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Three reasons why vaping is bad for you

While vaping can help ease those who are cigarette smokers off the nicotine habit, taking up vaping when you have never smoked is not a safe practice. Three recent examples demonstrate the risks.

Vaping has become a new battleground between tobacco lobbyists and anti-smoking campaigners. — © AFP/File
Vaping has become a new battleground between tobacco lobbyists and anti-smoking campaigners. — © AFP/File

Widespread adoption of e-cigarettes, and the growing use of multiple products, especially among young people, is causing medical and also wider societal concerns. This relates to both nicotine addiction and some of the identified harms associated with vaping products.

Among young people in particular the use of vaping products continues to be popular, with many, who have never smoked conventional cigarettes, taking up the chemical inhalation habit.

E-cigarette user blowing a cloud of aerosol (vapor). The activity is known as cloud-chasing. Image: micadew from US – Smoke Screen, CC 3.0

While vaping can help ease those who are cigarette smokers off the nicotine habit, taking up vaping when you have never smoked is not a safe practice. Three recent examples demonstrate the risks.

Dental decay

Researchers have found that patients who said they used vaping devices were more likely to have a higher risk of developing cavities.

Dental research from Tufts University has shown ties between e-cigarette use and increased markers for gum disease, and, separately, damage to the tooth’s enamel, its outer shell.

Dental x-ray. Image by Tim Sandle.

One reason why e-cigarette use could contribute to a high risk of cavities is the sugary content and viscosity of the vaping liquid, which, when aerosolized and then inhaled through the mouth, sticks to the teeth. In addition, vaping aerosols have been shown to change the oral microbiome making it more hospitable to decay-causing bacteria.

Heart conditions

A study has found that exposure to e-cigarette aerosols can cause heart arrhythmias — both in the form of premature and skipped heartbeats. The study findings suggest exposure to specific chemicals within e-cigarette liquids (e-liquids) promotes arrhythmias and cardiac electrical dysfunction.

The researchers from the University of Louisville tested the cardiac impacts of inhaled e-cigarette aerosols solely from the main two ingredients in e-liquids (nicotine-free propylene glycol and vegetable glycerine) or from flavoured retail e-liquids containing nicotine.

Vape shop, St Albans, UK. Image by Tim Sandle.

Using an animal model they found that for all e-cigarette aerosols, the animals’ heart rate slowed during puff exposures and sped up afterwards as heart rate variability declined, indicating fight-or-flight stress responses.

In addition, e-cigarette puffs from a menthol-flavoured e-liquid or from propylene glycol alone caused ventricular arrhythmias and other conduction irregularities in the heart.

COVID-19 vulnerability

People who reported vaping prior to their hospitalization for COVID-19 were more likely than their counterparts who did not smoke or vape to experience severe complications, including death, from the SARS-CoV-2 infection, according to a study based on data from the American Heart Association’s COVID-19 CVD Registry.

Safety signage giving COVID-19 instructions. Image by Tim Sandle

The study underscores the need for extensive public health interventions such as anti-smoking / anti-vaping campaigns and increased access to cessation therapy, especially in the age of COVID-19 and other viral pathogens.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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