World Asthma Day: Is Vaping the New Threat to Your Lungs?

E-cigarettes (vapes) have gained popularity in recent years, often touted as a safer option compared to traditional cigarettes. This perception stems from the absence of tobacco combustion in vapes, leading many to believe they’re a healthier alternative.

However, despite a complete ban on e-cigarettes in India, including sale, storage, and manufacture, young people, particularly Gen Z millennials, are still finding ways to access them. The situation is further complicated by the existence of thousands of “kid-friendly” flavors, making vaping even more attractive. This easy access and enticing flavors contribute to a rising concern: nicotine addiction among young people.

As the popularity of vapes continues to grow, it’s critical to address this issue head-on. We need to raise awareness about the potential health risks associated with vaping and take stricter measures to curb the use of all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.

What is vaping?

Vaping, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), refers to the use of e-cigarettes. These electronic devices heat a liquid containing nicotine, the same addictive substance found in cigarettes, cigars, and other tobacco products, to create an aerosol.

These devices are known by many different names such as “e-cigs,” “e-hookahs,” “mods,” “vape pens,” “vapes,” “tank systems,” and “electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS).” Many people consider the aerosol present in e-cigarettes as “water vapor” and believe that it is ‘Not Harmful.’ However, the e-cigarette aerosol that users inhale and exhale can contain several harmful substances such as –

  • Nicotine
  • Ultrafine particles that can be inhaled through e-cigarettes and can impact the lungs
  • Several flavorings like diacetyl, which has been associated with severe lung disease.
  • Volatile organic compounds
  • Cancer-causing chemicals
  • Harmful heavy metals, including nickel, tin, and lead.

The health risks of e-cigarettes extend beyond users, as bystanders exposed to the inhaled aerosol can also be negatively affected.

How can it harm your health?

While e-cigarettes may be perceived as a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes, the dangers extend far beyond the user.

  1. Brain Development:Studies by the CDC reveal that nicotine exposure in adolescents and young adults can negatively impact brain regions crucial for learning, attention, mood, and impulse control. This can lead to increased susceptibility to future addiction to other drugs.
  2. Lung Damage:Inhaling e-cigarette aerosol isn’t just harmless vapor. Exposure to harmful chemicals, including diacetyl (linked to “popcorn lung” disease), can cause:
  • Bronchiolitis obliterans: This rare lung condition, also known as popcorn lung, leads to scarring and inflammation, causing symptoms like:
    • Breathlessness
    • Wheezing
    • Chest tightness
    • These symptoms can worsen over time if left untreated.
  • Other Respiratory Issues: Vaping can also trigger inflammation and increase the risk of bronchitis, asthma, and other respiratory problems.
  1. Cancer Risk:E-cigarettes contain harmful compounds that, over time, can contribute to various cancers, including mouth, tongue, and throat cancers.
  2. Injuries and Burns:The batteries in e-cigarettes can overheat and explode, causing serious injuries and burns. This is why they are banned on airplanes.

Vaping is not a safe alternative to smoking. It poses significant health risks for users and can also harm bystanders exposed to secondhand aerosol. Be informed, make the right choices, and protect yourself and others from the dangers of vaping.

How can quitting vaping improve your overall health?

Breaking free from vaping, just like quitting smoking, comes with a multitude of benefits that can significantly improve your overall well-being. Here’s what you can expect:

  1. Enhanced Mental Health:Say goodbye to heightened anxiety, depression, and stress levels. Quitting nicotine can significantly improve your mood and emotional well-being.
  2. Overcoming Withdrawal:While withdrawal symptoms are inevitable, sticking to your commitment allows your body and brain to adjust to the absence of nicotine. This discomfort is temporary and paves the way for lasting benefits.
  3. Embracing Positive Changes:Soon after quitting, you’ll start noticing positive shifts in your life:
  • Improved Concentration: Focus and attention sharpen as your brain frees itself from nicotine’s grip.
  • Enhanced Sleep Quality: Enjoy deeper, more restful sleep, leaving you feeling energized and refreshed.

Quitting any habit, especially one laced with addiction, can be challenging. However, the rewards of a healthier, happier you are well worth the effort. Take the first step towards a better life, and quit vaping today.

Authored by Dr. Sunil Kumar K, Lead Consultant – Interventional Pulmonology, Aster CMI Hospital, Bangalore

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