By Nava Israel
I have a vivid memory of watching one of my high school classmates getting caught red handed with a JUUL in his mouth in the science wing hallway of our academy’s building. When the administrator questioned why he thought it was okay to be smoking on school grounds, he responded, “it’s only a vape, they’re not even bad for you.” Though his view was immature and a direct attempt to dodge being held accountable for the accusation the teacher was making against him, this opinion is not an unpopular one. Many people are under the impression that smoking e-cigarettes are “not even bad for you,” and this mindset is not limited to teenagers.
Vaping is an umbrella term for a type of electronic smoking and includes e-cigarettes, e-hookahs, JUULs, and others. It is the inhalation of a vapor which is created by the e-cigarette device, and the process of exhaling it as visible smoke. An e-cigarette device is a battery-powered smoking machine which has a cartridge filled with a liquid that contains nicotine, flavorings, and chemicals. The liquid is heated and vaporized, and the user inhales the vapor directly into their lungs. The vapor contains harmful chemicals, and the device is made of metal components which can release arsenals when heated. The use of e-cigarettes was originally intended to be used as a transitional stage for quitting mainstream smoking. However, many first-time smokers have picked up smoking vape or electronic cigarettes because of their rising popularity. Smoking e-cigarettes is not without health risks; the dangers of vaping are vast and serious, yet barely publicized.
Some of the many risks associated with vaping are: metal exposure which can increase the risk of cancer and damage lung tissue, increased risk of gum disease and deterioration of dental health due to tooth decay and weakened enamel, and exposed cells have increased rates of apoptosis, destruction of the cell, and reduced cell viability. According to Penzes’s research, 40 percent of e-cigarette users experience extreme side effects of vaping. Some of those side effects include: burning and dry feeling in mouth, lips, and throat, cough, dizziness, headaches, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, sleepiness, and weakened taste. These symptoms are not minimal side effects; they are seriously harmful health risks and can be life threatening.
The reason that e-cigarettes can be so detrimental to health is because of the design of the machine and the chemicals it contains. Nicotine, a highly addictive liquid that blocks the actions of autonomic nerve and skeletal muscle cells, is one of the top toxins in e-cigarettes, but this is not the only chemical they contain. E-cigarettes contain carcinogens, or cancer causing chemicals, propylene glycol, diacetyl, cadmium, and acrolein. Most of these chemicals are small enough to be inhaled into the lungs, and aerosol from inhalation can be toxic to lung functionality as well. The metals of the device, including nickel, tin, and lead, can release toxins, and the flavoring usually contains diacetyl which has been directly linked to lung disease.
Additionally, an experiment performed on mice in 2018 revealed that nicotine nitrosation, a cancer causing organic process, occurs in mice and that the mutational susceptibility and potential tumor development is increased by the exposure to nicotine. E-cigarette smoke was found to be carcinogenic and damaging to the lungs, bladder, and heart of the mice, and assumed to have the same risks in humans.
The health risks associated with chemicals found in standard cigarettes are reported to appear almost just as frequently in users of e-cigarettes. The risks of smoking vape are detrimental on a cellular level just as much as on an external level. The safety of e-cigarette devices and liquids needs to be improved, and education around the adverse health risks of e-cigarettes needs to be reformed in order to prevent long term illness and even fatality in users worldwide.