What is Vaping?
Vaping is the act of inhaling the aerosol (vapor) from an e-cigarette or similar device, often called a vape. To create this vapor, vape devices heat up liquid known as e-liquid or e-juice.
Vaping differs from regular smoking in several ways:
- It does not usually include tobacco.
- Vape users inhale an aerosol, not smoke.
- E-liquid often comes in sweet, pleasant-smelling flavors.
- The vape industry has little regulation.
- The dangers of vaping are still being discovered.
Introduced to the market in 2006, vaping products quickly became mainstream by the end of the decade, with about 7 million vapers worldwide, according to market research group Euromonitor International.
Many people embraced these products as a safer, more socially acceptable alternative to traditional cigarettes. As a result, the number of vape users had soared to 35 million by 2016.
By 2021, the number of adults who vape is expected to reach 55 million people — not including the millions of underage vapers.
However, vaping has also faced more scrutiny because of its alleged child-targeting marketing tactics, the epidemic of underage vaping, rising reports of devastating lung injuries, and an increasing number of studies suggesting that vaping is not nearly as safe as once believed.
Quick Facts About Vaping Deaths
- Nearly every state in the U.S. has reported at least one vaping-related death.
- As of January 2020, dozens of deaths have been attributed to vaping.
- Approximately one-fifth of the current vaping death cases involve minors.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has detected a new chemical of concern, possibly the cause of vape-related lung injuries: vitamin E acetate.
Are Vapes Dangerous?
Vaping is not a safe alternative to smoking.
It has been linked to several serious injuries and illnesses, including:
- Lung Injuries
- Cardiovascular issues
- Nicotine addiction
- Battery explosion injuries
The CDC has declared that “e-cigarettes are not safe for youth, young adults, pregnant women, or adults who do not currently use tobacco products.”
Today, five vaping brands control 95% of the e-cigarette market.
Those brands are:
However, the Silicon Valley startup, JUUL Labs, Inc., dwarfs all other top vaping companies. According to the New York Post, the company controlled over 70% of the e-cigarette market share in May 2019.
Its sleek, USB-shaped devices and high nicotine content have won over millions of adults and underage vape users.
Potential vaping-related injuries include lung injuries, battery explosion injuries, and more.
The Center for Tobacco Research Control & Education warns that e-cigarette vapor consists of ultrafine particles — fragments so small they can get trapped in the lungs. This makes the respiratory system especially vulnerable to any substances found in vapes.
Vaping respiratory problems include:
- Asthma attacks: A 2019 study published in the medical journal Chest found that adolescents with asthma were 27% more likely to report having asthma attacks after secondhand exposure to vapor.
- Bronchiolitis obliterans: Caused by breathing in the flavoring diacetyl — found in many e-liquids — this incurable lung disease, nicknamed “popcorn lung,” can cause severe breathing problems.
- Unknown lung disease: Since June 2019, the CDC has been investigating thousands of cases of a mysterious lung disease seemingly related to vaping.
The CDC recently collected fluid samples from 29 patients with vaping-related lung illness and detected vitamin E acetate in every sample.
According to a 2017 U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) report, lithium-ion batteries are unpredictable and dangerous when used in vape devices.
A George Mason University study estimated that from 2015 to 2017, e-cigarette battery explosions and burns caused more than 2,000 emergency room visits. The study concluded that “regulation of e-cigarette devices is urgently needed.”
Exploding vape devices can cause serious injuries, such as:
- Broken bones
- Deep cuts
- Severe burns
Vaping and Toxic Chemical Exposure
Vaping e-liquids contain toxic chemicals that may cause many negative effects.
For example, a 2018 study published in PLOS Biology found that the glycerin in e-liquid may decrease cell viability. In addition, certain sweet flavorings have high toxicity levels.
Diacetyl is a chemical used to give foods a buttery taste and is commonly found in vaping e-liquid. While the FDA has deemed it safe for consumption, inhaling it becomes dangerous.
Several animal studies and factory worker cases indicate that inhaling diacetyl can lead to bronchiolitis obliterans or “popcorn lung,” an incurable disease that causes coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.
Other Toxic Substances
Many dangerous substances have been found in vaping e-liquids — including some only created when combined with other substances, a 2018 study published in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research found.
This makes it difficult for e-liquid manufacturers and regulators to know what chemicals vape users are inhaling.
Some of the chemicals found in e-cigarette vapor include:
- Heavy metals: A study conducted at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health found that when exposed to heating coils, e-liquid produces vapors with high amounts of heavy metals, such as chromium, lead, and zinc. Their prolonged inhalation has been linked to lung, liver, heart, and brain damage, a weakened immune system, and a higher risk for certain cancers.
- Ultrafine particles: A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that ultrafine particles in e-cigarette vapor may increase the risk of heart attacks.
- Volatile organic compounds: A 2017 study published by a research associate at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health found that e-cigarette vapor contained volatile organic compounds like benzene, which the International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies as cancer-causing.
Vaping and Nicotine Addiction
Nicotine is a highly addictive substance added to most vape e-liquid. Some e-liquids, such as the pods used in JUUL devices, can deliver as much nicotine as a pack of cigarettes, quickly leading to addiction.
The FDA is currently investigating a potential link between inhaled nicotine and seizures, while a 2018 study published in the journal Vascular Medicine suggested that nicotine’s adverse effects on the heart could lead to an increased risk for strokes.
The Surgeon General’s Advisory on E-cigarette Use Among Youth warns that nicotine addiction can harm brain development in teens and young adults who vape.
E-cigarette liquid also puts users at a higher risk of nicotine poisoning. While it is difficult to overdose on the nicotine in smoke or vapor, liquid nicotine is far more concentrated. If it is ingested or absorbed through the skin, it may cause vomiting, loss of consciousness, and even seizures.
Other Vaping Side Effects
Other side effects linked to vaping include cardiovascular problems and increased cancer risk.
High exposure to flavored vaping e-liquids may cause cardiovascular problems, a 2019 study from the Journal of the American College of Cardiology reported. A 2018 study published in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology made a similar conclusion.
Furthermore, the FDA reports that e-cigarette vapor can change tissue in the lungs’ airways, which may cause or be a precursor to cancer.
Vape Dangers and Legal Action
The FDA began regulating vape products under the Tobacco Control Act in 2016. The agency has been focusing on preventing vaping companies from marketing products to children and teenagers.
Marketing to children, fatal lung injuries, battery explosions, and the failure to warn about many other health conditions are all causes of legal action.
Recent vaping lawsuits include:
- A class-action lawsuit was filed in August 2019 against JUUL Labs, Inc. and two big tobacco companies for marketing nicotine-containing products to teens and pre-teens.
- In 2019, the parents of a 15-year-old girl filed a lawsuit against JUUL Labs, Inc. and Altria Group, Inc. after their daughter suffered seizures. They claim the companies intentionally targeted teenagers.
- Another recent lawsuit involves a Houston man whose e-cigarette device exploded inside his pants pocket, resulting in second and third-degree burns from his left thigh to his calf.
Some victims are already winning their cases:
- $1.9 Million was awarded to a California woman in 2015 after her e-cigarette battery exploded while she was driving. Her dress and seat caught fire, resulting in several second-degree burns and permanent scarring.
- In 2018, $2 Million was awarded to a Florida man after an e-cigarette exploded in his mouth, knocking out four of his teeth. The jury found the battery’s seller, R-L Sales, 100% negligent.
Many vaping injuries are irreversible and cause lifelong health problems. However, financial compensation from lawsuits can help cover medical expenses and pay for treatments that improve a victim’s quality of life.
Next Steps for Those Harmed by Vape Products
Victims of vaping injuries and illnesses are already seeking — and receiving — the compensation they deserve.
You are not alone if you were harmed by a vape pen, e-cigarette, or other vaping product.