Vaping or using e-cigarettes is terrible for the lungs. Stephen Broderick, a Johns Hopkins lung cancer surgeon, said that research on the effects of vaping is still in its early stages.
Broderick reports, “in the last 24 to36 months, I have seen a dramatic increase in patients who vape.” With tobacco, it has taken six decades for rigorous studies to determine which of the 7,000 chemicals inhaled when smoking affects the lungs. We don’t yet know what the effects of vaping are, whether they be short-term or long-term.
Experts have a theory on how vaping can harm the lungs, but no definitive answer exists.
What Happens When You Vape?
A substance is heated in both smoking and vaping, and the fumes are inhaled. Inhaling smoke from burning tobacco is what you do with traditional cigarettes. Vaping involves a device that heats a liquid called vape juice (or e-liquid), which you inhale.
Broderick says that vaping is similar to the nebulizers used by people with lung diseases or asthma. “A nebulizer transforms liquid medicine into mist, which patients inhale. It is a very effective way to deliver treatment directly to the lungs.
What Chemicals do you inhale when vaping?
Vaping coats the lungs with potentially dangerous chemicals instead of a therapeutic mist like a nebulizer. E-liquids are usually a mixture of flavors, aromatic additives, nicotine, or THC (the chemical found in marijuana which causes psychological effects) dissolved in a liquid oil base. Broderick explains that he believes some of the oil vaporized is getting into the lungs, causing inflammation.
Vitamin E is the substance under investigation. It’s used in e-liquid as a thickener and delivery agent. While it is safe to use as a skin or oral supplement, it may irritate when inhaled. In the lungs, it’s been detected in people who have suffered severe vaping-related injury.
These include: They include:
- Diacetyl: This food ingredient, used to enhance the flavor of e-cigarettes, has been known to cause damage to small airways in the lung.
- Formaldehyde This toxin can contribute to heart and lung diseases.
- Acrolein This chemical is most commonly used to kill weeds, but it can also cause lung damage.
How Vaping Can Affect Your Lungs
As e-cigarettes continue to be used, experts will learn more about how vaping can affect the lungs. We do know that vaping is associated with several lung diseases:
Vaping and Popcorn lung
The term “popcorn lung” refers to bronchiolitis (BO), a rare disease caused by damage to the lungs’ small airways. BO was discovered after workers at a popcorn factory began to fall ill. Diacetyl was the culprit, an additive used in microwave popcorn to mimic butter flavor.
Diacetyl can be added to flavor e-liquids to improve the taste. Inhaling diacetyl can cause inflammation and permanent scarring of the minor branches in the airways (popcorn lung), which makes breathing difficult. Popcorn lung is not treatable. BO symptoms can be managed with a variety of treatments, including:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of Breath
Vaping-Related Lipid Pneumonia
Lipoid pneumonitis is caused by fatty acids, which are the building blocks of fat. Inhaling oily substances in e-liquid can cause lipoid pneumonitis. An inflammatory reaction in the lungs causes this. Lipoid Pneumonia can cause:
- Chronic cough
- Shortness of Breath
- Blood or blood-tinged Mucus in the Cough
Broderick says there is no good treatment for lipoid pneumonitis except supportive care while the lungs heal themselves. The most important thing to do is eliminate the cause of vaping.
Primary Spontaneous Pulmonary Collapse (Collapsed lung) after Vaping
When oxygen escapes through a hole, it’s called primary spontaneous pneumothorax. It can occur due to a wound, such as if a knife or gunshot has injured you. Or it could be caused by air blisters that rupture on top of the lung.
Broderick says that those who get these blisters tend to be tall, thin individuals who experience rapid growth in adolescence. Rapid growth may develop a weak spot on the top of your lungs. These blisters do not usually cause symptoms on their own. They are visible once they rupture. The risk of these blisters rupturing is increased when you smoke and vape.
Broderick reports that “at Johns Hopkins, we are seeing a rash of collapsed lung in young people.” We always ask them if they smoke, and many say, “No, I do not smoke.” We tell them to stop vaping, but they still smoke.
The following are signs of collapsed lungs:
- Sharp chest or shoulder pain
- Shortness of Breath
- Difficulty in breathing
Rest and oxygen treatment may be enough to help collapsed lungs heal. In more severe cases, a chest tube is needed to drain the oxygen leaking from the body cavity. Surgery to repair the lung hole may also be required.
Can Vaping Cause Lung Cancer?
Vaping releases a variety of chemicals that can cause cancer. Vaping products are still relatively new, so we don’t know if they cause cancer.
Tobacco smoke can cause tiny particles to deposit deep within the bronchial tube, leading to cancer. Broderick says that the same could be true of vaping.
Secondhand vapor is also not safe.
The myth of secondary emissions is a falsehood. The secondhand vapor from e-cigarettes is not water. Exhaled vapor can contain several harmful substances.
- Ultrafine particles
- Benzene is a chemical that can be found in exhaust fumes.
Even though secondhand vapor does not have the same effect on the lungs as vaping, you should avoid it if possible.
How to Deal with Lung Inflammation
Don’t ignore chest or lung pain if you smoke or vape. You should consult a physician if you experience pain or other symptoms of breathing problems, such as chronic cough and shortness of breath.