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For many smokers, vaping is a healthier alternative to smoking cigarettes. This is because e-cigarettes don’t produce tar or carbon monoxide, which are two of the most harmful elements in tobacco smoke. However, being less dangerous doesn’t equate to not being harmful at all. In fact, the use of e-cigarettes has proven to be detrimental to health in various ways. 

What is vaping? 

An e-cigarette (which includes vapes, hookah, and electronic nicotine delivery systems) is an electronic device that simulates tobacco smoking. 

When in use, the mechanism heats the solution inside the e-cigarette. It then turns the solution into an aerosol vapor that the user inhales into the lungs. Manufacturers often mix this nicotine-based solution with flavoring to make it palatable, such as propylene glycol, and other additives. Unlike traditional cigarettes, this device allows the user to inhale nicotine in vapor form as opposed to smoke form.

The Regulation of e-cigarettes

Following the FDA banning the sale of Juul e-cigarettes in the U.S., countries have started being less lenient with their regulations on e-cigarettes. Including the European Commission which proposed banning vaping solutions.

In fact, over 40 countries have strict regulations when it comes to vaping. For instance, in Singapore you can be fined up to $2000 for vaping. In Thailand, you can be arrested and face jail time. What’s more, Hong Kong and Brazil have banned and criminalized the sale, importation, and in most cases, use of e-cigarettes. 

They Can Cause Lung Disease

One of the chemicals found in the solution used in e-cigarettes is Diacetyl. This chemical, which is in over 75% of e-cigarette flavors, scars the tiny airways in your lungs. As a result, your airways become thick and narrow. This leads to a prolonged dry cough, shortness of breath, and wheezing. Research has linked exposure to this chemical with bronchiolitis obliterans (also known as “Popcorn Lung”), which is a severe, irreversible lung disease.

The FASEB Journal has published research that links e-cigarettes to cellular and molecular changes in the lungs. It was found that chronic e-cigarette use led to an increase in inflammatory cells, including neutrophils, macrophages, and eosinophils.

The Link Between Vaping and Cardiovascular Disease

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of February 2020, over 2000 people were hospitalized due to lung injuries at the hands of e-cigarettes, with 68 deaths being reported. In two studies supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), a link was found between vaping and cardiovascular disease.

Matthew L. Springer Ph.D. is a professor of medicine in the Division of Cardiology at the University of California in San Francisco and the leader of both studies. He says that “chronic e-cigarette users had impaired blood vessel function, which may put them at increased risk for heart disease.” 

These are just as addictive as traditional cigarettes 

Most people will opt for e-cigarettes as a way of quitting traditional cigarettes. However, the chemicals contained in these alternatives can be just as addictive as traditional cigarettes. Nicotine is a highly addictive, dangerous chemical, with studies showing that it may be harder to quit a nicotine addiction than a heroin addiction. This chemical, which typically occurs in traditional cigarettes, is usually also a component in e-cigarettes and hookahs.

Michael Blaha, M.D., has stated that many e-cigarettes contain more nicotine than traditional cigarettes, with some “vape solutions” containing 20 times the nicotine found in a single cigarette. Most users smoke traditional cigarettes within two to five minutes. E-cigarettes, on the other hand, can last well over 30 minutes, delivering more nicotine to the lungs.

Nicotine can act as a vasoconstrictor. This means that it causes an increase in your blood pressure, heart rate, the flow of blood to the heart, and a narrowing of the vessels responsible for carrying blood (arteries). It also contributes to the hardening of the arterial walls, which can cause a heart attack

Increased Blood Cholesterol

James Cireddu, M.D., describes blood cholesterol as a key influencer in the “development of coronary artery disease and heart attacks.” The American Heart Association has said that e-cigarettes decrease blood flow to the heart, and recent a study conducted found that these devices affect blood cholesterol.

In the study, researchers observed the effect of e-cigarettes on the lipids and glucose in the blood. The study showed that e-cigarette smokers had higher total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol, compared to non-smokers.

These findings show that using e-cigarettes as a “healthier” alternative to traditional cigarettes comes with graver consequences.

Impact on the Brain

Nicotine also negatively impacts how synapses – connections between brain cells – are formed, and this causes stem cell injury.

Dr. Marc Arginteanu is a board-certified neurosurgeon. According to them, “Injury to stem cells diminishes the brain’s ability to repair damage for the remainder of a person’s life.”
This means that it accelerates the aging process by making the brain more susceptible to neurodegenerative diseases. This harm to brain development causes increased mood disorders (including depression and anxiety) and permanent lowering of impulse control.  

It accelerates the aging process

Along with the internal effects, vaping can accelerate the formation of fine lines and wrinkles. Dr. Ali Raja, M.D., states that “the nicotine in vaping liquid dehydrates your skin.” Since it acts as a vasoconstrictor, Nicotine deprives key skin cells of oxygen and nutrition, leading to sagging skin and premature wrinkles forming.

Dr. Lim Ing Kein, a dermatologist, states that vaping causes fibroblast, the cell responsible for creating collagen, to produce protein at a slower pace. This, together with the dysregulation of wound healing caused by this piece of technology, leads to premature aging at a faster rate. 

Health Insurance Disadvantages

Vaping doesn’t just affect your health, it can also your wallet through your health insurance premiums. Following the World Health Organisation’s suggestion that e-cigarettes contribute to a range of long-term ailments including cancer and heart disease, insurance providers have started classifying vaping as smoking.

In the eyes of insurance providers, nicotine is nicotine. So, it doesn’t matter whether it’s from a traditional cigarette or an e-cigarette. Thus, what does this mean for the average “vaper”? It is estimated that for a 30-year-old smoker, your insurance premiums will be around a third higher. Life insurance providers will typically look at what you smoke, how many years you’ve been smoking, and how smoking has impacted your health. 

The Final Verdict

These devices have wormed their way into consumers’ regular lives, being portrayed as an aesthetically pleasing, healthier option. However, the facts speak for themselves. E-cigarettes carry more health risks than health benefits. Research has linked vaping to heart disease and premature aging, acting as inhibitors to achieving longevity.

References

  • Zulkifli, A., Abidin, E.Z., Abidin, N.Z., Nordin, A.S.A., Praveena, S.M., Ismail, S.N.S., Rasdi, I., Karuppiah, K. and Abd Rahman, A., 2018. Electronic cigarettes: a systematic review of available studies on health risk assessment. Reviews on environmental health, 33(1), pp.43-52.
  • National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2018. Public health consequences of e-cigarettes.
  • Lu, F., Yu, M., Chen, C., Liu, L., Zhao, P., Shen, B. and Sun, R., 2021. The emission of VOCs and CO from heated tobacco products, electronic cigarettes, and conventional Cigarettes, and their health risk. Toxics, 10(1), p.8.
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Bongane Nxumalo

As a recent graduate of Rhodes University, Bongane is skilled in content production and editing for Print Media, Digital Media, and On-Air Content. With an interest in Current Affairs, Entertainment, and Politics, Bongane is able to provide a vast range of content that is relevant, informative, educational, and entertaining.

The content in this editorial is for general information only and is not intended to provide medical or other professional advice. For more information on your medical condition and treatment options, speak to your healthcare professional.

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