What is vaping? E-cigarettes, commonly referred to as vapes, heat a liquid within the device creating an aerosol mix of toxic chemicals once inhaled, including formaldehyde, diacetyl, and propylene glycol. A common myth is that vaping is “safer,” or better for you, than smoking cigarettes or joints. But the truth is since vaping is an aerosol, it creates a mix of chemicals, not water vapor, that are inhaled into the lungs.
E-cigarette use has not been around long enough to have long term studies, like cigarettes. But many of the chemicals found in vapes are not new to science, and are definitively known to cause cancer. There are also studies showing that long term vaping of any substance is linked to mental and physical problems.
Some of the most common substances found in vapes are marijuana and flavored liquid nicotine. Studies have shown that using vapes, no matter the substance, can lead to breathing problems and significantly harm the lungs.
Most e-cigarette liquids contain high levels of nicotine, which can lead to higher rates of
addiction, especially for teens and young adults. With well-documented studies on the effects of nicotine on the developing brain, many European countries have limited the amount allowed in e-cigarette liquids to 2.5%. The US has no set limits on nicotine. Manufacturers often offer a range of nicotine levels in their vaping products from 0% “nicotine-free” up to 5% to 7% nicotine. Though these amounts seem small, they are some of the highest rates of nicotine on the market.
Vaping devices are also easily accessible among youth despite the legal age to buy any tobacco products, including vapes, is 21 years of age. Youth can use popular social media apps to purchase vapes that are delivered to their door or current location within a matter of minutes, with no ID check. The latest studies show that vaping can harm teen brain development and long-term mental health, lead to addiction, and damage the lungs.
Cannabis concentrates are highly potent and made by extracting THC – the chemical that produces the high feeling – from the cannabis plant. THC concentrates range from 60% to 99% THC, compared to the average joint from the 1990’s being 3 – 4% THC. This high amount of THC, coupled with higher rates of youth marijuana use, have been linked to increased risk for youth mental health problems including suicide, depression, and anxiety. Because vaping THC is an aerosol, similar chemicals found in liquid nicotine are found in THC concentrates. Youth often mistakenly believe vaping concentrates is safer than smoking a joint. However, studies have shown that concentrates include chemicals that are linked to long-term lung damage and mental health problems.
It’s an Aerosol, Not a Vapor
To be clear, there is no such thing as a chemical-free vape. Any e-cigarette device, no matter the substance or if it is nicotine free, uses chemicals to get everything else out of the vape device. All aerosol products, including vapes, leave a chemical residue. Emerging studies are showing cause for concern about secondhand emissions. We do not know the long term effects of being exposed to those secondhand aerosol emissions. Much like with secondhand smoke, it will take decades of research to be certain. Emerging science on thirdhand emissions, the residue left behind when a person vapes, is also concerning. Though science is uncertain of what the effects are for people who encounter the chemical residue left from vaping, it is cause for concern. Vapes come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and flavors. The shape and size may vary, but the risks and harms are the same.
What Can You Do?
Talk to your child about the real costs of vaping
Be the positive influence
Get the facts on vaping at TalkNowAZ.com
Sources: NIDA, SAMHSA, CDC, Arizona Youth Survey