You can’t drive by a strip mall without seeing a vape shop—they’re everywhere, and spreading faster than a zombie apocalypse. They might be just as dangerous.
Vaping—meaning to the use of electronic cigarettes (or e-cigarettes), e-hookahs, vape pens, tank systems, mods, and electronic nicotine delivery systems—first debuted in 2003, and were marketed as a less-harmful alternative to smoking. A decade-and-a-half later, we are learning that isn’t the case.
The CDC reports vaping is responsible for a mysterious lung disease, with the number of reported infections—and even deaths—increasing by the week. It’s more important than ever to learn about the potential health risks. The Remedy spoke to several of the nation’s top physicians and analyzed data from government agencies to discover 25 things vaping does to your body.
Akin to regular smoking, vaping can age you 10 years or more. “Vaping can age your skin similar to cigarettes,” board-certified dermatologist Nazanin Saedi, MD, explains. “We know that people who smoke age prematurely, especially their skin.” How does this happen? She explains that nicotine lowers the oxygen supply, and also increases the breakdown of collagen. “People who smoke or vape also form lines around their mouths—smokers lines—from the breakdown of collagen,” she points out.
On October 10th, the CDC revealed that 1,299 lung injury cases associated with the use of e-cigarette, or vaping, products have been reported from 49 states, the District of Columbia, and one U.S. territory. Of those, 26 deaths have been confirmed in 21 states. While it is still unclear of the specific chemical exposure(s) causing these lung injuries associated with e-cigarette use, or vaping, all patients have reported a history of using e-cigarette, or vaping, products.
“When asked by patients if e-cigarettes are safe long-term, I do not answer that they’re safe but I say, ‘there is no clear-cut long-term data for it,’ but again, ‘absence of proof is not always the proof of absence,’” Interventional Cardiologist & Endovascular Specialist Anuj Shah MD, Founder, Apex Heart and Vascular Care, tells The Remedy.
If your vaping involves nicotine, expect your blood pressure to increase, warns Steven Reisman, MD, New York Cardiac Diagnostic Center. An increase of blood pressure can have a serious impact on your cardiovascular health, increasing the likelihood of a heart attack or heart disease.
One study from the American College of Cardiology found that e-cigarette users were 56 percent more likely to have a heart attack than non-users. “Cardiologists are most concerned about acute nicotine toxicity,” explains Dr. Shah. “It raises your blood pressure and spikes your adrenaline, which increases your heart rate and could potentially increase the likelihood of having a heart attack.”
As per an article published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, acute exposure to flavored e-liquids or e-cigarette use exacerbates endothelial dysfunction, a type of non-obstructive coronary artery disease where large blood vessels on the heart’s surface constrict (narrow) instead of dilating (opening). According to Dr. Shah, it often precedes cardiovascular diseases.
According to the American College of Cardiology study, e-cigarette users were 30 percent more likely to have a stroke than non-users. “This could either be related to atherosclerosis (new plaque formation) or vascular inflammation (making the plaque more vulnerable for rupture) or related to spasm of cerebral arteries,” explains Dr. Shah.
According to the same American College of Cardiology study, your circulatory system is seriously impacted by vaping. They found that those using e-cigarettes were 44 percent more likely to suffer from clots or circulatory problems.
Vapers are twice as likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and other emotional problems, according to the American College of Cardiology.
E-cigarettes are no safer for your teeth than tobacco. “The heat from vaping as well as the ingredients of some vaping products dries the mouth, which substantially contributes to cavities and gum disease,” explains Kenneth Magid, DDS, FICD. A study done in 2018 showed a higher level of bacteria in the mouth with vaping, especially when sweet products are used, which have a similar effect as sugar and candy.
“Vaping causes inflammation of the mouth and throat which may lead to other health problems,” says Dr. Magid. These can include everything from periodontal diseases to bone death, cellular death, and bad breath.
“E-cigarettes containing nicotine may be a causative agent in oral cancer, but the evidence is not conclusive at this time,” Dr. Magid reveals.
Vaping is terrible for your respiratory system, explains Andrew Stiehm, MD, pulmonologist with the Allina Health United Lung and Sleep Clinic in St. Paul, Minnesota. “Aerosolized substances can irritate the lungs,” he explains. There are many things present in the aerosolized contents of an e-cigarette that can irritate the lungs. “We have seen an increase in coughs, bronchitis and respiratory illnesses reported in people who use e-cigarettes—and that includes both mild cases and the life-threatening illnesses that are becoming all too common lately.”
Vaping or inhaling aerosolized agents not only irritates the mouth and nasal cavity, but has been known to increase nose bleeds, cause mouth sores, dry mouth, and even loss of taste, Dr. Stiehm points out.
Among experienced vapers, the amount of nicotine in the blood rivals the amount they would get from smoking a cigarette, says Dr. Stiehm. “Nicotine is highly addictive and is well known to be associated with a lot of negative health consequences including mood disturbances, slowing brain development, strokes and heart attacks,” he says.
What the long term risk of vaping products will be is unclear, there is every reason to believe it will increase cancer risk in the future. “There are cancer-causing substances in e-cigarette liquid,” Dr. Stiehm points out. While aerosolized contents of packaged vaping products do not contain some of the cancer-causing agents that are noted in cigarettes, they do contain a number of other known toxins.
According to the Surgeon General, nicotine — whether it is smoked, vaped, or chewed — can seriously damage a developing brain. An individual’s brain continues developing until they are 25, there are more likely to be long-lasting effect than with an adult user. These can include nicotine addiction, mood disorders, and permanent lowering of impulse control. Nicotine also alters the formation of synapses, which can be damaging to the parts of the brain that control attention and learning.
Nicotine, no matter how you absorb it, is addictive. That means vaping is just as addictive as smoking a cigarette. While this is the case for both adults and youth, those whose brains are developing are most at risk. According to the Surgeon General, the nicotine in e-cigarettes and other tobacco products can also prime the adolescent brain for addiction to other drugs such as cocaine.
Dr. Stiehm also brings up the important fact that the e-cigarette itself can be a health risk. “E-cigarettes have both exploded and also caused burns to consumers, increasing the risk of burns to the face, hands and the groin and thigh from the pocket where the e-cigarette is stored,” he says.
Like other environmental pollutants, vaping wreaks havoc on your skin, in more ways than one. According to Dr. Denise Pate, MD with Medical Offices of Manhattan, nicotine impedes blood flow, which slows wound healing.
According to the Surgeon General, secondhand e-cigarette emissions are a huge concern — and they can harm those around you. They concluded that secondhand emissions contain, “nicotine; ultrafine particles; flavorings such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to serious lung disease; volatile organic compounds such as benzene, which is found in car exhaust; and heavy metals, such as nickel, tin, and lead.”
While many e-cigarette companies claim they can help you quit smoking, according to the American Heart Association this likely isn’t the case. In fact, they point to research that has found that people who vape are more likely to “dual use,” which means they will continue smoking and vaping.
According to one study conducted by the Endocrine Society, e-cigarette usage may impair fertility and pregnancy outcomes. In their mouse study, researchers found that smoking e-cigarettes prior to conception delayed implantation of a fertilized embryo to the uterus, thus delaying and reducing fertility.
Just like smoking cigarettes, vaping can be hazardous to your unborn child’s health. According to the CDC, despite the fact that the aerosol of e-cigarettes generally has fewer harmful substances than cigarette smoke, e-cigarettes, as well as all other nicotine products, are not safe to use during pregnancy. “Nicotine is a health danger for pregnant women and developing babies and can damage a developing baby’s brain and lungs,” reads their section on “E-Cigarettes and Pregnancy.” Additionally, some of the flavorings used in e-cigarettes may be harmful to a developing baby.
The formaldehyde found in many vaping liquids is a known eye irritant. “While burning sensations and watering of the eyes is a common side effect of vapor, optometrists also strongly caution against using any sort of hot, high-pressure device near your face,” explains Dr. Denise Pate, MD with Medical Offices of Manhattan.
As mentioned before, at least 26 people in the United States have lost their lives because of their decision to vape. This number could be much higher, considering the likelihood that other people didn’t report a history of vaping to their physicians. While more research clearly needs to be done regarding the potential health impact of vaping, the CDC strongly urges that you consider refraining from using e-cigarette, or vaping, products. For resources that can help you quit the use of vape products, visit the CDC’s website here. And living your best healthy life can be simple with these 50 Secrets to Live to 100.