If you’ve turned to e-cigarettes as a way to kick your smoking habit, you may want to think again.
E-cigarettes have soared in popularity in recent years, among both smokers looking to quit and in teenagers. Even though they’re not approved by the FDA for use in smoking cessation, over 80 percent of smokers believe e-cigarettes could help them quit, according to research. But the science around this alternative to smoking shows we’re trading one cancer-causing habit for another.
The Health Risks of Vaping
E-cigarettes, also known as vapes, are battery-operated devices that heat up nicotine, chemicals, and flavorings to turn them into a vapor you breathe in, similar to smoking. Unfortunately, the chemicals in this vapor contain formaldehyde, heavy metals, and other toxins that are known to cause cancer. Studies have shown that exposure to this vapor leads to the same DNA damage in the lungs and bladder that are seen in cancer. Research has also shown that flavorings used in e-cigarettes, like cinnamon and citrus, impair heart muscle function and may be damaging the heart.
What’s most concerning to researchers is the effect on adolescents. Over 2 million middle and high school students report vaping within the last 30 days, according to research. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), use of these e-cigarettes harms the parts of the developing brain responsible for controlling attention, learning, moods, and impulse control. They also increase the risk of future addiction to other drugs, in part because nicotine changes the way synapses are formed in the brain. Studies have detected more than 5 carcinogenic chemicals from vaping remaining in the bodies of adolescents.
Harmful Substances in E-Cigarettes
The aerosol from vaping is not just harmless water vapor. It contains several harmful substances, including:
- Ultrafine particles that penetrate into deep lung tissue
- Nicotine, in a variety of doses
- Flavorings including diacetyl, which is a chemical that causes popcorn lung, a serious lung disease
- Natural flavorings like cinnamon and citrus, which cause heart issues when inhaled
- Cancer-causing chemicals like formaldehyde
- Heavy metals including nickel, tin, and lead
- Volatile organic compounds, known to be carcinogenic
- Unknown chemicals, not labeled on the packaging
Special Concerns with Flavorings
It may sound strange to think of cinnamon and citrus as causing health issues, but inhaling them is far different from ingesting them. Your gut is able to digest and process these flavorings, but your lungs become inflamed when they are inhaled with other chemicals through vaping. Your lungs simply don’t have the same detox abilities that your gut does, and the result is inflammation in the lung cells.
The most concerning chemical flavoring is diacetyl, which is used in many e-cigarette flavors, including vanilla, maple, coconut, alcohol flavors, candy flavors, and fruit flavors. Historically it was used to flavor popcorn, caramel, and dairy products, but workers in the factories where microwave popcorn was being made developed a serious lung illness that’s now being called Popcorn Lung. This disease is caused by diacetyl, which makes your airways thick and narrow by scarring the tiny air sacs in your lungs.
If you vape and develop a persistent cough, wheezing, headache, fever, body aches, shortness of breath, or irritation of your eyes, nose, throat, or skin, it’s time to see your healthcare provider and get evaluated for Popcorn Lung. There’s no cure for this serious disease, instead they’ll use medications that suppress your immune system, which will provide relief, but open you up to a whole host of low grade infections, from parasites to Candida yeast overgrowth and more.
Reduce Your Cancer and Disease Risk
Your body makes over 200 billion new cells every day, and thanks to the chemicals we’re being exposed to, approximately 1 million of those cells are DNA-damaged cancer cells. The good news is, your immune system is hard at work killing those cells as fast as they’re made – as long as it’s functioning well. When your immune system is suppressed by medications or stress, or bogged down by an overload of toxins, it’s no longer able to kill all the cancer cells that are formed and a diagnosis of cancer is eventually the result. One out of every three women and one out of every two men will face cancer in their lifetime.
Although the argument can be made that e-cigarettes are less toxic and have a lower cancer risk than regular cigarettes, the risk is still there. Rather than trading one cancer and heart disease-causing habit for another, focus on reducing the toxins you’re being exposed to and getting as healthy as possible, so you feel strong enough to quit without using toxic e-cigarettes.
Cancer-Proof Your Body
Everything you put into your body should support your health. Clean air, clean water, and clean food are all essential for good health. Start with purifying your home air and getting rid of common household toxins found in carpeting and cleaning chemicals. Reduce your exposure to EMFs by keeping cell phones turned off or on airplane mode, don’t sleep with electronics and phones near your bed, and turn off your WiFi router at night.
Drink and bathe in clean, filtered water – don’t trust your tap water to be clean, get it tested and get the right filtration system for your specific needs. Keep your food organic and minimally processed, and stay away from sugars and alcohol.
Exercise to get your detox pathways moving and reduce stress. Sweating is a great way to eliminate the toxins you come in contact with through vaping. Because many of these chemicals are eliminated through the urine, be sure you are drinking at least half your body weight in ounces of filtered water daily.
More information on keeping your cancer risks low can be found here.