While using e-cigarettes ("vaping") may be healthier than smoking traditional cigarettes, users still face health risks. Due to its fairly recent rise in popularity, unfortunately many of the long-term health effects of vaping have yet to be diagnosed and studied. Still, preliminary research does show a few health and safety risks linked to vaping.
Here's what we know right now.
Lung cancer and issues
Because you are inhaling nicotine or tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) through e-cigarettes, the main risk associated with use relates to the lungs. Vape oils consist of a host of chemicals and metals that may be harmful to your lungs including: nickel, tin, lead, flavorings like diacetyl, and other ultra-fine particles.
You may have trouble breathing, experience excessive coughing, chest pain, nausea, fatigue, vomiting and even fever from excessive e-cigarette use. In more severe cases or throughage, you may even need to be hospitalized.
A common trend in the EVALI cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been the presence of Vitamin E acetate found in many THC-containing vaping products. Vitamin E acetate is a honey-like substance used as an additive in these products which when inhaled can stick to the lungs resulting in injury and illness.
Some of the substances found in e-cigarettes have also been linked to an increased risk of cancer. "Harmful effects of nicotine, both in the short term and long term, are well established," says Dr. Nadine Cohen, who specializes in internal medicine and adolescent medicine at CareMount Medical. "In the short term, nicotine can cause sleep problems and restlessness, as well as other symptoms like nausea, vomiting and mouth and tongue sores. Long term, nicotine—whether you inhale via an e-cigarette or via regular cigarette—causes cancer."
Regardless of whether it's from a traditional cigarette or e-cigarette/vape, nicotine is a harmful substance, especially for adolescents. Its use can be harmful to parts of the brain that control mood, learning, attention, and impulse control. Nicotine negatively affects how synapses—connections between brain cells—are formed. Many devices also produce vapor containing lead, which can cause brain damage.
"Injury to stem cells diminish the brain's ability to repair damage for the remainder of a person's life," says Dr. Marc Arginteanu, a board-certified neurosurgeon. "Vaping may, in this manner, lead to an acceleration of the aging process and make the brain more susceptible to neurodegenerative diseases."
Your mouth can be a primary indicator of your body’s overall wellness. When you are destroying healthy bacteria and tissue in the oral cavity, it’s simply not a great way to take care of yourself. "Nicotine can reduce blood flow and nutrition to your gums, which need those nutrients to stay healthy," says Dr. Bill Busch, DMD, MAGD. "Damaged healthy gum tissues can lead to a whole host of oral issues."
Vaping nicotine can also affect your heart health. Nicotine raises your blood pressure and spikes your adrenaline, resulting in increased heart rate and greater risk of a heart attack. The potential for coronary artery disease and blood circulation problems are also increased.
E-cigarette users were 56 percent more likely to have a heart attack than non-users, according to recent studies.