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services , about 37% of 12th graders reported vaping in 2018, compared with 28% in 2017. An estimated 2.1 million middle school and high school students reported using e-cigarettes in 2017; that number jumped to 3.6 million in 2018. It’s illegal to sell e-cigarettes to anyone under 21 (18 or 19 in some states). And nearly seven million adults 18 or older use e-cigarettes, according to a 2017 survey by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) .
What Is In E-cigarette Aerosol?
- Ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs
- Flavoring such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to a serious lung disease
- Volatile organic compounds
- Cancer-causing chemicals
- Heavy metals such as nickel, tin, and lead
Vaping As A Substitute To Smoking
The FDA does not currently approve e-cigarettes as a quit smoking aid, according to CDC . The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a group of health experts that makes recommendations about preventive health care, has concluded that evidence is insufficient to recommend e-cigarettes for smoking cessation in adults, including pregnant adults. Many adults are using e-cigarettes in an attempt to quit smoking without realizing the vaping side effects.
Most adult e-cigarette users do not stop smoking cigarettes and instead continue to use both products, known as dual-use. Dual use is not an effective way to safeguard your health, whether you’re using e-cigarettes or other tobacco products in addition to regular cigarettes. Because smoking even a few cigarettes a day can be dangerous, quitting smoking completely is important to protect your health.
Vaping Side Effects Of Nicotine
- Nicotine is highly addictive and will harm the brain’s development until age 25.
- Once inhaled, it takes 10 seconds to hit the brain and release dopamine. Dopamine is the hormone responsible for feeling pleasure and happiness. This is how the process of addiction begins.
- Nicotine causes changes in the brain that make life-long addiction much more likely. These changes alter brain development, which affects memory and concentration in teens.
- Nicotine is a health danger for pregnant adults and their developing babies.
- Consistent use of vapes will cause the body to crave more nicotine. Vapes become a gateway to using tobacco products like cigarettes.
- Nicotine use in youth is associated with mood disorders and mental health problems such as, depression, panic disorder, and personality disorders.
- Nicotine can increase blood pressure and heart rate, narrow arteries. It can lead to heart attack by contributing to the constricting of the arterial wall.
- Acute nicotine exposure can be toxic. Children and adults have been poisoned by swallowing, breathing, or absorbing e-cigarette liquid through their skin or eyes.
Seizures After Using Nicotine Vaping Devices
The FDA  has become aware that some people who use e-cigarettes have experienced seizures, with most reports involving youth or young adult users. Seizures or convulsions are known potential vaping side effects due to nicotine toxicity and have been reported in the scientific literature in relation to intentional or accidental swallowing of e-liquid. Seizures result from sudden, abnormal electrical activity in the brain. Though often associated with convulsions in which a person’s entire body shakes uncontrollably, not all seizures show full-body shaking.
Other possible signs of seizures include a lapse in awareness or consciousness, which may look like a person is staring blankly into space for a few seconds or suddenly stops moving. The person may or may not fall down. Most seizures end in a few seconds or minutes, and the person may seem fine, sleepy, confused, or have a headache afterward. They may not remember what they were doing or what happened right before the seizure. While seizures generally do not cause lasting harm, they indicate the need for prompt medical attention to look for a cause and to prevent future seizures, if possible.
Seizures have been reported among first-time e-cigarette users and experienced users. In a few situations, e-cigarette users reported a prior history of seizure diagnosis. A few reported cases indicated seizures in association with the use of other substances such as marijuana or amphetamines. Seizures have been reported as occurring after a few puffs or up to one day after use. Most of the self-reported data that the FDA has received does not contain any specific brand or sub-brand information about the e-cigarette.
Vaping Side Effects On The Lungs
In the short term, vaping e-liquid can irritate the lungs and throat. People who vape often refer to this as “throat hit.” This term describes the tingling, burning sensation that a person experiences as they inhale the vapor. This sensation comes from heating and inhaling the chemicals in the e-liquid. In addition, inhaling large amounts of propylene glycol and glycerol can irritate the airways. They also point out that the levels of these chemicals in the e-cigarette are high enough to cause irritation after just one puff.
E-cigarettes are gaining popularity among American youth mainly due to the availability of hundreds of brands with thousands of uniquely flavored e-juices. Data from Frontiers in Physiology suggest that the flavorings used in e-juices can cause lung tissue damage in e-cigarette users. Mixing a variety of flavors resulted in greater toxicity levels compared to the treatments with individual flavors, suggesting that mixing multiple flavors of e-liquids is more harmful to the users.
Vaping Side Effects And It’s Toxicity
Most chemicals in e-liquids may have toxic effects on the body. These vaping side effects were due to the chemicals that manufacturers use to flavor e-liquids. Importantly, this was also the case for e-liquids that contained food-grade ingredients. For example, heating the propylene glycol and glycerol in e-liquids creates compounds that release formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a Group 1 carcinogen, meaning that it has the potential to cause cancer.
Other than nicotine, vaping liquid and subsequent vapor may include other harmful substances including:
- Cancer-causing chemicals
- Heavy metals such as nickel, tin, and lead
- Flavorings such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to lung disease
- Volatile organic compounds
- Ultra-fine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs
E-cigarettes can cause unintended injuries. Defective e-cigarette batteries have caused fires and explosions, some of which have resulted in serious injuries. Most explosions happened when the e-cigarette batteries were being charged.
CDC Recommendations and Vaping Side Effects
- The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) recommend that people not use THC-containing e-cigarette or vaping products, mainly from informal sources like friends, family, or in-person or online dealers. This is because the liquid can contain: nicotine, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabinoid (CBD) oils, and other substances, flavorings, and additives. THC is the psychoactive mind-altering compound of marijuana that produces the “high.”
- Vitamin E acetate should not be added to any e-cigarette, or vaping, products. In addition, people should not add any other substances not intended by the manufacturer to products, including products purchased through retail establishments.
- Adults using nicotine-containing e-cigarette, or vaping, products as an alternative to cigarettes should not go back to smoking; they should weigh all available information and consider using FDA-approved smoking cessation medications. If they choose to use e-cigarettes as an alternative to cigarettes, they should completely switch from cigarettes to e-cigarettes and not partake in an extended period of dual use of both products that delays quitting smoking completely.
- E-cigarette or vaping products (nicotine- or THC-containing) should never be used by youths, young adults, or women who are pregnant. Adults who do not currently use tobacco products should not start using e-cigarette, or vaping, products.
- THC use has been associated with a wide range of health effects, particularly with prolonged frequent use. Moreover, the best way to avoid potentially harmful vaping side effects is to not use THC-containing e-cigarette, or vaping, products.
- Persons engaging in ongoing cannabis use that leads to significant impairment or distress should seek evidence-based treatment by a healthcare professional. All recommendations are according to CDC .
Find The Right Primary Mental Health Treatment with Co-Occurring Secondary Addiction Diagnosis
There’s a strong link between smoking and lung disease and between smoking and cancer. But the sooner you quit, the quicker your body can rebound and repair itself from vaping side effects. It can’t hurt to talk to a doctor or other healthcare professional about the risks of vaping, especially if you already have a chronic health condition, such as asthma.
Inpatient medical detox and residential primary addiction treatment may be available at our affiliated facility at Level Up West Palm Beach Rehab. For some primary behavioral health treatment clients, medical detox and or addiction rehab may be required first. If you have a co-occurring severe substance abuse diagnosis, please contact us prior to beginning inpatient mental health therapy. Treatment services may vary. Please call us to learn which treatment options are most suited for your individual needs.
 US Department of Health and Human Services – https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2019/02/vaping-rises-among-teens
 CDC – https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/wr/mm6744a2.htm?s_cid=mm6744a2_w
 FDA – https://www.fda.gov/tobacco-products/ctp-newsroom/some-e-cigarette-users-are-having-seizures-most-reports-involving-youth-and-young-adults
 Frontiers in Physiology – https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphys.2017.01130/full