E-Cigarette Health Risks: How Vaping Affects the Body?

e-cigarette health risks vaping Mar 31, 2023

Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, offer smokers an alternative to traditional cigarettes. They are battery-powered devices that heat a liquid, usually containing nicotine, to create an inhaled vapor. Although they are touted as a safer alternative to smoking, the long-term health effects of using e-cigarettes are still unknown.

A growing concern is that they may cause cancer, heart, lung diseases, and other health issues. Studies have shown that e-cigarettes contain potentially harmful chemicals, such as propylene glycol, which can be toxic when inhaled.

In addition, the vapor produced by e-cigarettes can contain ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs, leading to respiratory problems. Therefore, it is essential to understand the risks and side effects associated with e-cigarettes before deciding to quit.

I. Unveiling the Hidden Dangers of Vaping - The Vaping Health Risks You Need to Know

It is a common desire among smokers to quit the habit, with nearly 70% expressing the intention to do so. This is a commendable decision, as smoking has adverse effects on almost all organs in the human body, including the heart. Smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke can cause approximately one-third of heart disease-related fatalities. Giving up smoking is among the most beneficial choices one can make for their overall well-being.

Electronic cigarettes, including vape pens and vaping devices, may seem a viable option to transition from traditional smoking to complete cessation. E-cigarettes are safer but not a safe option. It is essential to evaluate whether smoking e-cigarettes is a healthier alternative to tobacco use and if it can aid in quitting smoking altogether.

Apprehension has been raised about the potential health risks associated with vaping, particularly among young people drawn to the variety of appealing flavors and marketing tactics manufacturers use.

EVALI and the Acute Lung Injury Associated With Vaping

Over the past few years, hospitals have seen more patients with acute lung injuries due to vaping. They've now termed this E-cigarette or Vaping product use Associated Lung Injury or EVALI. But these patients were coming in with symptoms very similar to pneumonia. But what they found is there was no infective cause to their symptoms. When they would do testing, they couldn't find a viral cause or a bacterial cause to their symptoms but found that they all had these similarities and had recently been vaping.
The idea was that something in that cartridge or that was being vaporized was causing some harm to the lungs.

What is EVALI?

EVALI (E-cigarette, or Vaping, product use Associated Lung Injury) is a severe respiratory illness linked to using e-cigarettes or vaping products. The illness first gained widespread attention in 2019 when hundreds of cases were reported across the United States. EVALI is characterized by cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, fever, and gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Causes of EVALI

The exact cause of EVALI is still under investigation. Still, it has been linked to using e-liquids containing vitamin E acetate, commonly used as a thickening agent in THC-containing vaping products. Vitamin E acetate can be harmful when inhaled, causing damage to the lungs and respiratory system. Other harmful chemicals, such as heavy metals, volatile organic compounds, and formaldehyde, can also be found in e-cigarette liquids.

Acute Lung Injury

Acute lung injury associated with vaping results from inhaling these harmful chemicals, which can cause damage to the lung tissue and impair lung function. The damage can be severe and may lead to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a life-threatening condition that can require mechanical ventilation.

It is important to note that while EVALI is a severe and potentially life-threatening condition, it is still relatively rare compared to the overall number of people who use e-cigarettes or vaping products.

Symptoms of EVALI

EVALI (e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury) is a severe lung condition that can occur in individuals who vape or use e-cigarette products. According to EMC, the symptoms of EVALI can vary in severity and may include the following:

Coughing: a persistent cough that may produce mucus or phlegm.

Shortness of breath: difficulty breathing or catching your breath, especially during physical activity.

Chest pain: Chest pain is a sharp or persistent chest pain that may worsen with deep breathing or coughing.

Fatigue: feeling overly tired or weak. This may make it difficult to complete daily activities.

Fever: a low-grade or high-grade fever, which chills or sweats may accompany.

Gastrointestinal symptoms: Up to 80% of patients would have GI symptoms, e.g., nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and generalized abdominal pain.

It is noted that symptoms of EVALI can appear gradually or suddenly and may vary from person to person. The individuals may experience a combination of these symptoms or only a few.

The Dangers of Inhaling Substances in Vaping Cartridges

The ingredients that one manufacturer might use compared to another manufacturer might be different. However, they have found a lot of common ingredients in these substances, some of which include things like nicotine which can cause substance dependence or be addictive, and also containing things like propylene glycol or glycerol. Those are known as humectants that help moisturize the ingredients in the cartridge's liquid.
There are several substances in vaping cartridges that could cause harm and lead to EVALI, including:

Vitamin E acetate: Vitamin E acetate is a thickening agent in some vaping products, particularly those containing THC. When inhaled, it can cause lipoid pneumonia and other serious lung injuries.

Heavy metals: Some vaping devices may contain heavy metals such as lead, nickel, and chromium, which can be inhaled and cause harm to the respiratory system.

Flavorings: Many vaping liquids contain over 7000 flavorings, which may contain harmful chemicals such as diacetyl, which can cause a severe respiratory disease known as "popcorn lung."

Nicotine: Although nicotine itself is not a toxic substance, it is highly addictive and can have harmful effects on the cardiovascular system.

THC: Besides vitamin E acetate, THC can also be harmful when vaped. THC-containing cartridges have been linked to many cases of EVALI.

Not all vaping cartridges contain these harmful substances, and more research is needed to fully understand the long-term effects of vaping.

When it comes to vaping or bringing vapor into the body or cigarette smoke into the body, we're just breathing in good old-fashioned oxygen - it's essential to understand the pathways in which those substances will travel and therefore gives us an idea of how they can affect the body.


II. A Journey Through the Respiratory System

The upper airways comprise a complex system of organs and tissues that play a vital role in respiration. The main organs include the nose, mouth, pharynx, and larynx. The pharynx, in particular, is a muscular tube that connects the nasal and oral cavities to the larynx and esophagus.


The trachea, known as the windpipe, is a tube-shaped structure that extends from the larynx, or voice box, to the bronchi, which lead to the lungs. The trachea is about 4-6 inches long and comprises C-shaped cartilage rings that help keep the airway open.

Alveoli (alveolar sacs)

At the bottom of the trachea, it splits into two smaller tubes called bronchi, with one bronchus leading to each lung. The bronchi further divide into smaller and smaller tubes called bronchioles, which ultimately lead to tiny air sacs called alveoli (alveolar sacs) where gas exchange occurs. The bronchi and bronchioles are lined with small hair-like structures called cilia that help to remove mucus and debris from the lungs.

The trachea and bronchi play a critical role in the respiratory system by allowing air to pass from the outside environment to the lungs and back out again. Any obstructions or damage to these structures can cause breathing difficulties and other respiratory problems.


III. What Happens to the Body When Vaping?


When a person vapes, the e-cigarette or electronic nicotine delivery system (ENDS) heats the e-liquid, which typically contains nicotine, propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin, and flavorings. As the liquid is heated, it becomes an aerosol or vapor inhaled into the lungs. Here is what happens to the body when vaping:

Nicotine enters the bloodstream: Nicotine is a highly addictive substance that enters the bloodstream through the lungs and quickly reaches the brain. It can stimulate the release of adrenaline, leading to an increased heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration.

Irritation of the airways: The aerosol from vaping can irritate the mouth, throat, and airways, leading to coughing, throat irritation, and breathing difficulties.

Inflammation and lung damage: Some studies suggest that the heating process used in e-cigarettes can produce harmful chemicals such as formaldehyde and acetaldehyde, which can cause inflammation and damage to the lungs.

Increased risk of infections: Vaping can weaken the immune system, making the body more susceptible to diseases like pneumonia.

Nicotine addiction: Vaping can lead to nicotine addiction, which can cause long-term health problems such as heart disease and stroke.


IV. Effects of Vaping on the Respiratory System

Effects of Vaping on the Respiratory system

Vaping can have harmful effects on the respiratory system due to the inhalation of chemicals and other substances present in e-cigarettes. Andrea Jonas, a researcher from Standford University, discussed vaping effects on the respiratory system:

Irritation and inflammation: The chemicals in e-cigarettes can irritate the throat and airways, leading to inflammation and irritation. This can cause coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.

Lung damage: Vaping can lead to lung tissue damage, including the tiny air sacs called alveoli, which can impair lung function and cause difficulty breathing.

Decreased immune function: Vaping can also decrease the immune function of the respiratory system, making it more difficult to fight off infections and other respiratory illnesses.

Increased risk of infections: Vaping can increase the risk of respiratory infections, such as pneumonia and bronchitis, due to inhaling harmful chemicals and other substances.

Development of chronic respiratory conditions: Long-term use of e-cigarettes has been associated with developing chronic respiratory conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Vaping can have harmful effects on the respiratory system and can lead to a variety of respiratory symptoms and conditions.

Effects of Vaping on Organ systems

Vaping is harmful not only to the respiratory system but also to other organs in the body. The chemicals in e-liquids can travel through the bloodstream and affect multiple organs. Here are some examples:

Cardiovascular system: Nicotine in e-cigarettes can increase heart rate, constrict blood vessels, and raise blood pressure. Prolonged use of e-cigarettes can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Central nervous system: Nicotine in e-cigarettes can also affect the brain, leading to addiction and changes in mood and behavior. Some studies have shown that vaping can impair cognitive function and memory in young people.

Reproductive system: Some chemicals in e-cigarettes can harm reproductive health, especially in women. Nicotine can affect the development of the fetus during pregnancy and can also decrease fertility in women.

Immune system: Vaping can weaken the immune system and make the body more susceptible to infections.

Vaping can harm various organ systems in the body, and it is essential to be aware of these risks before using e-cigarettes.

Overview of the CDC Findings

Until February 2020, the CDC gathered data and found 2807 people were hospitalized with this. Out of those 2807, 68 people died. If we do the math on that, that's about 2.4%. To be clear, that's not 2.4% of people who vape will die; that's 2.4% of people who get EVALI from vaping.

Treatment and Recovery of Patients with Vaping-Related Illness

Most patients with vaping-related illnesses will recover with supportive therapy, although antibiotics are often given as a precaution due to the close link to pneumonia. Yale Medicine physicians recommended Anti-inflammatory steroids, corticosteroids, and antivirals, which have shown some improvement in patients, and supplemental oxygen may be necessary depending on the severity of symptoms.
While some patients may require ventilation, most will experience noticeable improvement within two weeks and may need a few more weeks to recover fully. Overall, patients can expect to feel like themselves again within four weeks.

Recommendations for Vaping Use

According to CDC recommendations, individuals who use vaping to replace smoking should avoid mixing the two. The goal is to eliminate cigarette smoke and eventually work towards smoking cessation with vaping as a less damaging alternative for lung tissue. However, for individuals who have never smoked and do not intend to, it is recommended to steer clear of vitamin E acetate and THC. Ideally, no foreign substances should be inhaled into the lungs to prevent potential harm.


V. Is Vaping Bad for You?


The Controversy Surrounding Vaping and Its Potential Harm.

There is considerable controversy surrounding vaping and its potential harm. Proponents of vaping argue it is a safer alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes and can help smokers quit or reduce their tobacco use. They also argue that the chemicals found in e-liquids are generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the FDA and that there is insufficient evidence to prove that vaping causes long-term harm.

  1. Opponents of vaping argue that it is largely unregulated and the long-term health effects are not fully understood.
  2. Vaping has been linked to acute lung injury and death, and many e-liquids contain potentially harmful chemicals such as diacetyl, formaldehyde, and heavy metals.
  3. Concerns exist about the impact of vaping on young people, as the developing brain is more vulnerable to the effects of nicotine. Marketing tactics and flavors may contribute to a new generation of nicotine addiction.
  4. Vaping has been linked to lung damage and an increased risk of heart disease, and the FDA does not regulate the chemicals used in e-liquids and cartridges.
  5. The recent outbreak of EVALI and acute lung injury has highlighted the need for more research and regulation of vaping.
  6. The potential harm of vaping has caused controversy, with some arguing that it is a valuable tool for smoking cessation while others argue that it poses a significant health risk.
  7. It is essential for individuals, especially young people, to be aware of the potential harm and consider alternative smoking cessation methods.
  8. Further research needs to be conducted, and e-liquids and other substances in vaping cartridges must be regulated to ensure the safety of individuals using these products.


VI. How Does Vaping Compare to Cigarette Smoking?


Chemical Composition of E-cigarettes and Traditional Cigarettes

The chemical composition of e-cigarettes and traditional cigarettes differ significantly.

  1. Behar R, Davis B, Wang Y, Bahl V, Lin S, Talbot P. research has shown, E-cigarettes contain e-liquid or vape juice, which includes propylene glycol, ethylene glycol, ethyl vanillin, vegetable glycerin, nicotine, and flavorings.
    • Traditional cigarettes contain tobacco, which, when burned, produces over 7,000 chemicals, including tar, carbon monoxide, and various carcinogens.
  2. E-cigarettes heat the e-liquid to produce an aerosol or vapor inhaled into the lungs. At the same time, traditional cigarettes burn tobacco to produce smoke inhaled into the lungs.
    • The combustion process of burning tobacco is what produces many of the harmful chemicals found in cigarette smoke.
  3. Although e-cigarettes may contain fewer harmful chemicals than traditional cigarettes, they still contain nicotine, which is addictive and can harm the body.
    • Some studies have suggested that the heating process used in e-cigarettes can produce harmful chemicals, such as formaldehyde and acetaldehyde.

Comparing the Health Risks of Vaping and Cigarettes Smoke

The health risks associated with traditional cigarette smoking are well-known and documented. Cigarette smoke contains thousands of harmful chemicals, including tar, carbon monoxide, and various carcinogens. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) elaborated that smoking cigarettes is a leading cause of preventable death in the United States and is responsible for nearly 480,000 deaths yearly.

Generally, e-cigarettes are believed to be less harmful than traditional cigarettes, as they do not involve burning tobacco. However, e-cigarettes still contain nicotine, which is highly addictive and can have adverse effects on the cardiovascular system. The flavorings and other chemicals used in e-cigarettes may also be harmful when inhaled.

Vaping Popularity Among Young People

Vaping, or using e-cigarettes, has become popular among young people recently. The availability of different flavors, sleek designs, and the perception that vaping is safer than traditional cigarettes have contributed to its growing popularity among teenagers and young adults.

Vaping is a massive increase in the younger population, incredibly junior high, high school kids, and people in their early 20s.

According to Hiemstra PS, Bals R. over 5 million middle and middle and high school students were current users of e-cigarettes in 2019.

There's a significant concern that this could be a gateway into cigarette smoking.

Investigating the Long-Term Effects of Vaping

The long-term impacts of vaping are still primarily to be studied. While some studies have linked vaping to lung damage and an increased risk of heart disease, much more research is needed to fully understand the potential harm caused by vaping. Many different types of e-cigarettes and vaping devices have unique chemical compositions, making it difficult to draw broad conclusions about their safety. Therefore, continued research is essential to understand better the potential health risks associated with vaping and develop effective strategies for harm reduction.

Don't Let Smoking and Vaping Take Control, and Make Healthy Decisions!


Prioritizing your health and making informed choices about your habits are essential. Smoking and vaping are harmful practices that can lead to serious health issues, including lung damage and an increased risk of heart disease. While the long-term effects of vaping are still unknown, studies have linked it to respiratory problems and other potential health risks. It is essential to consider the potential harm and decide whether or not to engage in these practices. Ultimately, taking care of your health should be a top priority, and avoiding harmful habits is essential.