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Does vaping damage your lungs?

Do you want to quit smoking and try vaping as an alternative? Like many people you probably want to quit smoking but not go completely cold turkey. And the good news is that there are many success stories of people swapping from cigarettes to vaping who eventually quit smoking altogether.

However, you may still be wondering if vaping and e-cigarettes can damage your lungs? Medical studies have proven that vaping is much better for your lungs than smoking, however, e-cigarettes can still damage your lungs if used incorrectly, excessively or over a long period of time. The positive news is that vaping is much less harmful than smoking cigarettes and if done correctly you can vape to eventually quit smoking forever.

Why it's better to vape rather than smoke

Smoking and vaping both deliver nicotine. The difference is cigarettes deliver it by burning tobacco, which creates many harmful toxins. Vaping delivers nicotine in e-liquid, which is much less harmful.

When smoking cigarettes the amount of nicotine in cigarettes is generally fixed, and how much you get depends on how you smoke. In vaping, the amount of nicotine depends on the strength of the e-liquid you choose, and how you vape.

Vaping is not smoking, but some people find vaping works to help them quit because it offers experiences similar to smoking a cigarette. Vaping has a similar hand-to-mouth action as smoking, and it can also be social.

According to the Cochrane report, a clinical trial run by health professionals, "Vaping provides sensations similar to smoking a cigarette. They provide taste and throat sensations that are close to smoking."

"There is evidence from the pooled results of two trials that electronic cigarettes with nicotine, compared with placebos, helped smokers to stop smoking in the long‐term."

Quitting the smoking habit can be tough. Vaping is a way to quit cigarettes by getting nicotine with fewer of the toxins that come from burning tobacco. The upside of vaping is that you get to stay social if you are a social smoker, spend less, and once you’ve quit smoking you’ll feel better for it.

Vaping is less harmful than smoking

The good news is that vaping is less harmful than smoking. Even though it is better than smoking cigarettes, it is important to remember that there are still health risks associated with using an e-cigarette. Electronic cigarettes heat nicotine and flavourings to create an aerosol that you inhale. Regular tobacco in cigarettes contains 7,000 harmful chemicals, many of which are toxic. So as you can see tobacco is far more harmful to your lungs.

There have been some lung injuries associated with vaping. According to Dr Michael J Blaha, “These cases appear to predominantly affect people who modify their vaping devices or use black market modified e-liquids. This is especially true for vaping products containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)”.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified vitamin E acetate as a chemical of concern among people with an e-cigarette or vaping product use associated with lung injury (EVALI). Vitamin E acetate is a thickening agent often used in THC vaping products, and it was found in all lung fluid samples of patients examined by the CDC. Avoid using THC containing e-cigarettes.

The CDC recommends that people:

  • Do not use THC-containing e-cigarettes.
  • Avoid using informal sources, such as friends, family or online dealers to obtain a vaping device. Always use official suppliers.
  • Do not modify or add any substances to a vaping device that are not intended by the manufacturer.
  • Buy e-cigarettes from a trusted company.

You can vape without nicotine

Nicotine is the primary agent in both regular cigarettes and e-cigarettes, and it is highly addictive. It causes you to crave a smoke and suffer withdrawal symptoms if you ignore the craving. Nicotine is also a toxic substance. It raises your blood pressure and spikes your adrenaline, increasing your heart rate and putting your heart under strain.

The good news is you can choose if you want to use nicotine in your e-cigarette. And you can use smaller amounts of nicotine and then eventually no nicotine at all. So again vaping is a much better alternative to smoking.

Lung conditions associated with smoking tobacco

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), lung diseases caused by smoking tobacco kills more than 480,000 people in the U.S. each year. In fact, smoking is directly responsible for almost 90% of lung cancer cases. This is another good reason to transition from cigarette smoking to vaping. With vaping and electronic cigarettes, you won't get lung conditions associated with smoking.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

This includes Chronic bronchitis and Emphysema. Chronic bronchitis is a long-term (chronic) inflammation of the large airways. Symptoms include coughing mucus over a long period. Emphysema is a chronic lung condition that affects the air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs. Symptoms include shortness of breath, coughing, fatigue, heart problems and weight loss.

Lung cancer

The harmful chemicals in regular cigarettes cause lung cancer. This causes abnormal growth of cells that can result in lumps, masses, or tumours. It may start in the lining of the bronchi, or other areas of the respiratory system. Smoking, including secondhand smoke, is the leading cause of lung cancer. The harmful chemicals in traditional cigarettes cause lung cancer.

What are the benefits of quitting tobacco?

People who quit smoking tobacco can actually reverse some of the lung damage. If you want to quit tobacco and the smoking habit, why not try smoking e-cigarettes as a healthier alternative. Other benefits of quitting smoking may include the following:

  • Decreased risk for lung disease
  • Decreased risk for heart disease
  • Decreased risk for cancer
  • Reduced cigarette stains on fingers and teeth
  • Reduced occurrence of cough
  • Elimination of stale cigarettes smell on clothing and hair
  • Improved smell and taste
  • Saving money by not buying cigarettes

What are the benefits of vaping?

According to Public Health England (PHE), vaping is at least 95% less harmful than smoking cigarettes. Because there is no combustion in vaping, there is no smoke, and smoke is what creates the tar and carbon monoxide that lead to most of the long-term health damage and lung damage from smoking. The health benefits of being smoke-free include improved lung and heart function, and even better senses of smell and taste. Here are some other benefits of vaping:

  • You can control your nicotine intake
  • No bad odours
  • Enjoy different flavours
  • Vaping is affordable
  • Vaping is socially acceptable

More evidence on the benefits of vaping

In addition to the enjoyment vaping brings, some evidence such as the Cochrane report suggest that vaping helps some people stop smoking. However, how it compares to a nicotine patch or other methods of smoking cessation is not clear. So far, the Food and Drug Administration has not approved vaping as a method of smoking cessation.

The CDC’s position is that "E-cigarettes have the potential to benefit adult smokers who are not pregnant if used as a complete substitute for regular cigarettes and other smoked tobacco products."

The truth about the benefits and risks of vaping is not that clear cut, as we don’t always know what’s in e-cigarettes. The FDA does not regulate these products. And there is no information available about long-term health impacts.

The bottom line

At the end of the day, vaping can be viewed as the lesser evil compared to cigarette smoking. The one thing we do know is that e-cigarettes have less dangerous chemicals in them than traditional cigarettes and are unlikely to cause serious lung disease. If you use e-cigarettes in a responsible way and don't vape excessively, then it's unlikely you will experience lung disease, heart disease, lung cancer or irreversible lung damage. One way we’ll learn more is by people reporting possible vaping-related health problems to the FDA.

More research needs to be done on the health consequences of e-cigarettes for e-cigarette users. Until we know more, vape responsibly. If you do decide to vape, avoid e-cigarettes that are bought off the street and stick with brand name e-cigarette products without modification such as adding marijuana or other drugs.

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