Vaping Health Facts: 10 Surprising Details

By Dr. Annie Macpherson
Updated: 2019-09-19

It may contain considerably fewer toxic substances than tobacco

What Are These Toxic Substances?

Although some people believe nicotine has the most damaging health effects of the substances in cigarettes, it is in fact many other chemicals in tobacco that cause the most harm [2]. E-cigarettes contain no tar or carbon monoxide – some of the most damaging chemicals found in tobacco.

It can still expose you to formaldehyde

Two primary ingredients in vape juice are:

  • propylene glycol and;
  • vegetable glycerin

What Is Formaldehyde?

Although not thought to pose serious health risks on their own when inhaled short-term, these compounds can decompose when overheated during vaping. This introduces the risk of exposure to toxic break-down products like formaldehyde [3]. Scientists aren’t sure how often vapers are exposed to formaldehyde, because overheating an e-cigarette produces a foul taste, which generally causes the user to quickly stop and spit it out [7].

It may be completely harmless to bystanders

In What Way Is It Harmless?

A 2018 evidence review by the PHE discovered that, to date, there are no identified health risks of passive/second-hand vaping to bystanders [5]. One reason why vaping appears to be less harmful to others is the lack ‘side-stream’ vapour emitted by devices. No vapour is emitted from an e-cigarette between puffs (side-stream), unlike cigarettes, that continue to release smoke whether or not the user is smoking themselves [5].

vaping

Despite the thickness of the vapour, there is currently little to no evidence to suggest that vaping could harm bystanders.

Vaping may drastically increase your likelihood of quitting tobacco

As An Alternative To Smoking

One of many controversies around vaping is the risk that it might encourage people to keep smoking. Contrary to this belief, there is almost no evidence to suggest that vaping is encouraging people to continue smoking [6]. According to Public Health Matters (UK), more than half of adult vape users have stopped smoking completely. An enormous 770,000 individuals have quit both smoking and vaping. At the same time, smoking rates are decreasing more quickly than ever, with the UK now at a record low of 14.9% [6].

Vaping with nicotine may lead to type 2 diabetes and impair brain development

Health Risk 1: Type 2 diabetes

Many vape juices still contain nicotine, allowing people to get their fix whilst moving away from tobacco. However, chronic exposure to nicotine (even without tobacco) can harm your health in two specific ways. Chronic nicotine exposure caused insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes in human studies, but this effect was also offset by the appetite-suppressing effect of nicotine [3].

Health Risk 2: Impair Brain Development

Nicotine can also cause fundamental changes in the brain, increasing your potential to become addicted to other drugs. It can also impair some brain development, potentially causing attention deficit disorder in young adults [7]. It’s important to remember that these effects can occur with any chronic exposure to nicotine – from e-cigarettes, tobacco smoke, or other nicotine delivery systems.

It is not nutritious, and has a negligible calorie content

It’s highly unlikely that any calorie content of eliquid will reach our bloodstream.

Contrary to urban myth, the calories consumed when vaping are almost zero. By our very nature, our lungs are poorly adapted to intake calories, or anything with nutritious value, meaning it is highly unlikely that any calorie content of vape juice will reach our bloodstream.

It could massively reduce your risk of cancer (compared to smoking)

On Cancer Risk

A new study assessing vape emissions has calculated their estimated lifetime cancer risks. The research concluded that ‘the cancer potencies of e-cigarettes were largely under 0.5% of the risk of smoking’ [8]. Data is limited however, so these numbers should be treated as estimates.

It could reduce the risk of heart disease

If you vape, your risk of cardiovascular disease is considerably lower than if you continued to smoke [8]. Nicotine alone does not appear to affect cardiovascular health, unless heart disease is already present [9].

It could reduce the risk of lung disease for smokers

Effect on Respiratory Condition

Various small-scale studies have found that switching from smoking to vaping improved some respiratory ‘biomarkers’ – in particular, acrolein, an aldehyde known to be a respiratory irritant. Unlike smokers, whose acrolein levels are high, acrolein levels in vapers were found to be similar to those of non-smokers [8].

It is worth noting that e-liquids often contain food-grade flavourings, and our current understanding of the risks to your health and lungs of inhaling these flavourings is still very limited. We cannot be certain that these chemicals are harm-free and do not affect your lungs long-term.

It may be healthier for your wallet

How It Suits Your Budget

Although it’s a little different to our other vaping health fact, by using an e-cigarette instead of regular tobacco, your wallet could be healthier too. According to a new study in the US, using a rechargeable vape with disposable cartridges saved individuals up to $1,800 a year, and disposable e-cigarettes saved hundreds of dollars per year [10].

Conclusion

Given the fact that long-term safety data is lacking, vaping currently has a complex mix of poorly understood potential harms and benefits. The health benefits of replacing tobacco with vaping are very different to the health risks of taking up vaping as a non-smoker. We hope these 10 surprising vaping health fact have shed some light on the complexity of current issues around vaping and general health.

Image

Flickr.com – Young Man Holding an E-cigarette https://www.flickr.com/photos/157551927@N08/25143234568

[Accessed 12/07/2019]

References

  1. PublicHealthMatters.blog.gov.uk – Clearing up some Myths around E-cigaretts https://publichealthmatters.blog.gov.uk/2018/02/20/clearing-up-some-myths-around-e-cigarettes/ [Accessed 04/07/2019]

  2. Hartmann-Boyce, J., McRobbie, H., Bullen, C., Begh, R., Stead, L. F., & Hajek, P. (2016). Electronic cigarettes for smoking cessation. The Cochrane database of systematic reviews, 9(9), CD010216. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD010216.pub3
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6457845/

  3. Health.Harvard.edu – e-cigarettes: Good News, Bad News – https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/electronic-cigarettes-good-news-bad-news-2016072510010 – [Accessed 04/07/2019]

  4. Reference

  5. Lungs.org – What You Need to Know About E-Cigarettes – https://www.lung.org/stop-smoking/smoking-facts/e-cigarettes-and-lung-health.html [Accessed 04/07/2019]

  6. PublicHealthMatters.blog.gov.uk – Clearing up some Myths around E-cigaretts https://publichealthmatters.blog.gov.uk/2018/02/20/clearing-up-some-myths-around-e-cigarettes/ [Accessed 04/07/2019]

  7. PublicHealthMatters.blog.gov.uk – Clearing up some Myths around E-cigaretts https://publichealthmatters.blog.gov.uk/2018/02/20/clearing-up-some-myths-around-e-cigarettes/ [Accessed 04/07/2019]

  8. Goriounova NA, Mansvelder HD. Short- and long-term consequences of nicotine exposure during adolescence for prefrontal cortex neuronal network function. Cold Spring Harb Perspect Med. 2012;2(12):a012120doi:10.1101/cshperspect.a012120
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3543069/

  9. Gov.uk – Evidence review of e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products 2018: executive summary https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/e-cigarettes-and-heated-tobacco-products-evidence-review/evidence-review-of-e-cigarettes-and-heated-tobacco-products-2018-executive-summary [Accessed 04/07/2019]

  10. BHF.org – Is Vaping Safe?

    https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/heart-matters-magazine/news/e-cigarettes [Accessed 04/07/2019]

  11. #10

  12. VapingDaily.com –
    Vaping 101 – Health Relations, Benefits, Dangers, Fun Facts And More

    https://vapingdaily.com/health/ [Accessed 04/07/2019]

Dr. Annie Macpherson
Dr. Annie Macpherson

Annie has a PhD in Genome Stability from the University of Sussex. She has first-hand experience in cancer and human disease research. This allows her to provide us with new and unbiased insights into the ongoing research of the public and health effects of vaping. She loves an adventure, and has travelled through South East Asia and Australia working for Vaping Insider.