Last year we saw the rise of the Juul and an enormous amount of media coverage surrounding the safety of vapes. On top of that, the FDA is considering a flavour ban on e-liquids and there’s a lot of controversy surrounding the health effects vaping will have long term. Thankfully, there’s plenty of research going into the effects e-cigarettes have on the human body and how they differ from conventional smoking.
“How safe is vaping?”
One of the main concerns many people have over vaping is that it’s still a relatively new product, the first e-cigarettes were released back in 2003, as such there are currently few long term studies. However, there has been plenty of research into how they stack up against combustible cigarettes. In the UK, governing health bodies like the National Health Service (NHS) and Public Health England (PHE) endorse e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation method. Their studies have found vaping is 95% safer than smoking.
“Does vaping cause cancer?”
As both smoking and vaping involve the inhalation of a substance (in one instance, smoke, the other is vapour) many people perceive the health implications to be the same. In practice, they’re totally different. Smoking combustible cigarettes exposes both the smoker and bystanders to 7000 chemicals, 250 of which are bad for your health and 69 of which cause cancer. Another reason for the confusion is the fact that both contain nicotine but that’s where the similarities stop.
Nicotine on its own doesn’t cause cancer, it’s the combination of chemicals in cigarette smoke that does. PG and VG, the two other main ingredients in e-liquid, have been classified as safe. Both are used in food and PG is used in asthma inhalers. The other factor is that vaping is the heating of a liquid into an aerosol rather than actually burning anything, meaning there’s no ash or smoke. Both the ash and smoke (as well as the thousands of other chemicals) are what make smoking so harmful to your health.
“Can vaping give you popcorn lung?”
This issue was raised when e-liquids contained an ingredient called diacetyl, something used to give a buttery flavour. It’s been linked to ‘popcorn lung’ – the technical term being bronchiolitis obliterans. The name popcorn lung stems from workers in popcorn factories developing the disease after dealing with the chemical for extended periods.
Despite the concern, studies have found cigarettes have higher levels of diacetyl than e-cigarettes to. To avoid it altogether your best bet is to buy vape liquids from reliable retailers who don’t stock liquids with diacetyl.
“Vaping creates formaldehyde.”
With so many studies going on, it can be confusing to know which ones accurately represent the conditions under which someone would vape. In 2018, studies were released indicating e-cigarettes released formaldehyde. The reality is that in order for an e-cigarette to produce anything other than vapour, it would need to be used under “dry burn conditions”. This occurs when the coil, the part responsible for heating e-liquid, can’t absorb the liquid fast enough and the metal burns instead of heating liquid and in turn releases particulates.
Using an e-cigarette under these conditions would also result in a burned, unpleasant flavour and harsh feeling in the throat. No one would naturally vape in this way and in order to achieve this the wattage would have to be too high and the e-cigarette dragged on for 3 or more seconds for it to happen.
“Why do vapes explode?”
In 2018, a man died from a vape battery exploding while he was using his e-cigarette. Unfortunately, it’s events like this that can give the wrong impression and they’re anomalies rather than a commonplace occurrence. The reason behind this was the e-cigarette in question was a rebuildable mod meaning there was no internal circuitry to keep it from releasing too much power.
This is almost always the reason vape batteries can explode is down to improper use and typically happens in the higher powered mods that lack in-built safety features. Because e-cigarettes can be built almost from scratch, using a coil with too low a resistance and a battery with too much output can result in over-discharge. There’s also been concern over charging batteries overnight, suggesting they may cause a fire hazard if left unattended. The NHS have updated their classification of e-cigarettes to that of mobile phones – essentially meaning it’s no more risky charging a vape than your iPhone.
Almost all vapes come with a chipset with safety protections built in to prevent this. Things like overcharge protection, over-discharge protection and low resistance protection prevent accidents like this happening. If you’re wanting to purchase a new vape kit, your best bet is a regulated mod or starter kit which will come with plenty of safety features built in.
With constant advances in both technology and research and despite safety concerns, vaping has seen a huge increase in the last few years. Smoking rates are declining and the CAGR of Big Tobacco companies is trailing off while e-cigarettes are expected to grow 22% by 2025. Originally created as a means to save lives, most of the safety aspects of vaping comes down to how they’re operated. E-cigarettes have the potential to save millions of lives by offering a safer alternative for current smokers.
Nicotine Does Not Cause Cancer– Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
7000 Harmful Chemicals in Cigarette Smoke– cancer.gov