Nowadays, vaping is trending. E-cigarettes are considered stylish by the teenage crowd. And many adults are using vaporizers as a healthier alternative to traditional cigarettes or to help them quit smoking.
This new trend probably seems incredibly appealing, especially if you, yourself, are trying to quit smoking. After all, smoking is addictive and a leading cause of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which is a group of lung diseases.
If you are a vaper or smoker who wants to avoid COPD later down the road, or if you have been diagnosed with COPD already, you may be wondering how safe or unsafe it is to vape.
What is vaping?
Vaping is when you heat a substance just hot enough to release psychoactive chemicals (like nicotine) without actually combusting the material. It is commonly seen as a more comfortable and healthier way to inhale tobacco. Vaporizers are also more discreet, and vaping products can come in a myriad of tasty flavors like mango, strawberry, and green apple.
Vaporizers are also often touted as a way for established smokers to start quitting.
What is COPD?
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is an umbrella term for progressive lung diseases that make it harder to breathe. Some of these lung diseases include chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
For patients with a type of COPD, the airways and air sacs of their respiratory system have reduced elasticity. Their alveolar (air sac) walls are often destroyed, and the airways may even be inflamed and thick with mucus.
About three-quarters of COPD patients are smokers or ex-smokers. People who have had long-term exposure to pollutants and irritants, such as workers dealing with noxious fumes, can also get COPD. In rare cases, a certain genetic condition can aid in the development of COPD.
Is COPD serious?
COPD can lead to more serious lung conditions. It is a progressive disease, which means it gets worse. COPD patients may need to put up with the annoyance of a chronic cough, suffer shortness of breath during physical activity, and deal with wheezing and chest tightness. COPD patients are also more susceptible to respiratory conditions like the common cold and the seasonal flu.
Putting Vaping into Practice
Advantages to Vaping
The general consensus among scientists is that vaping is safer than smoking. Handheld vaporizers powered by batteries are also easy to carry around, and the smell that comes from their use is minimal. This makes vaping less irritating for the people around you, and you can vape virtually anywhere in a discrete manner.
Even the director of clinical research at the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease notes that vaping almost certainly exposes you to fewer toxic chemicals than if you were to smoke a cigarette. However, this doesn’t mean vaping is 100% safe.
Disadvantages to Vaping
Just like cigarettes, vape cartridges contain nicotine, the chemical that makes cigarettes addictive. Nicotine happens to be quite toxic, especially to fetuses. To add to that toxicity, vaporizers or e-cigarettes also contain chemicals linked to lung disease, volatile organic compounds, carcinogens, and heavy metals.
Because they are so popular with teenagers, there is worry that teenagers may get addicted to nicotine through vaping and that they may move on to traditional combusting cigarettes. Indeed, younger brains are at higher risk for addiction.
Vaping and COPD
A recent 2018 study speculates that vaping can be associated with COPD. According to the study, repeated exposure to the chemical acrolein that comes from vaporizer liquids can cause inflammation leading to COPD.
The study also found that vaping is associated with double the risk of chronic bronchitis symptoms among American high school students. Additionally, it confirmed that the risk of second-hand smoke doesn’t disappear with vaping. People near a vaper can still inhale nicotine.
According to the CDC, vaping has the potential to help adult smokers who are not pregnant and want a healthier alternative.
Do you have COPD?
COPD may at first express no symptoms. However, as the disease progresses, you may experience coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Your doctor can determine if your symptoms are a sign of COPD by testing your lung function and asking about your family medical history and your symptoms.
Treatment of COPD involves certain types of therapy, such as oxygen therapy and pulmonary rehabilitation. It may also involve lifestyle changes related to your diet and exercise routine. And it is recommended that COPD patients take extra steps to protect themselves against respiratory illnesses. An easy way to do this is by getting the flu shot every year.
You may also be prescribed bronchodilators like an albuterol inhaler. If medication affordability is a concern, you can find cheaper medications online. International and Canada drugs sold through pharmacy referral services are often more affordable than drugs found in the U.S. due to tighter price regulations. You can also access smoking-cessation medications like bupropion.
Vaping and COPD: The Takeaway
If you have COPD and you smoke, the best thing you can do is to quit smoking. Not only is smoking linked to COPD, but it is also strongly associated with cancer, heart disease, and pregnancy complications. And as we have learned, vaping is the lesser of two evils, but it is far from ideal. If you vape, you should also try to quit. If you’ve never vaped or smoked, don’t start.