Is Vaping Bad For You? Your Health & Vaping

Often, online vape shops will turn the question of whether vaping is bad for your health into a sales pitch. Rather than being honest and examining all of the evidence, they will simply respond to the question by saying “of course it’s not bad for you, now take a look at all of the excellent products we have for sale“.

As an organisation which prides itself on being transparent with our customers, we thought we would provide a balanced view which explores all of the facts regarding the long and short term health effects of vaping.

Is vaping better than smoking?

The chief distinction to keep in mind when it comes to the health benefits of vaping vs smoking is that vaping does not contain the same harmful elements found in tobacco smoke [1].

Specifically, e-cigarettes do not produce tar or carbon monoxide which are the two substances which cause serious damage to cigarette smokers [2]. This subtraction of harmful elements naturally makes vaping safer than smoking.

This fact is borne out by research conducted by the British Heart Foundation which revealed that:

“Vaping may be less harmful to your blood vessels than smoking cigarettes. Within just one month of ditching tobacco for electronic cigarettes, the people who took part in our study found that their blood vessel health had started to recover." [3]

The NHS shares this view and explains that:

“e-cigarettes aren’t completely risk free, but they carry a small fraction of the risk of cigarettes.” [4]

As well as the British Heart Foundation and the NHS, other professional institutions like the Royal College of General Practitioners and the British Medical Association are in agreement that e-cigarettes are far less harmful than traditional cigarettes.

Ultimately, the research and guidance from trusted healthcare providers is that vaping is better than smoking, but there are still risks involved.


Vaping and popcorn lung

When addressing the risks associated with vaping, it is perhaps the phenomena of popcorn lung from vaping which deserves the most attention.

The common name given to the wordier lung disease, Bronchiolitis obliterans, popcorn lung has long made headlines in the press as a supposed side effect of vaping.

This connection emerged after a US study in 2016 discovered that diacetyl, an ingredient which has been proven to cause popcorn lung when inhaled, featured in 39 of the 51 e-liquids which were examined as part of the study [5].

Though this finding may on the surface appear to be conclusive evidence that vapers are at considerable risk of popcorn lung, the study failed to produce findings that indicate a clear relationship between e-cigarette use and this particular type of lung disease.

It should also be pointed out that in the same year, the EU Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) banned the use of diacetyl in e-liquids. What this means, of course, is that popcorn lung from vaping has not been satisfactorily proven and that sufficient measures have been taken to prevent the forming of such a connection.

It should be stressed, however, that it is only by purchasing e-liquids from regulated providers that vapers can be assured that they aren’t inhaling hazardous ingredients.

Vaping and your health  

Whilst it might be the biggest headline-grabber, popcorn lung is far from being the only health concern associated with vaping.

Since their entrance into the mainstream, e-cigarettes have attracted a fair amount of skepticism, with the press often labelling them as a dangerous substitute to traditional cigarettes rather than as a low-risk alternative.

A simple Google search will reveal a host of articles which suggest that vaping does irreversible harm to the lungs, with a number of deaths being attributed to the use of e-cigarettes. Upon closer inspection, however, it is clear that such articles are misleading at best and factually incorrect at worst.

In a piece for John Hopkins Medicine, Michael Blaha, the Director of Clinical Research at Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease, pointed out that:

“These cases appear to predominantly affect people who modify their vaping devices or use black market modified e-liquids.” [6]

In short, vaping poses a low level of risk providing that users purchase their mods and juices from authorised dealers.

In addition to health concerns relating to the lungs of vapers, there has also been a fair amount of discussion regarding the impact that e-cigarettes have on the heart. This is because nicotine, a chemical vapers commonly inhale along with flavourings, has been proven to be harmful to the cardiovascular system. Increasing the heart rate and blood pressure of users, the influence of this chemical on the body presents an unavoidable risk that vapers should be made aware of.

It should be pointed out, however, that the impact of e-cigarettes on the heart is certainly no greater than that of traditional cigarettes [7]. Altogether, there are health implications to consider when using e-cigarettes, but current research broadly agrees that there are fewer risks involved in vaping than there are in smoking tobacco.


Side effects of vaping

Whilst e-cigarettes have a fairly long and storied past (a patent for the first e-cigarette was taken out way back in 1927), it is only in the past decade that the rising popularity of vaping has attracted serious scientific attention [8].

What this means, of course, is that there is currently no data to support what the long term side effects of vaping might look like. The validity of the projections which have so far been made are nicely summarised in a body of research conducted by Live Science.

Quoting Dr Michael Siegel, a tobacco researcher and professor of community health sciences at Boston University, their conclusion suggests that:

“Because e-cigarettes have only been on the market for around ten years, there have been no long-term studies of people who have used them for 30 to 40 years "Therefore, the full extent of e-cigs’ effects on heart and lung health, as well as their cancer causing potential over time, is not known” [9]

In short, those who vape should be aware that there is always a danger that future research will reveal long-term side effects that are not presently known.

There are, however, a number of studies that have looked into the common short term side effects of e-cigarette use. Broadly speaking, there is agreement that the most common include:

  • Coughing
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Sore throat
  • Nausea
  • Dry eyes
  • Shortness of breath

Interestingly, the studies which revealed these common side effects of vaping also revealed that they were experienced far more intensely amongst first-time vapers and diminished over time [10]. Not unlike traditional tobacco smoking, this reaction to inhaling nicotine is hardly surprising and will not come as a surprise to anyone who has previously smoked cigarettes.

Of course, it is still worth being keenly aware of the side effects you may experience should you decide to take up vaping or transition to e-cigarettes as a way to help you stop smoking.

How often to vape and how much is too much?

One way to mitigate the short term side effects of vaping is to recognise how often you need to vape. You might find yourself asking is it bad to vape all day?

The answer to this is fairly straightforward: of course, just like it’s bad to smoke all day. Because you’re consuming nicotine, you’ll experience the side effects more acutely if you fail to take a suitable number of breaks from vaping.

How often you should vape will wholly depend on your personal preferences and needs. If you were once a heavy smoker, for example, you’ll likely need to vape slightly more and use e-liquids with a higher strength of nicotine to satisfactorily placate withdrawal symptoms.

Alternatively, if you’re a more casual smoker, then a lower strength nicotine and a more infrequent use of an e-cigarette will satisfy any cravings that you may experience.

Ultimately, there is no definitive answer as to how much you should vape and it is rather something that you will identify yourself once you make the transition and get used to using an e-cigarette.

Of course, with the option to reduce or completely eliminate the addition of nicotine in your e-liquid, it’s easy enough to get the balance right with a little experimenting.


Vaping and your dental health

Another concern that newcomers often have when taking up vaping is the effect that it will have on their dental health.

All too regularly, we receive questions like “is vaping bad for your gums?” or “is vaping bad for your teeth?”. Just like the studies conducted regarding the impact on overall health, there simply isn’t enough long term data to emphatically answer this question.

What can be clearly asserted, however, is that the presence of nicotine in e-liquids will impact blood circulation which has a subsequent effect on oral health [11]. Studies of popular e-liquid ingredients have also revealed that propylene glycol (PG) and vegetable glycerin (VG) have an adverse effect on tooth enamel over time [12].

Naturally, because e-cigarettes do not produce the carbon monoxide and tar which are by products of traditional cigarettes, vaping is far better, though not totally harmless, when it comes to dental health.   

Vaping when you are asthmatic

As well as exploring the question of whether vaping is bad for your teeth, studies have also been conducted to examine whether vaping is safe for asthmatics.

Helpfully, Asthma UK, a trusted British charity, has provided a statement outlining its position on the available evidence. In this statement, Dr Samantha Walker, director of Research and Policy, explains how:

“There is evidence that e-cigarettes are less harmful than smoking conventional cigarettes. However, people with asthma tell us that any sort of smoke or substance in the air can trigger their asthma symptoms, leaving them coughing, wheezing, and struggling to breathe.” [13]

This triggering of symptoms occurs because of the way that PG and VG chemicals are linked to coughs, mucus secretions, and chest tightness.

A study of over 19,000 e-cigarette users also revealed that common side effects of vaping included a dry throat and a cough, both of which are naturally bad news for anyone suffering with asthma [14].

It’s interesting to note, too, that a study published in 2019 found that teenage asthma sufferers who were exposed to second hand vapour were 27% more likely to experience an asthma attack than those who were not

With all of this in mind, it appears that the best advice for asthma sufferers is to reduce their exposure to both traditional and e-cigarettes. 

 Are some e-liquids less safe than others?

When it comes to the health impacts of vaping, there has also been a small amount of research into whether some e-liquids may be more harmful than others.

Of course, the obvious thing to keep in mind is that any black market e-liquids will be bad for you. Like any unregulated product, there is a considerable amount of risk involved when purchasing e-liquids from any provider that does not respect the tight legislation surrounding the e-cigarette industry.

In 2018, a study conducted by the Department of Environmental Medicine at the University of Rochester found that certain ingredients in e-liquids can irritate the respiratory system more than others. Specifically, it determined that the vaping flavours which are bad for you are those which contain cinnamaldehyde and o-vanillin as well as pentanedione. These ingredients are often found in cinnamon, vanilla, and honey flavours of e-liquid [15].

In a medically reviewed article [16], Healthline advises vapers to pay close attention to the ingredients found in e-liquids, listing the following ingredients as being known to cause irritation. 

  • acetoin
  • acetyl propionyl
  • acrolein
  • acrylamide
  • acrylonitrile
  • benzaldehyde
  • cinnamaldehyde
  • citral
  • crotonaldehyde
  • diacetyl
  • ethylvanillin
  • eucalyptol
  • formaldehyde
  • o-vanillin
  • pentanedione (2,3-pentanedione)
  • propylene oxide
  • pulegone
  • vanillin

Is vaping with no nicotine healthier or safer?

The question of whether nicotine is bad for you in vapes is not too dissimilar to the question of whether nicotine is bad for you in cigarettes.

As a highly addictive chemical, nicotine poses certain dangers as it increases blood pressure and heart flow and also contributes to the hardening of arterial walls.

Whether you consume nicotine in the form of a cigarette or via an e-liquid, it is certainly not conducive to good overall health. This then poses the question of whether nicotine free vape juice is safe. As previously mentioned in this article, the answer to this lies entirely in the choice of e-liquid.

Specifically, you may find that you still experience irritation by using liquids which contain ingredients which are known to produce this effect. Altogether, it is certainly better to vape without nicotine but there are still risks attached to nicotine free vaping.

Second hand vape and the health of those around you

As well as many of the other subjects surrounding vaping, there is ongoing research into the dangers of second hand vaping.

Currently, the NHS reports that:

“It seems that e-cigs release negligible amounts of nicotine into the atmosphere and the limited evidence suggests that any risk from passive vaping to bystanders is small relative to tobacco cigarettes.” [18]

Naturally, breathing in second vape isn’t as good for people as fresh air, but it still does not contain any of the risks attached to second hand smoke produced by traditional cigarettes.

Ultimately, there is not the same danger of vaping around other people as there is smoking around other people and you do not pose a threat by using your e-cigarette in public spaces.

Of course, it’s still better to be courteous of anyone around you, especially if you’re a sub-ohm vaper and likely to produce large clouds that could be considered annoying, no matter how pleasant they may smell to you!

Tips for a safer and healthier vaping experience

Ultimately, vaping is not completely without its risks. From the addictive nature of nicotine to the known side effects, it’s crucial that you recognise exactly what it is you’re doing when taking up vaping.

Despite these risks, all of the current research does point to e-cigarettes and vaping being far healthier for you than traditional cigarette smoking. To ensure that you practice safe vaping with as few risks involved as possible, we recommend that you:

  • Take a break from vaping if you experience any unpleasant side effects
  • Keep an eye on your nicotine intake to avoid these side effects
  • Always purchase your equipment and e-liquids from authorised suppliers
  • Regularly change your coils and regularly top up your liquid to have a consistently enjoyable experience
  • Maintain respect for those around you when vaping in public spaces
  • Take a look at the sources used to create this article to review all of the scientific evidence for yourself