Vaping Health Risks

There are many health risks associated with vaping. Vape products often contain high levels of nicotine, which can lead to addiction and even serious illnesses. The batteries used in some vape products can also explode, causing burns, scarring, and death. Further, vape products may contain toxic chemicals, and researchers are studying how these chemicals affect human health.

The Health Risks of Vaping

According to its company website, JUUL claims that its products can improve the lives of those who smoke regular cigarettes. However, there are a number of serious health risks associated with using JUULs and other e-cigarettes.

The health risks of vaping may include:

  • Nicotine addiction: Most vape products contain nicotine in varying amounts. Nicotine addiction can hurt brain development and lead to seizures, strokes, and death in some cases.
  • Diacetyl exposure: Diacetyl is a chemical used to give flavor to different vape liquids. While it is safe to ingest, inhaling diacetyl has been shown to cause permanent lung damage.
  • Toxic chemical exposure: According to the U.S. Surgeon General, vape products may contain heavy metals, volatile organic compounds, and ultrafine particles. Researchers are still investigating the long-term health risks of these substances.
  • Battery explosions: Many vape products run on batteries to power their heating systems. If these batteries overheat, they can explode and physically harm or kill the user.

Quick Facts

  • Adults under the age of 25 are at a higher risk of nicotine addiction because their brains are still developing, according to the Surgeon General.
  • A report from the U.S. Fire Administration documented 195 vape battery explosions between the years 2009 and 2016.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are investigating reports of lung disease possibly related to vaping.

Vaping and Nicotine Addiction

Nicotine is an addictive substance found in tobacco plants. Most vape products contain nicotine in liquid-filled cartridges. This liquid, known as “e-liquid” or “vape juice,” typically contains flavoring chemicals.

Long-term nicotine exposure may physically change how the brain operates. Those who become addicted to nicotine typically experience serious mental and physical side effects.

However, the U.S. Surgeon General noted that two-thirds of JUUL customers between the ages of 15 and 24 did not know the company’s products contained nicotine.

This is alarming, considering over 3.6 million middle and high schoolers in the U.S. currently vape.

Health Risks of Nicotine Exposure

Nicotine exposure can permanently damage important parts of a person’s brain and cause other physical harm.

The most notable health risks of nicotine exposure include: 

  • Brain development issues: Nicotine use can change the chemical makeup of the brain and lead to issues with memory and behavior.
  • Nicotine poisoning: Nicotine poisoning may occur when there is too much nicotine in the body. It can cause headaches, seizures, loss of consciousness, and death.
  • Seizures: As of 2019, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is currently studying nearly 130 reported seizures that may be connected to vape products.
  • Stroke: A research study from the American College of Cardiology suggests that those who vape have a 30% greater chance of a stroke than those who do not.

In addition to these health risks, the potential respiratory problems associated with the harmful chemicals in vape products are currently under investigation.

Vaping and Respiratory Problems

When someone vapes, they inhale a cloud of flavoring chemicals and other particles into their lungs. These materials may put them at risk of developing respiratory illnesses.

Respiratory problems possibly related to vaping include:  

Vaping and Asthma

A study published in Environmental Health Perspectives, a medical journal affiliated with the National Institutes of Health (NIH), noted that some vape products contained endotoxin (bacterial toxin) and glucan (fungal toxin). Both are associated with asthma.

Harvard researchers studying diacetyl in vape products suggested the chemical may also increase the risk of asthma.

Vaping and Bronchitis

A 2017 study by the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine noted that those who vaped experienced more symptoms of chronic bronchitis than those who did not.

In addition, a study from the American Thoracic Society (ATS) noted that vaping harmed cilia function and reduced the body’s ability to remove the mucus. This is the same problem that can increase the risk of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Vaping and COPD

According to the American Lung Association (ALS), some vape products contain acrolein, a compound known to cause COPD and other lung injuries.

Additionally, a May 2018 presentation from the ATS revealed that those who vape have double the chance of developing COPD than non-vapers.

Vaping and Toxic Chemicals

Toxic substances found in vape products may include:

  • Diacetyl: Diacetyl is a common flavoring chemical found in e-liquids. In a 2015 Harvard University study, diacetyl was present in 76% of vape brands that were tested. Diacetyl has been linked to the development of lung-related illnesses, such as asthma and COPD. Most notably, diacetyl is also associated with popcorn lung, a degenerative lung disease.
  • Heavy metals: Heavy metal particles have been found in both vape clouds and e-liquids, according to the U.S. Surgeon General. These particles may come from defects in vape heating systems or from the creation of chemical reactions as the vape product heats up. Some of the heavy metals found in vape products, such as lead, nickel, and tin, are dangerous to humans in high doses.
  • Volatile organic compounds: When the e-liquid in vape products is heated to extremely high temperatures, chemical changes can take place creating volatile organic compounds. Volatile organic compounds found in vapes, including acetaldehyde, acrolein, and formaldehyde, have been linked to cardiovascular and lung diseases.
  • Ultrafine particles: Researchers are concerned that vape products emit ultrafine particles. If these particles are inhaled, they can get stuck deep in the lungs and may enter the bloodstream. Exposure to ultrafine particles can cause breathing issues, eye irritation, lung cancer, and cardiovascular issues.

Cardiovascular Problems

In a 2018 study published by the medical journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, researchers tested common e-cigarette flavors and found that most of the flavors impaired the development of nitric oxide, a molecule that reduces inflammation and clotting in blood vessels.

Heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular issues have been linked to a loss of nitric oxide.

Battery Explosions

The health risks of exploding vape batteries are already apparent. 133 of the battery explosions noted by the U.S. Fire Administration from 2009 to 2016 resulted in acute injury to the users.

In 2019, a 24-year-old man died after his vape pen exploded while he was using it. A metal projectile sliced a blood vessel in his neck, causing him to have a lethal stroke.

Vape battery explosions are particularly dangerous because vape pens are often located in a pocket or near the mouth.

Vape battery explosions can cause injuries such as:

  • Blindness
  • Bruises
  • Cuts
  • Holes in the tongue or mouth
  • Loss of teeth
  • Permanent scars
  • Severe burns
  • Death

As of 2019, the FDA is considering standards to prevent battery explosions in the future, but this is still under development.

Vaping Health Risks and Legal Action

Through legal action, those who were harmed by vape products may be able to receive compensation to help them pay for the cost of their medical treatment and improve their quality of life.

Vaping companies have continued to maintain that their products are safe. However, vape companies should be held responsible if their products caused you harm.

You may have legal options if you got injured or sick from using vape products. To learn more, get a free case review today.

Author:Vape Danger Editorial Team
Vape Danger Editorial Team

Vape Danger helps people understand the dangers of vape and e-cigarette products. Vaping devices are marketed as a safe alternative to traditional cigarettes. However, vape pens and other devices may cause serious injuries and illnesses. The Vape Danger editorial team provides the latest studies and data to help readers make informed health and legal choices.

Last modified: August 26, 2019

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