Hailed as a safer alternative to smoking, vaping has become a popular weaning tool for those who want to kick their nicotine addiction. Chemicals inhaled from tobacco smoke cause cancer and a host of other health issues, but vaping liquids are considered a lesser evil.
What’s still up for debate however, are the risks involved with vaping. Unlike regular cigarettes, vaporizing devices heat up a liquid until it turns into an inhalable vapor. The device emits a puff of vapor that is usually scented.
Vaping utilizes flavor cartridges that contain nicotine and other chemicals – chemicals which are now being called into question. Though these devices don’t burn the exact same compounds as cigarettes or hookahs, a small study has found that the vapors can be harmful to lung tissue.
Researchers at the University of Birmingham in the UK conducted a small lab experiment using lung tissue samples from non-smokers. When the tissue was exposed to vapors, it became inflamed and the alveolar macrophages could not function properly to protect the immune system.
The alveolar macrophages are responsible for removing microbes and other toxins from the air we breathe before allowing it to pass through the lung tissue. They also suppress immune responses to such infectious invaders, helping to prevent illness.
Lead researcher Professor David Thickett warns that this was an extremely small test conducted under lab conditions and the results warrant further long term study. Because the test produced similar effects to smokers and others with forms of lung disease, it is worth researching if vaping could develop into serious issues after 20 or 30 years.
In addition to these findings, new evidence is showing that there are metal contaminants in the vapors that are comparable to tobacco smoke. Toxins from the coils in the device itself seem to be the culprit and they are being inhaled through the aerosols.
Of particular concern are levels of lead, chromium, and nickel, which have been linked to serious medical issues that affect the heart, lungs, immune system, brain, and liver. A group of researchers from leading worldwide universities studied the compounds found in vapors, and traced some of the problems back to the heating mechanism in the device.
Arsenic and other unsafe levels of carcinogens were also found, but they were unable to compare the levels of toxins in vaping devices with regular cigarettes. This too, would require more study.
Still, smokers who switch to e-cigarettes or other vaping devices are better off, as the amount of exposure to toxic chemicals is significantly less than cigarettes and other nicotine products. Doctors tout using e-cigs as hugely beneficial for long-term smokers with stats that show more than half of smokers who switch wind up quitting.
Since the popularity of vaping has taken off, more research is needed to delve into the prolonged effects of e-cigs and other products. Vapers who do it daily will want to think about how long they will keep up the habit and how it will affect their health.
Are you someone who’s used vaporizers to quit smoking? What do you think of e-cigs and other vaping products? Are you on the fence about vaping’s health consequences?