Is Vaping Safe? What Are the Potential Safety Concerns?

Is Vaping Safe? What Are the Potential Safety Concerns?

Vaping has always been a controversial topic among lawmakers, medical professionals and tobacco control groups. Further adding to the confusion is the fact that the world’s major nations – from the United States and the United Kingdom to Australia and New Zealand – have all chosen to regulate vaping in slightly different ways. Meanwhile, wealthy activists like Michael Bloomberg have purchased advertising time around the world in an effort to advance an anti-vaping agenda, contributing to widespread media bias.

This article is an attempt to assess the safety profile of vaping in a fair and balanced way. Vaping is not safe in absolute terms, but the general scientific consensus seems to be that if you’re going to use nicotine either way, it is far better to vape than to continue smoking cigarettes. In this article, we’ll point out some of the latest research findings on vaping and address a few potential safety concerns that exist outside the act of vaping itself.

Before we dig in, we want to address one crucial topic. When we discuss e-cigarette safety, we’re talking about the safety profile of vaping as it compares to smoking. The safest option is not to use nicotine at all and to avoid inhaling anything other than plain air. Vaping is an alternative for adults who are already cigarette smokers, are already addicted to nicotine and either can’t or won’t quit. If you don’t smoke, please do not vape.

What Do the Experts Say About Vaping?

Research into the safety of vaping is ongoing and probably will be for quite some time. Studies about this topic have framed the core question of vaping safety in different ways.

Is vaping safe in absolute terms? There’s no way that inhaling a nicotine-infused vapor can be completely harmless compared to inhaling nothing but air. Some studies approach the topic with that mindset and conclude – as you might expect – that vaping isn’t safe.

On the other hand, other studies approach the topic more pragmatically and answer the question in terms of harm reduction. People have used nicotine for millennia, and they’re not likely to stop any time soon. So, is vaping safer than smoking cigarettes? Most experts agree that it is.

In 2015, researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Roswell Park Cancer Instituteand University College London published a review of vaping in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The review concluded that using an e-cigarette is at least 95 percent less harmful than smoking tobacco.
In 2018, the journal Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology published a long-term study monitoring various health parameters of 209 smokers who switched to a small closed-system e-cigarette for 24 months. After two years of e-cigarette use, the study found no evidence of negative health consequences in any of the volunteers.
In 2016, Cochrane published a review of all clinical studies available at that time with the goal of determining whether e-cigarettes could help people quit smoking and whether they are safe to use for that purpose. Based on the data available from 24 clinical studies, Cochrane confirmed that e-cigarettes with nicotine increase the chance of quitting smoking successfully and that vaping appears to have no short-term or medium-term health consequences.
In 2019, the American Journal of Preventative Medicinepublished a longitudinal study of sample populations over time and found that vaping does increase the risk of developing chronic respiratory disease compared to being a non-smoker and non-vaper.

What E-Liquid Ingredients Are Potentially Dangerous?

One of the aspects of vaping that makes it difficult to establish a definitive safety profile is the fact that vaping comes in so many different forms. With so many different types of hardware – and a virtually infinite array of e-liquid formulas – “vaping” doesn’t mean just one thing from a scientific standpoint. Suppose that vaping does increase the risk of chronic lung disease compared to not using any form of inhaled nicotine. Is that only the case if you’re using cloud chasing hardware? Is it only the case with e-liquids containing certain flavours? The research conducted to date hasn’t been nearly granular enough to make those determinations.

There are, however, at least three e-liquid ingredients that we know aren’t safe to inhale. E-liquid manufacturers know that these ingredients aren’t safe, so you’re not going to find them in any mainstream vape juice. With that being said, these are the ingredients that we know do not belong in any e-liquid.

Diacetyl is a compound that can be created synthetically and also occurs naturally during fermentation. It has a buttery flavour, and it’s commonly added to low-fat butter-flavoured microwave popcorn. While diacetyl is safe to eat, inhaling large concentrations of it can cause an incurable lung disease called bronchiolitis obliterans.
Vitamin E acetate is not used in e-liquid, but it has been used in black market vaping cartridges containing THC oil. Vitamin E was used in those illegal cartridges as an agent to dilute the expensive THC oil. In 2019, many THC vapers who used the Vitamin E-laced cartridges contracted a devastating form of lipoid pneumonia. We mention Vitamin E in this article because media reports of this vaping-related lung illness have often incorrectly conflated e-liquid vaping and THC vaping as if they were the same thing.
Based on the Vitamin E debacle of 2019, it seems safe to conclude that no oil-based ingredient should be present in any e-liquid. Vape juice makers do not use flavours set in oil. Instead, they use flavours set in propylene glycol or vegetable glycerine.

Can E-Cigarette Batteries Overheat and Explode?

If you’ve read about vaping in the news, you may have seen reports of e-cigarette batteries that have overheated while charging or during operation, sometimes causing fires and injuries. You may have also noticed that such reports are much rarer today than they were a few years ago, thanks to better product designs and the fact that more people are aware of the problems that can happen when lithium-ion batteries are handled improperly.

Modern vaping devices fully regulate their power output, thus helping to prevent the possibility of overloading your battery because you’re vaping in a way that isn’t safe. In addition, it’s important to note that while fires do happen with lithium-ion batteries, those fires are much, much rarer than the ones that people around the world start every day with lit cigarettes.

By following these three simple steps, you can reduce the chance of your e-cigarette’s battery overheating to almost zero.

Use a vaping device with full power regulation. A regulated vaping device can automatically detect problems like short circuits, overheating and unsafe currents. Mechanical mods have no electronic components, so they can’t detect safety issues and should therefore only be used by experts.
If you have a vaping device that charges via USB, use your computer’s USB port to supply the power. Don’t attempt to charge a vaping device with the mains adapter for a mobile phone or tablet, as the “fast charge” current can potentially cause an e-cigarette battery to overheat.
If you use a vaping device with removable batteries, don’t ever carry spare batteries in your pocket because those batteries could short circuit and overheat if they touch other metal objects. If you need to transport loose batteries, put them in a padded carrier designed for the job.

How Can I Protect Children and Pets From Nicotine Poisoning?

The final potential safety issue presented by vaping is that of nicotine poisoning. Today’s e-liquids are designed to be as appealing to the palate as possible, which means that they often smell and taste like very convincing recreations of snacks, beverages and candies. The fact that e-liquid tastes so good, though, has led to several situations around the world in which children have managed to open bottles of vape juice and ingest the e-liquid. Vape juice bottles always have child-resistant caps, but as you probably remember from your own childhood, child-resistant caps don’t deter nimble hands for long. Keep your vaping supplies where children and pets can’t reach them.

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