E-cigarettes, also known as vaping devices, were introduced on the market roughly 15 years ago as a “safer alternative” to traditional cigarettes. Even though very few studies have been conducted since their release that support the theory that they’re safer than cigarettes, e-cigarettes have skyrocketed in popularity – especially among young people. Due to their rapid increase in popularity, more studies are being conducted, including one published last month by Stanford University School of Medicine. According to that study, vaping leads to an increased risk of heart disease.
You’ve likely seen a person vaping here or there, but you may not be familiar with the process. Vaping devices are handheld devices that heat up vaping liquid, or e-juice, creating a vapor that is then inhaled. E-juice comes in all different kinds of flavors, including traditional tobacco flavor, menthol flavor, and even assorted fruit and cream flavors. E-juice does not contain tobacco like traditional cigarettes. Additionally, not all e-juice even contains nicotine.
E-juice does, however, contain traces of heavy metals and other toxic substances and the concentration of those chemicals can be very damaging. Exactly how damaging e-cigarettes can be is still being determined, but Stanford’s most recent study certainly shows they are not the healthy alternative to cigarettes they are marketed to be.
The study at Stanford used endothelial cells to measure the effects of vaping on the cardiovascular system. Endothelial cells line the interior surface of blood vessels and are found throughout our circulatory systems. They are imperative for processes such as clotting blood, healing wounds, and controlling inflammation.
The doctors at Stanford studied endothelial cells both before and after exposing them to the chemicals found in various vaping liquids. Stanford doctors used a number of different flavors of e-juice and used both those containing nicotine and without nicotine. Nicotine is an intensely addictive chemical whether it is ingested through a cigarette or by vaping, but what’s interesting about this study is that the damage to the endothelial cells was found to be the same whether the e-juice contained nicotine or not. So, even if you are using an e-juice in your vaping device that does not contain nicotine, you are doing the same damage to your cells.
The damage to the blood cells did differ, however, among differing flavors. Cinnamon and menthol flavors were found to do the most damage to blood cells.
Popular with Adolescents and Teens
According to the CDC, 4.9% (that’s 1 out of every 20) middle school students and nearly 21% (that’s 1 out of every 5) of high school students admit to using e-cigarettes. Much of vaping’s popularity among young folks is attributed to its marketing as a safer alternative to cigarettes. Additionally, vaping devices are easier to conceal and they don’t cause the telltale smell of cigarettes.
The good news about the rise in the popularity of vaping devices is that more studies are being done, so we can be better educated on the risks and effects of e-cigarette use. State governments are even starting to take notice and pass additional regulations for the sale of e-cigarettes and e-juice.