Kids vape because they believe it is safer than smoking, after all, that is what the vaping industry has told them. We know what smoking cigarettes will do to the body, but what impact does vaping have on the body and what really worries the researchers? Is it really safer?
The Juul brand seems to be what most kids are using and it has a very high dose of nicotine. The flavors most commonly purchased by youth have 0.7mL with 5% nicotine by weight. Juul has even admitted that one of its pods equals a pack of cigarettes worth of nicotine, but some are saying it is more like two packs of cigarettes. And Juul uses nicotine salts which increases the hit of nicotine delivered to your blood, up to 2.7 times faster than other e-cigs. That nicotine is giving kids more than a buzz, as 35 cases of nicotine-induced seizures have been reported. While the number of seizures may not seem like a lot, developing a seizure after using a product is serious, and not all seizures may have been reported.
Nicotine in vaping devices can also stress the cardiovascular system, just as cigarettes. It raises the blood pressure, speeds up the heart rate, and causes the arteries to narrow. Back in 2018 researchers weren’t sure if this would lead to long-term changes in heart rate and blood pressure, but more studies are showing that vaping could be bad for the heart. Recent observational studies have found a link between regular vaping and an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes and coronary artery disease.
Researchers know that e-cigarettes emit microscopic particles that include heavy metals, like chromium, nickel and lead, that can travel deep into the lungs. Our body’s defense mechanism is able to fight large particles, such as dust by coughing, but the fine particles in the aerosol don’t trigger our body in the same way. Exposure to these tiny particles affects our cardiovascular system.
There is no combustion when you use e-cigarettes, but the vapor isn’t harmless. It can irritate the lungs and the user can develop wheezing from the irritation. Researchers tracked 28,000 adults to determine whether e-cigarette use made wheezing worse and when they compared users to people who didn’t smoke or vape at all, “the risk of wheezing among the vapers doubled.” Researchers are also concerned about e-cigarette users developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and lung inflammation from using e-cigarettes could worsen asthma, and “increase the risk of respiratory tract infection – like cold, flu and bronchitis.”
A randomized trial showed e-cigarettes performed better than other nicotine replacement therapy in helping people quit smoking, but only helped a small portion of participants in the vaping group quit. Ten studies have also shown there is also strong evidence “that e-cigarettes may act as a gateway to traditional smoking with youth.” While youth smoking has decreased in recent years, researchers don’t know if that will continue to decrease or whether we will see smoking rise in the future due to vaping.
What can you take away from all of this? Vaping isn’t as safe as kids seem to think. The vaping industry compares vaping to smoking cigarettes, but most of the kids who are vaping have never been smokers. It would be better to compare vaping to breathing normal ambient air, then vaping comes out worse. Now we just need to convince the kids the vaping industry hasn’t been truthful.