Is vaping dangerous?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) calls the ‘tobacco epidemic’ “one of the biggest public health threats the world has ever faced, killing more than 8 million people a year”. Many people struggle to quit smoking due to its addictive nature, and recently vaping has appeared as a potential aid to quit for good. However, there is a growing population of young people who have taken up vaping without having smoked before. Is vaping harmful, and if so, is it more harmful than smoking? We asked 3 experts in cardiovascular disease and cardiology, ‘Is vaping dangerous?’, here is what they said…
Is vaping dangerous?
What is vaping?
Is vaping dangerous?
The danger of vaping depends on the content of the e-cigarette. Dr Thanh-Hyuen Vu, an expert in cardiology and substance product use from Northwestern University in the USA, says “There are different styles of vaping, different types of e-liquids, and different chemicals make up the vapor. The vaping aerosol can contain harmful and/or potentially harmful substances.”
Due to the relatively new nature of e-cigarettes, they are not well standardised and vary widely in the chemicals they contain. Most include nicotine, which is also present in traditional cigarettes. Vaping nicotine is addictive and can increase your chances of having a heart attack. ‘Extra strength’ vaping cassettes have higher nicotine levels, which further increases these negative health effects. Other ingredients found in vapes include carcinogens and chemicals such as acrolein and diacetyl, which are known to damage the lungs.
Is vaping more dangerous than smoking?
Traditional cigarette smoke contains nicotine, carbon monoxide and tar, all of which are extremely harmful. Dr Giuseppe Biondi Zoccai, an expert in cardiology from Sapienza University in Italy, says “[vaping] is dangerous, but much less than conventional cigarette smoking. Thus, it can be envisioned as a temporary tool to foster smoking cessation and eventual abstinence from any smoking habit.” Professor Jacob George, an expert in cardiovascular disease and epidemiology from Dundee University in Scotland, agrees, saying “Vaping should never be considered harmless per se. However, in relative terms, vaping is less harmful than tobacco cigarette smoking. There is evidence from numerous clinical trials to support this assertion of risk reduction compared to tobacco cigarettes.”
Importantly, although many vape products market themselves as an aid to quit smoking, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have not approved them as smoking cessation devices.
What is EVALI?
EVALI, short for ‘e-cigarette or vaping use-associated lung injury’ is a recently characterised lung illness that can arise from vaping. In 2020, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found 2,807 cases of hospitalized EVALI cases, and 68 associated deaths. Most EVALI cases are linked to people vaping THC or illegal vaping products, but it is not clear which chemicals are responsible for the disease.
What do we still need to learn about vaping?
There is still much to learn about the health effects of vaping, and regulation needed to standardise the variety of ingredients found in vape liquids.
Dr George says “The difficulty with systematic reviews and meta-analysis on this topic is that most vapers are ex-smokers and therefore the residual increased risk of smoking is then translated to the vaping cohort and there are no simple ways to disentangle this.”
Dr Vu says “Although the long-term health consequences of vaping are not well known, there is evidence on short-term health consequences. Therefore, we can conclude that vaping is potentially dangerous to your health.”
Vaping is potentially dangerous to your health
May the facts be with you!
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