With more and more people taking up vaping, including a rising (illegal) trend among teenagers towards vaping, it seems timely to examine the health effects of vape devices. When e-cigarettes were first commercially introduced into the market in 2005, they were met with enthusiasm by some, and concern from others. Many feared that the chemicals in vape liquid and vapour could have harmful impacts on our health.
So what is the reality? Does vaping damage our health? Should we be worried about more people taking up the habit?
Let’s take a look at the results from scientific research on the subject, and what we know now.
What are the Effects of Vaping on Health?
As a relatively new product, the fact is that we simply don’t know the full, long-term effects of vaping. However, it seems like the dire warnings and alarmist reports about the health dangers of vaping that we often hear from the media and lobby groups are exaggerations at best. According to the respected organisation Cancer Research UK, negative reports about the health risks of vaping are “wildly misleading”.
A recent report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in the US concluded that there have been no conclusive findings of long-term health effects from e-cigarettes, but also that there is not enough long-term data available at this stage. So although no evidence has been found to data, we will have to wait a little longer to be certain that vaping is not harmful to our health.
Vaping Compared to Smoking Cigarettes
Although the results of the long-term impacts of smoking will not be known for years to come, there is already substantial scientific evidence to compare the health effects of vaping and those of smoking cigarettes. A number of scientific and medical experts have concluded that vaping is significantly less harmful to health than smoking cigarettes.
A 2015 report from Public Health England declared that vaping was 95% less harmful than smoking cigarettes. These findings were supported by a review by the Royal College of Physicians, another highly respected UK health body. Cigarettes contain over 4000 toxic and carcinogenic (cancer-causing) chemicals, which have been found to greatly increase the risk of over 15 types of cancer as well as a number of chronic diseases including heart disease, stroke and diabetes. E-liquid and the vapour it produces, however, contains none of these chemicals. Rather, it is typically composed of propylene glycol (a liquid alcohol commonly found in foods), glycerine, water, nicotine and flavourings.
Therefore, as an alternative to cigarettes, many argue that vaping is a good option. It has also been recommended by some health experts as a smoking “cessation aid”, that is a tool to help smokers quit. A recent study involving the UK National Health Service (NHS) showed that smokers attempting to quit who used an e-cigarette were twice as likely to be successful 12 months later than those who used nicotine-replacement products.
Effects of Nicotine
Although there is no doubt that vaping is much better for our health than smoking cigarettes. However, unless you are vaping nicotine-free e-liquid simply for the taste and the experience (which some people do), you will be inhaling nicotine.
Nicotine in itself is a harmful chemical, and can have the following effects:
- Irritation and burning sensations in the mouth and throat
- Increased salivation
- Abdominal pain
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Addiction and dependence, resulting in withdrawal symptoms including anxiety, irritability and sleeplessness
These effects are particularly severe for those with mental health issues or pre-disposition to mental illness. Nicotine has been shown to heighten conditions including anxiety and depression, as well as adversely interfering with medication for these conditions.
Nicotine is a highly addictive chemical, some say almost as addictive as cocaine or heroin. The concern therefore is that vaping could be attractive to those who have never smoked cigarettes, especially young people, and be a gateway to nicotine dependence.
Risks From Low-Quality Products
Probably the biggest risk associated with vaping comes from low-quality or defective products. You cannot be sure of the components in cheap e-liquids which do not come from a reputable supplier or brand, meaning you do not know exactly what you are inhaling. There could also be safety concerns around low-quality e-cigarettes and vaporisers: there are horror stories about the batteries in vaporisers exploding when exposed to high temperatures.
In the UK and Europe, the sale of vape equipment and accessories is government by strict TPD regulations, which were introduced in 2017. There are similar regulations around the sale of vape devices in the USA. This is good news for consumers because it means that you can be confident that the products you buy comply with these regulations, so are of a certain level of quality and safety. Buying from a UK-based supplier like Vapemate means you can be assured that the vape equipment you buy adheres to the TPD regulations.
Although we cannot yet be sure of the potential long-term effects of vaping, no evidence has yet been found of adverse health impacts. E-cigarettes are undoubtedly healthier than tobacco ones, so although their nicotine content is still a cause for concern, they are a better alternative to smoking and could be a useful cessation aid to help smokers quit for good.