The Lesser-Known Dangers Of Vaping: Quick Fix, Big Risk

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It's awesome that we think of vaping as a miracle cure for smoking—but is it really as good as some claim? Many people believe the vaping is a completely safe alternative to getting their 'fix' from a traditional cigarette or pipe.

However, many experts have found, and many people now know that vaping, in of itself, is no worse than smoking.

In fact, some experts believe that vaping is actually more harmful than smoking. Modern forms of vaping are relatively new and untested, meaning there may be more risks associated with them than previously expected.

Vaping: What's The Difference?

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The differences between vaping and smoking and relatively small, in comparison.

Normally, the tobacco in cigarettes is lit and then the smoke inhaled. That's what allows the tobacco smoke to enter the lungs and for the addictive nicotine to enter the bloodstream.

With vaping, it's a little different. There is no smoke involved in vaping—only vapor which affect the lungs differently. The electronic cigarettes, vape pens, and Juuls use batteries to heat a liquid insert that contains chemicals such as nicotine, as well as flavors. Experts believing the allure of flavoring and modding e-cigs is part of the new draw to vaping.

Note: both vaping and smoking cause the user to breathe in nicotine — both are just as addictive as the other.

The Dawn Of Vaping

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While modern vape pens and electronic cigarettes are largely modern methods of vaping, vaping itself has been around for centuries.

Ancient cultures such as Egypt would use hot stones atop piles of herbs to cause vapors to rise in a room. Many cultures through the Middle East and Asia have used some form of water pipe for hundreds of years. Terms like 'hookah,' 'shisha' and more are all words associated with the culture of ancient vaping.

Largely, that was the only way that people could inhale vapor instead of smoke, but it was in the mid-1900s that a man by the name of Herbert Gilbert created the first 'smokeless non-tobacco cigarette.' It wasn't until the 2000's that vaping in its modern form truly became popular amongst the masses, especially in the United States.

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The Age Of The Vape

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The first commercially viable vaping solution was created by a Chinese pharmacist named Hon Lik in 2003 after his father died of lung cancer. By 2007, vaping had become introduced into mainstream culture in Europe and the United States, with many regulations being applied in the years to follow.

Nowadays, over ten years later, the tide of vaping has continued to wash over the countries of the world, and these small, surprisingly simple machines have continued to propagate across the world.

Today, hundreds of thousands of people in the United States use vape pens and e-cigarettes in the place of or in addition the use of normal tobacco products. Many more are lulled by a sense of false security and misinformation that lead them to believe that their new habit had no impact on their health.

Modern Problems Require Modern Solutions

disassembled vape pen

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It's important to understand the processes and parts of modern vape pens and e-cigarettes work before one can talk about the risks associated with it.

There are four main parts:

  • the battery
  • the atomizer
  • the e-liquid
  • the mouthpiece

The battery itself is a key component of the setup. The entire vaping rig sits atop a battery that is usually large enough to be held in someone's hand. In the case of smaller e-cigs or vape pens, the process is relatively the same but on a much smaller scale. These tend to be lithium-ion batteries, not unlike those that are found in laptops or phones.

e.cig battery

Atop the battery, a cartridge or canister of e-liquid is inserted, and the atomizer is submerged in the liquid. When the power button on the battery is pressed, the atomizer activates and begins to cook the e-liquid. It functions and looks much like old-style lightbulb coils, only with liquid and vapor passing through the coil.

As for the e-liquid itself, these cartridges can be bought in just about any smoke shop these days. They contain a number of chemicals and flavors diluted into liquid form, that then become a vapor when heated. Almost all e-liquids contain nicotine.

The mouthpiece is where the vapor comes out, and how the vapor itself is introduced to the mouth and lungs. By sucking down on the end, an airflow is introduced to the atomized mixture, and the vapors are drawn into the lungs of the user.

vaping e cig

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vape variants

Some models of e-cigs for vaping (a) ground marijuana head tops; (b) cannabis wax (butane honey oil concentrate (BHO)), or (c) cannabis e-liquid. The letters a, b, or c after the numbers indicate the parts of e-cigs used for herb, BHO, or e-liquid vaping, respectively. 1. Mega electronic cigarette (e-cig) with dual-coil clearomizer, adjustable airflow control ring, changeable resistance coils and high capacity, variable voltage battery. 2–7. Dry herb and wax vaporizer: 2. Spring-loaded mouthpiece; 3. Vaporizer chamber; 4. Dry herb coil head; 5. Wax coil head; 6. Detachable base with air holes; 7. Medium capacity battery. 8–10. See-through clearomizer for e-liquids: 8. Clearomizer tip; 9. Clearomizer tube; 10. Clearomizer coil and four-wick head with base assembly. 11–14. Glass-globe atomizer wax tank: 11. Drip tip; 12. Glass globe; 13. Ceramic heating chamber and coil; 14. Metal core. 15–19. Dry herb atomizer: 15. Soft drip tip (mouthpiece); 16. Ceramic screen; 17. Metal screen and spring; 18. Screens connector; 19. Ceramic chamber and battery connector. 20. Medium size battery. 21–22. Wax coil head atomizer: 21. Metal mouthpiece and wax coil chamber connector; 22. Wax coil ceramic chamber and battery connector. 23–25. Clearomizer for e-liquids: 23. Shell (mouthpiece attached to metal tank with viewing window); 24. Bottom head changeable coil assembly; 25. Battery base connector. a. Marijuana head tops, b. Cannabis Butane Honey Oil concentrate (BHO), c. Cannabis e-liquid (mixture of cannabinoid concentrates (cannabis wax), propylene glycol and glycerol).

Vaping: The Youth Of Today, The Adults of Tomorrow

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But who exactly is vaping? It's not uncommon to see people vaping in smoking spots or designated areas throughout the world, or even just blowing clouds in people's faces on the streets, but the facts might surprise you.

The largest culture of vaping is associated with people between the ages of 13 - 24.

In 2017, the National Youth Tobacco Survey showed that 11.7% of high school students and 3.3% of middle school students had used a vape pen or e-cig in the last thirty days. This is up from a similar survey in 2011 that showed only 1.5% of high school students and 0.6% of middle school students had used an e-cig to vape in the last thirty days.

According to the CDC's Office of Smoking and Health, 1 in 4 high school students and approximately 1 in 14 middle school students used e-cigs or other tobacco-related products in 2018. Other studies by the CDC say that interaction or introduction to an e-cig can raise the possibility of a student smoking by a large margin.

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When it comes to young adults (people aged 18-24), the results show that around 5.2% of adults used e-cigs, according to a survey completed in 2015. That number has undoubtedly risen in recent years as misinformation and companies do their best to lobby or cover up the dangers of vaping.

It was reported that many tobacco companies (many of which produce e-liquids) have been lobbying against the federal government and state legislation that seek to appropriately brand and label the dangers of vaping, as well as identifying the mixture within the e-liquid.

Why Vape?

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There are a number of reasons people might turn to or try vaping with e-cigarettes. They might:

  • Be a smoker, who wants a safer alternative.
  • Be a curious person interested in the fad.
  • Be a middle or high school student that is introduced to vaping at a party or after school.
  • Be a user who simply doesn't know the dangers or difference between smoking and vaping.
  • Be a student who is peer pressured or tries vaping to appear 'cool.'

Regardless of the why, it's important that people understand just what's happening when they vape. What it does to their body, and their mind, and how the rest of the world might perceive them. Some do it to rebel, others do it as a relief, and many more (especially students and young adults) do it mainly for the following reason.

It's seen largely as something to do be 'cool,' or in part, because it's 'much safer' than smoking is.

And yet, that couldn't be further from the truth.

Popularity Contest

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In large part, vaping has become very popular due to the fact that many people believe vaping is safer than smoking. Furthermore, many people also don't understand that vaping out of e-cigarettes, vape pens, Juuls, etc. still all contain nicotine.

Therefore, this perceived notion of 'vaping being safer than smoking' is a large part of what drives the popularity.

Furthermore, due to mainstream media and marketing, there is also a large factor of 'wealth' that's associated with smoking e-cigarettes. Many people use their e-cigarettes as signs of discreet wealth, and many middle and high school students believe that by smoking an e-cig, they themselves will appear cooler, more adult or better off than they really are.

Like teens wearing Jordan sneakers or people buying nice watches, vaping out of expensive e-cigs and vape pens is largely seen as a 'cool' thing to do by young people. It's been shown in their media, on live streams and television that people are vaping. Many young minds seek to emulate their idols and the people they watch on YouTube or the rest of the internet.

Smoking, on the other hand, has seen somewhat of a decrease in popularity. Smoking, by and large, is a dying breed, in the light of e-cigs coming onto the scene. The health concerns surrounding smoking are commonplace to the point where most people know that they are dangerous. Vaping is seen as that 'safe' alternative that people can rely on, and thus people are moving from regular cigarettes to e-cigs, without knowing the risks or dangers of each.

Safety Dance

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Vaping, despite appearing as a safe alternative, is not entirely safe.

As mentioned, both cigarettes and e-liquid contain nicotine, and thus they are both addictive substances. Someone that's interested in trying vaping once or twice may find themselves addicted to the use without realizing it.

While it is true that inhaling vapor is safer in some regards, it isn't entirely risk-free. While smoking can lead to cancer-causing tar build-up in lungs, vaping also produces a much larger amount of vapor in a single puff. This can lead to stress on the lungs, difficulty breathing, asthma, and more lung-related issues.

Furthermore, while nicotine is an established chemical in the e-liquid mixture, there are a plethora of other chemicals, flavors and additives not found in smoking that can be harmful when heated or inhaled. In essence, you're trading one bad habit for another one.

Perhaps worst of all, is that e-cigarettes have only been around for about a decade, and thus the large majority of cases involving long-term risks have not been able to gather sufficient data. Whereas nicotine addiction and lung cancer have been commonplace with smoking for a hundred years or more, a decade simply isn't enough time to gather the dangerous, long-term effects that vaping currently poses.

Cold Turkey

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Many people use vaping as a way to combat the addictive side effects of smoking.

But, due to the fact that e-cigarettes and regular cigarettes both have nicotine, it's less of an easy way to stop smoking, and more of a short-term trade-off. Some people do use vaping as a way to slowly wind down from the dangers of smoking cigarettes, but many often find themselves stuck on vaping instead of smoking.

As long as e-liquids contain nicotine, vaping in its current form will remain as addictive (if not more so!) than normal cigarettes. The myth about e-cigs being completely safe is a large factor in driving people from smoking to vaping, rather than quitting both entirely.

And with the similarity of smoking and vaping (inhaling a cloud of smoke or vapor), it fulfills a psychological need, as well. Unlike nicotine patches or nicotine gum, the act of vaping simulates the act of smoking, which can continue or increase dependence. It's also been stated that smokers that have gone to vaping, also often return to their smoking habit as well.

Vaping Isn't Safe

While smoking carries the expected and traditional amount of lung cancer risks that are often associated with the constant smoke inhalation and tar build-up, the chemicals used in vape pens aren't much safer either.

The FDA has shown that e-cigarettes have “detectable levels of known carcinogens and toxic chemicals to which users could be exposed.” For example, in e-cigarette inserts that are labeled as “tobacco-free,” the FDA found a toxic compound that is most commonly found in antifreeze, as well as tobacco-specific chemicals that have been shown to cause cancer in humans, and other bad, tobacco-related carcinogens.

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A body's reaction to many of the chemicals in normal cigarette smoke causes long-lasting inflammation in the lungs, which in turn leads to chronic diseases like bronchitis, emphysema, and heart disease. Since e-cigarettes also contain most of the same toxic chemicals found in normal cigarettes, one has no reason to believe that they will significantly reduce the risks or outcomes for these diseases.

Simply put, vaping isn't risk-free or completely safe, and as the years roll on, there will undoubtedly be more research and data that shows that risks in a clearer, more public light.

What's In E-Liquid

hand holding vape

It's important to know just what kinds of chemicals and ingredients are found inside vape e-liquids. Here's a comprehensive list about some of the most common ingredients:

  • Nicotine
  • Propylene glycol
  • Glycerin
  • Natural and artificial flavorings

It is important to note that while most e-liquids contain some form of nicotine, there are brands and solutions out there that can be made or do not offer the nicotine solution within them. In this case, while not perfect, they are much healthier solutions to the nicotine craze affecting people that vape, though the dangers of vaping still do apply.

Shock to the System

While the dangers of inhaling vapor are one thing, there's a hidden danger that few people talk about.

Carrying around such an enormous battery to power your e-cigarette is one thing, but did you know that they can have catastrophic failures?

Thankfully, these mishaps don't happen very often, but when an e-cigarette battery does malfunction, the injuries can be absolutely terrible, ranging from burns on the face and hands, broken bones or even the loss of eyesight.

“It's literally an explosion, a super-hot explosion,” reported Dr. Anne Wagner. She works at the of the University of Colorado Hospital (UCH) Burn Center, a center where they've treated people seriously injured by e-cigarette battery malfunctions. “We're seeing deep third-degree burns and almost all of them require skin grafts, and these grafts leave a significant scar.”

vape battery malfunction and cause explosion

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A report was established by the U.S. Fire Administration that found 25 e-cigarette injuries had occurred between 2009 and 2014, and their reports for 2019 show more of them each and every year. The files noted that the way that the e-cigarette batteries are made could make them more likely than other products with lithium-ion batteries to malfunction.

There isn't a single, solitary reason for these failures, as they are widespread and various. Some problems stem from the fact that there aren't many industry-wide standards that apply to the manufacturing of these batteries and devices. Others are caused by people that use e-cigs and the modifications they apply to their e-cigs.

Temperatures — below 50 degrees or above 115 — can cause some batteries to stop working or overwork, resulting in complications.

It's important that vapers don't screw around with their batteries, as the lithium-ion batteries can turn into small rockets that shoot out a large amount of fire and flames.

People Want To Stop

Many people drawn to the allure of the vaping lifestyle have found themselves at a difficult crossroads. Many casual users are unfamiliar with the long-term effects, and the resources available to help those suffering from nicotine addiction.

Many organizations, such as those at truthiniative.org are offering a "first of its kind" e-cigarette quitting program, in order to combat the rise of vaping among young adults and students.

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Those that want to quit can start by texting "QUIT" to (202) 804-9884 or can discover and enroll in their programs "This is Quitting" and "BecomeAnEx" in order to get some real, sustainable help in their battle against nicotine addiction.

It helps by 'text coaching' you, and works with you at your pace. Whether it be simple, daily reminders or more pointed tips or advice, the BecomeAnEx program has aided more than 800,000 people on their quitting journey. Furthermore, research has shown that following the BecomeAnEX quit plan will quadruple a tobacco user's chance of quitting, proving the importance of digital resources throughout the quit journey.

Can't Stop, Won't Stop

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Despite the data and resources provided here, it's also entirely possible that people simply won't stop smoking or vaping.

After all, we've known as a society for decades that smoking is harmful, and yet, everyday people still simply keep smoking. This is in large part to the routines, and sense of ease smoking and nicotine can provide.

Nicotine, in of itself, is an addictive substance, and an inflammatory agent. However, it also provides temporary and short-lasting relief (largely through the filling of addictive urges). People that are struggling with depression, anxiety or pain, may be more likely or hesitant to quit vaping or smoking, as the relief, they get from their vices helps them with their daily effort.

It's important for people to realize the effect of these compounds and agents on their body and their mind, and to understand the driving forces that may improve after they quit. Additionally, while the quitting process can be difficult, the long-term health benefits are monumental.

It Starts At Home

With the rise of vaping among young children and students, it's important for parents to get involved in the discussion about the safety of vaping before it becomes a problem.

Talk with your children about the risks and dangers of vaping, and how it can lead to smoking or the use of other dangerous substances. Children that vape are more likely to use cigarettes or other substances than children who don't vape, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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If parents are knowledgeable about how these products are bought or sold, what they look like, and more, it can be far easier to find that your child may be smoking. After all, e-cigarettes and Juuls break apart into a variety of small, simple-seeming pieces that look like any other electronics. Knowing what a battery, atomizer or a mouthpiece look like can help you identify if your child is using an e-cigarette to vape.

Furthermore, it's important to state that the risks of smoking and vaping, especially in young children, are extreme! As children are developing, the addictive qualities of nicotine, as well as a host of chemicals and compounds can cause adverse and permanent side effects in children, such as problems breathing, early heart disease, underdeveloped lungs, sluggishness, a drop in attention span, and more.

Talk with your children about the dangers, and educate them on the facts.

It Starts at School, Too

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It's also equally as important that teachers (especially in the health and sciences field) talk to their students about the dangers of vaping. In addition, vigilance on their part can also help students avoid the risks associated with vaping.

It's best not to confront or try to 'catch' your students vaping (as vaping itself is largely a 'rebellious act' that will only be enforced by hitting them with the 'gotcha'!), but it's important that they understand the dangers and have the ability to have a discussion about it with their teachers and faculty and friends. Shutting down conversation or closing yourself off as an adult figure (that may have more sway than some parents) is counterproductive.

Keep yourself open to the conversation when it concerns your students and their health.

It Ends With Friends

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The largest driving force of e-cig and vaping culture in the United States is peer pressure and misinformation.

If you are offered an e-cig, it's much better to say no and explain your reasoning than caving in to the pressure and becoming possibly addicted or roped into a lifestyle you were not intending.

If you see your friends smoking or vaping, call them out on it. If you're offered it, say no. If fewer and fewer people vape, the popularity of it dies down, and the desire to 'be part of the crowd' fails as well. In essence, the fewer people vape, the fewer people will want to vape.

The Law Of The Land

man using vape

Just like cigarettes, there are many laws associated with the smoking and use of e-cigs. While it varies state by state, here are some of the more commonplace laws one can find.

  • Vaping and vaping-adjacent products like atomizers and e-cig batteries are to be handled and regulated as tobacco products.
  • Some states and cities do not allow the use of vape pens, e-cigs and more inside buildings.
  • Many high schools and middle schools do not allow vaping on school grounds.
  • Vaping or smoking near children or in the vicinity of hospitals can be prohibited depending on local government.

There are plenty of state, federal an local laws that associate with the use, definition, and legality of smoking e-cigs. For more information, check out some useful resources like:

The Public Health Law Center - A great resource that goes into state-by-state laws and definitions of terminology, as well as common misconceptions.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - A wealth of knowledge about the dangers of smoking e-cigs, the federal statistics, and the often over-looked questions.

Be Safe, Be Smart

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It's important, at the end of the day, to be aware of what you're putting into your body.

Just like you would want to check the calories on a new box of cereal or be aware how much sugar is in some ice cream, you'll want to be sure that you know just what you're putting into your body.

Be aware of labels that may have been ripped off or are missing. If you look up information about the products that are available, and it's difficult to find a clear answer, then you're more than likely being actively pushed away from the truth.

Know what you're putting in your body, and how it affects you. Hopefully, armed with a good head on your shoulders and some proper knowledge to back it up, you'll be able to avoid the true dangers of vaping.

In reality?

It's best just not to start in the first place.

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