Toxic chemicals and heavy metals have been found in vaping products

Over the past couple of years, electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) and other vaping products have grown in popularity despite the ban on their import, sale and distribution in Singapore.

Advocates for the vaping products claim that they are healthier alternatives to regular cigarettes and that they can be used to help smokers quit. Youths are also attracted to it, thinking that it is cool and safe.

This is, however, a myth as e-cigarettes are not risk-free. There are in fact, many risks of vaping.

How Do E-cigarettes and Other Vapourisers Work?

Manufacturers of vaping products claim that the products do not expose users to lung disease or lung illness despite the lack of conclusive evidence. 

E-cigarettes and vapourisers are battery-operated devices that release nicotine by heating up chemicals or e-liquids and turning them into vapour, which users then inhale. The main difference between e-cigarettes and regular cigarettes is the absence of tobacco leaves.

Part of its appeal, especially to youths, is the variety of interesting forms of vape devices such as cigarettes, pipes, and even nondescript everyday items such as pens and USB memory sticks; e-liquids (called “vape juices”) are also offered in a variety of flavours, from apple to mint or even a cocktail-mix of flavours.

Related: Get the Facts Right About Tobacco Products

What Are the Harmful Effects of Vaping?

Woman feeling unwell, possibly as a result of using a vape device. 

The risks of vaping are plenty. Despite its relatively harmless-looking exterior and playful marketing, the main function of e-cigarettes is essentially still to dispense nicotine. Nicotine is not only addictive but it also causes harmful side effects[1] such as a decrease in appetite, increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, and even sweating, nausea and diarrhoea in more extreme cases.

Do E-Cigarettes Cause Cancer?

In addition to nicotine, e-cigarettes and vapourisers also contain other toxic chemicals or substances that increase the risk of cancer. These include formaldehyde and acetaldehyde[2], as well as potentially toxic metal nanoparticles[3] from the vaporising mechanism in e-cigarettes.

Related: Smoking Increases Your Risk of Diabetes

Can E-Cigarettes Help Smokers Quit?

While many e-cigarette retailers market their products as an aid that can help existing smokers to quit smoking cigarettes, e-cigarettes are for many youths their first foray into the world of smoking[4].

Since e-cigarettes and vapourisers are widely available online, albeit illegally (do note that penalties for purchasing e-cigarettes from overseas are harsh and can incur fines of up to $10,000), many youths end up experimenting with e-cigarettes, which may subsequently lead to real cigarette use[4].

E-Cigarettes – A Gateway for Youths to Pick Up Smoking
Studies have shown that young people who try vaping are more likely to pick up a cigarette if they haven’t done so before. A recent study done in the US showed that students who used e-cigarettes by the time they started 9th grade (15 years old) were more likely than others to start smoking traditional cigarettes and other tobacco products[5].

If you need help to quit smoking, you can try nicotine replacement therapy and look out for a smoking cessation programme near you. You can also join the I Quit 28-Day Countdown.

Related: Smoking — Habit or Addiction?

The Dangers of an Unregulated Industry

Both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention have begun to investigate incidents of lung injuries associated with vaping. 

Besides the known harmful effects of e-cigarettes, dabbling in an unregulated industry also exposes you to many other risks and long-term effects.

The list of ingredients, for example, can vary widely between different manufacturers. Without a regulatory body to monitor the ingredients that go into a vaping device, you cannot be certain what harmful, toxic chemicals might be contained within the e-liquids.

Furthermore, because e-liquids come in a concentrated form, users may expose themselves to potentially toxic levels of nicotine when refilling the e-cartridges[6]. Accidents are not only restricted to consumption though, with a growing number of cases of vapourisers and e-cigarettes exploding and catching fire being reported in the media[7].

Finally, while most e-cigarettes on the market today contain nicotine and flavoured chemicals, it is worrying to think that these same devices could potentially be used in the future as a way to dispense harder and more harmful drugs.

In conclusion, because e-cigarettes have only been on the market for around 10 years, more long-term studies still need to be conducted. What you can be certain, however, is that e-cigarettes are illegal and come with a host of already identified negative effects, as well as further unknown ones.

Resources for Quitting

Join the I Quit 28-Day Countdown now! Call QuitLine at 1800 438 2000 for support, and visit participating retail pharmacies for advice and products that can help you quit.

Download the HealthHub app on Google Play or Apple Store to access more health and wellness advice at your fingertips.


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References

  1. Mishra, A., Chaturvedi, P., Datta, S., Sinukumar, S., Joshi, P., & Garg, A. (2015, Feb 19). Harmful effects of nicotine. Indian Journal of Medical and Paediatric Oncology, 36(1), p. 24-31.
    Retrieved March 2017 from http://www.ijmpo.org/article.asp?issn=0971-5851;year=2015;volume=36;issue=1;spage=24;epage=31;aulast=Mishra
  2. Kosmider, L., Sobczak, A., Fik, M., Knysak, J., Zaciera, M., Kurek, J., et al. (2014, May 15). Carbonyl Compounds in Electronic Cigarette Vapors: Effects of Nicotine Solvent and Battery Output Voltage. Nicotine & Tobacco Research, 16(10), p. 1319-1326.
    Retrieved March 2017 from https://academic.oup.com/ntr/article-lookup/doi/10.1093/ntr/ntu078
  3. Williams, M., Villarreal, A., Bozhilov, K., Lin, S., & Talbot, P. (2013, Mar 20). Metal and Silicate Particles Including Nanoparticles Are Present in Electronic Cigarette Cartomizer Fluid and Aerosol. Public Library of Science One, 8(3), p 1-11.
    Retrieved March 2017 from http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0057987
  4. Matthers, S. (2016, Jun 13). Vaping IS a gateway to smoking: Teenagers who use e-cigarettes 'are six times more likely to smoke tobacco' DailyMail Online.
    Retrieved March 2017 from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-3638405/Vaping-teens-apt-regular-cigarettes-U-S-study.html
  5. Rigotti, N. A. (2015, Aug 18). e-Cigarette Use and Subsequent Tobacco Use by Adolescents: New Evidence About a Potential Risk of e-Cigarettes. Journal of American Medical Association, 314(7), p. 673-674.
    Retrieved March 2017 from http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/2428937
  6. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016, May 5). Electronic Cigarettes (e-Cigarettes) [Website].
    Retrieved March 2017 from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/electronic-cigarettes-e-cigarettes
  7. Scutti, S. (2017, Jan 4). FDA workshop to examine exploding e-cigarettes. CNN.
    Retrieved March 2017 from http://edition.cnn.com/2017/01/04/health/e-cigarette-battery-fda-workshop/