These devices are used as an alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes. They use a battery to generate heat that turns a liquid into a vapor, which is inhaled instead of the smoke produced by burning tobacco. Inside vapor products is a heating element wrapped around a wicking material soaked in liquid. When the battery is activated, either by puffing or pressing a button, the element heats up, turning the liquid into a vapor.
What is the liquid in vapor products made from?
The largest ingredients are vegetable glycerin (VG) and propylene glycol (PG), followed by flavoring and nicotine. The proportions of these basic ingredients can vary widely, but almost all liquids contain some combination of these ingredients. Likewise, nicotine level also varies widely. It ranges from strong levels of nicotine (similar to that found in the strongest cigarettes), to more modest levels, to no nicotine at all.
Are vapor products safe?
Nothing is ever 100% safe, so a better question to ask is “How risky are they?” We know that cigarette smoking is one of the riskiest things you can do for your health. And we also know that inhaling smoke, year after year, is what makes it so risky. In contrast, a large body of compelling evidence strongly suggests vapor products carry a small fraction of the risk compared to smoking. Because nothing is burned, vapor products do not give off harmful levels of harmful chemicals (e.g., carbon monoxide, carcinogens, tar), that cause nearly all the harm from smoking. This places vapor product use well within the range of relatively low-risk activities we accept every day like driving, hiking in the wilderness, or living in urban settings with slightly higher pollution.
Risks of using nicotine
Nicotine is one of the most investigated drugs in history. We know a great deal about what this drug is, how the human body processes it, and why it exerts the many psychological and physiological effects that it does. Classified as a mild stimulant drug, nicotine increases alertness, aids in concentration, elevates mood, and in some circumstances can have relaxant effects. Among scientists there is near universal agreement that nicotine is not a particularly harmful drug. It does not cause cancer or significantly contribute to any major illnesses in large numbers of people. However, it cannot be said that nicotine is completely benign. Like all drugs (including aspirin) there is the potential for health risks for those who use it regularly. In healthy adults, the risks are minimal and similar to another mild stimulant drug that is widely consumed: caffeine. However, there are some medical conditions that make the use of mild stimulants more risky. Nicotine affects the cardiovascular system (temporarily increases heart rate and blood pressure) which makes it a concern for people with heart disease. (Caffeine is also discouraged for the same reason.) There is suggestive evidence that nicotine can adversely affect fetal development, so pregnant women should avoid using it. In general, nicotine is not problematic for the vast majority of healthy adults.
E-cigarette battery fires and explosions
Lithium ion batteries are used in everything from e-cigarettes, to cell phones, to laptop computers, to the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. What the batteries in all these devices have in common is that they very rarely catch fire or explode. E-cigarettes are a relatively new product, so when their batteries catch fire or explode it makes headlines. Many times these incidents are the result of improper charging (using the wrong adapter) or storage (carrying a battery in a pocket with other metal objects). But, how common is it for e-cigarette batteries to explode? According to The U.S. Fire Administration, between 2009 and 2014 there were a total of 25 incidents of fire and explosions involving e-cigarette batteries, leading to nine injuries and no deaths. In comparison, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued 40 recalls since 2002 on laptop and notebook computers due to fire and burn hazards. Lithium ion battery fires and explosions, for the most part, are of little concern for the vast majority of those who use an e-cigarette, laptop, cell phone, or take a flight on a Boeing 787. The industry that makes these batteries is working to make them safer. Meanwhile, there is no reason to think this problem is especially confined or more highly concentrated in vaping devices.
What is Popcorn Lung?
Over a decade ago, workers in a microwave popcorn factory were sickened by breathing in diacetyl—the buttery-flavored chemical in foods like popcorn, caramel and dairy products. While this flavoring may be tasty, it was linked to deaths and hundreds of cases of bronchiolitis obliterans, a serious and irreversible lung disease. As a result, the major popcorn manufacturers removed diacetyl from their products. When inhaled, diacetyl causes bronchiolitis obliterans - more commonly referred to as "popcorn lung" - a scarring of the tiny air sacs in the lungs resulting in the thickening and narrowing of the airways. While the name "popcorn lung" may not sound like a threat, it's a serious lung disease that causes coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath, similar to the symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Can Vaping give me Popcorn Lung?
Harvard studies show that tobacco cigarettes yield 100 times more diacetyl than any whole bottle of e-liquids ever tested.
Prior research into tobacco cigarettes (which contain measurably higher levels of diacetyl and are more commonly used than e-cigarettes) determined that smoking is not a risk factor for popcorn lung, so the lower concentrations of diacetyl in e-cigarette juices are not a risk factor in popcorn lung.