In the past, electronic cigarettes were used exclusively by people trying to kick their tobacco habits. However, in recent years, there has been a drastic increase in the number of people purchasing and using vapes. What was once targeted towards older smokers attempting to quit is now being marketed towards teenagers and young adults as a fun, novel hobby. Ever since this trend has been catching steam, researchers have been studying the effects of vaping on the body to determine the possible consequences of the habit. Is it as bad as smoking tobacco, or is it worse than we know?
A single JUUL pod contains the nicotine equivalent of a whole pack of cigarettes. While it may give the user a nice buzz, it is also putting them at risk for lifelong nicotine dependence. Not only does nicotine use during adolescence and young adulthood cause long-term addiction, but it also has multiple negative impacts on body and brain development. The effects of nicotine on the developing brain include reduced impulse control, deficits in attention and cognition, mood disorders, and increased risk for addition to other drugs.
In terms of health problems, vaping has been linked to inner ear problems, hearing loss, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, sinusitis, popcorn lung (Bronchiolitis Obliterans), allergy and asthma attacks, and nose problems. You don’t have to be a long-term vape user to experience adverse health effects. At the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center diagnosed an 18-year-old female with respiratory failure and hypersensitivity pneumonitis (also known as ‘wet lung’). She was experiencing extreme difficulty breathing and stabbing chest pains; the doctor that led the study said that the e-vapor caused lung damage and inflammation, triggering a reactive immune response.
Many people who vape regularly have been experiencing nostril dryness, nosebleeds, and a decreased sense of smell. This is due to the damaging effects of e-vapor on the delicate sensory cells inside the nose, causing irritation of the nasal airways. Nicotine tightens the blood vessels all over the body, leading to reduced circulation. As a result, the blood flow to the inner ear can be easily disrupted, causing damage to the tiny hair cells (cilia) in the cochlea that translate sounds into brain waves. In addition, it is not uncommon to develop chronic or acute sinusitis as a result of vaping, as the e-vapor similarly damages nasal linings. The repetitive act of inhaling foreign and toxic particles into the body leads to an accumulation of bacteria and fluid in the sinuses, which can cause some serious sinus infections. It is highly recommended that people with asthma and allergies avoid smoking and vaping. The consequences associated with vaping are exacerbated for those with existing conditions, which can lead to even more dangerous and irreparable results.
Vaping also damages vital immune system cells, increasing the risk of developing an illness. This, along with increased inflammation, is a recipe for disaster. Researchers have found inflammation and impaired activity of alveolar macrophages, which are cells that remove damaging dust particles, bacteria, and allergens from the lungs. Contrary to popular belief, vaping can still cause COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), lung cancer, seizures, heart problems, joint and cartilage damage, poor healing, spinal disc degeneration, dental problems, endocrine disruption, and many more serious, chronic, life-long diseases.
The link between vaping and health consequences is getting worse due to the fact that people can alter their nicotine concentration. Over time, a person’s tolerance to the drug will increase, and they will need to use more of the product (or higher concentrations of e-liquid) to achieve the same sensation. The caveat is this: since tobacco smoke is harsher, the negative side effects of inhaling tobacco may be more quickly recognized. However, vaping may not seem so bad at first. It could take months or years before someone notices the negative consequences of this habit. Indeed, there is a lot more research to be done on this topic. We do not fully understand the consequences of long-term vaping, and researchers expect to see a significant increase in health problems in the coming decades – as a direct result of the 21st century’s vaping craze.
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