As with any new technology that rapidly gains popularity, there are a lot of misconceptions about vaping. One common misconception is that vaping is harmless water vapor. 99% of all vape products contain nicotine, which is highly addictive and can cause permanent damage to developing adolescent brains. It can also lead to respiratory conditions like popcorn lung.
The vaping trend (also called vaporizing) has exploded in recent years. While some people see it as a smoking cessation tool and believe it is a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes, much of the truth about the device and its potential health risks remains clouded by misinformation. Let’s unpack some of the most common myths about vaping. Rather than combust tobacco, electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes or vapes) use a battery to heat a liquid mixed with nicotine, propylene glycol, flavorings, and other chemicals. This creates an aerosol that users inhale, often called “vapor.” The liquid inside these devices—JUULs, mods, e-hookahs, tank systems, or vape pens—varies significantly between brands and models. Some contain no nicotine at all, while others have high concentrations.
Nicotine is very addictive and can lead to nicotine addiction, which can cause serious health problems, including heart disease. It can also harm the brain, particularly in young people whose brains are still developing. Inhaling vapor can also damage the lungs. It contains various chemicals, including volatile organic compounds and heavy metals, that can cause acute and chronic respiratory illnesses. These can include lung scarring, which is hard to reverse and may increase the risk for COPD and other life-threatening diseases.
Inflammation caused by nicotine and other toxins in e-cigarette vapor can also impact your cardiovascular system and increase your risk for coronary artery disease, stroke, and heart attack. It can also impair the function of your immune system and contribute to other severe health conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, and asthma.
Vaping has become synonymous with a healthier alternative to smoking cigarettes, but there is no evidence that this is true. There is more evidence that it may be even more dangerous. E-cigarettes are electronic devices that heat a liquid to produce and inhale vapor. The liquids can contain a variety of chemicals, including nicotine and flavorings. Some brands have even higher nicotine levels than traditional cigarettes, making them more addictive. Young people are particularly susceptible to the lure of nicotine and can quickly become dependent. They can also start using harder drugs like cocaine and alcohol as a result of being addicted to nicotine.
Another danger of vaping is that it exposes children and others to harmful chemicals. When you vape, the vapor clouds can contain solvents and flavors and heavy metals like nickel, lead, and cadmium released when the coils are heated. These chemical vapors can irritate the lungs and make breathing more difficult. They can also contaminate the skin and cause coughing, wheezing, and asthma symptoms.
It’s a Way to Quit Smoking
Vaping involves heating a liquid into vapor and inhaling it. It may look like smoking, but it’s not the same. These e-cigarettes (or “vapes”) don’t just emit harmless water vapor; they contain chemicals, nicotine, and flavors that can harm your lungs. A recent study found that vapers inhale a chemical called acrolein—also used to kill weeds—and can cause sudden lung injury and trigger serious respiratory problems like COPD or asthma.
The health effects of vaping are still unclear, but one thing is clear: nicotine is highly addictive. It can disrupt the brain’s development in teens, creating memory problems and depression. It’s also linked to an increased risk of addiction to other drugs, including cocaine and alcohol. If you’re thinking about quitting, be sure to ask for help. Find a support group to help you get through cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Ask your doctor or therapist about free resources for smoking cessation, such as online and texting services and apps. And plan: Make a quit date and stick to it. Try cutting down how much you smoke or vape, and by your quit date, stop altogether. It’s called going “cold turkey,” and it works for many people. It can be difficult, but it’s the best way to avoid relapsing later.
It’s a Healthy Alternative
Unlike smoking, which involves burning tobacco and creating toxins that cause disease and death, vaping uses heat to turn liquid into vapor. These liquids usually contain nicotine, propylene glycol, glycerol, and flavorings to create aerosols that people breathe in. Some health concerns related to vaping include addiction, lung injuries, and the potential for battery explosions. It can also harm the immune system, causing weakened resistance to germs and increased susceptibility to illness. In addition, studies have found that e-cigarette chemicals can weaken lung function and increase the likelihood of respiratory infections, particularly in children.
Nicotine is an addictive stimulant that tricks the brain into feeling good. It works by blocking an adenosine receptor, which usually sends signals to make you feel relaxed or sleepy. Instead, it triggers a waterfall of dopamine and causes you to keep reaching for the device. Even if they’re not addicted, youths who start vaping can quickly find themselves unable to quit because the nicotine is addictive. They may then move on to cigarette smoking, which has much higher risks of disease and death. They may also be exposed to secondhand smoke from their friends’ vaping and chemicals that can be released from e-cigarette coils.